For years, researchers and business analysts alike were baffled by the success of leaders who weren’t traditionally seen as capable of achieving greatness – perhaps they weren’t the smartest on paper, or they weren’t the loudest and most engaging person in the room. We’ve now been able to hone in on that “secret sauce” behind some of our most inspiring leaders – they have what social scientists call emotional intelligence. This incredibly important attribute can lead to improved communication within teams, better understanding of client needs and even an impact on the quality of healthcare.

So what exactly is emotional intelligence? Its vital components can be summed up by two competencies: personal competence and social competence. The former focuses on self-awareness (accurately identifying your emotions as they arise) and self-management (the ability to use that awareness to act in a positive and flexible way). The latter is all about social awareness (correctly identifying the emotions others are experiencing) and relationship management (using your self and social awareness to manage interactions and relationships).

Good news – emotional intelligence is a skill that can be intentionally developed. Ready for some practice? Here are a few ways you can take your EQ for a test drive:

  • Observe your thoughts and feelings during times of calm and times of stress. We so often rush between commitments, and avoid truly experiencing our feelings. Simply noticing how you feel (and not assigning judgment to those feelings) can help you develop that vital skill of self-awareness.
  • Notice how those thoughts and feelings affect your actions. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, are you more likely to snap at your colleague? When you get long overdue praise and are feeling proud and thankful, are you all smiles even in rush hour traffic? Developing an awareness of the connection between your thoughts and behaviors will help you practice meaningful self-management.
  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Empathy is a powerful tool in practicing social competency. As Brené Brown reminds us, sympathy sounds like, “I see your pain” while empathy sounds like, “I feel your pain.” Being vulnerable with others (heck, even with ourselves) can feel like a tall order and maybe not even something that belongs in the workplace. But our ability to deeply connect with others helps to build longstanding connections, improves communication and leads to increased employee satisfaction.
It pays to be kind, friends.

This week’s challenge

Start by taking Harvard Business Review’s Emotional Intelligence Quiz. These questions might feel strange, especially if you’re not used to talking about feelings or emotions in the workplace. When you obtain your results, take a few moments to really reflect – are you where you want to be when it comes to this vital workplace (and, let’s be honest, life) characteristic? Take a moment to celebrate your successes and also identify areas of improvement. Then – you knew this was coming – set a clear and achievable goal to get better. You’ve got this.

We know you want to learn more. Here are some of our favorite additional resources:

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Teague is a certified career and lifestyle coach with Ama La Vida. To learn more about her and book a free consultation with her, visit: