How to Cultivate Emotional Intelligence

Here are a few tips to help you develop your employees’ emotional intelligence!


Catherine Dulude

Corporate Coach and Business Happiness Consultant

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Emotional intelligence is a key factor to achieving success, be it on the personal or professional level. Moreover, it is paramount when it comes to management and especially leadership!

In his international best seller “Emotional Intelligence”, Daniel Goleman argues that success depends less on IQ than on the ability to understand, master and cultivate the emotions within.

That’s great, given that EI is a way of being and hence, it can be developed if some effort is applied (unlike, say, intellectual skills, which are more or less a given). So, without further ado, here is what you should know of the subject.

What is emotional intelligence?

It is a grouping of skills, be they verbal or non-verbal, which allow individuals to generate, recognize, express, understand and evaluate their own emotions, as well as those of others in a way that orients their thoughts and actions so as to respond to the demands of the surrounding environment.

Let us have a look at the five components of emotional intelligence, as Daniel Goleman describes them, before thinking of ways of incorporating these notions into the work environment.

First off: Knowing Yourself

The first component of EI – and, arguably, the most important – is to be conscious of yourself. Why? Simply because: one who remains deaf to what he feels remains at the mercy of his emotions.

An essential step toward mastering your emotions is preventing them from governing you – and that is especially important in the professional realm. Understanding what you feel allows you to be confident, since it is then possible to listen to intuition without risking emotions coming in the mix and blurring all the information.
One who knows him/herself well is…

  • Cognizant of his or her strengths and weaknesses, of the potential within and of personal limits;
  • Open to discussing his or her flaws; (Tip: cultivate humility, forget arrogance and pretenses and you will be surprised at the benefits to be reaped!)
  • Seeking to act retroactively (but without depending on it!)
  • Attempting to learn from mistakes
  • Open to criticism (without being overly critical of him/herself).

Second: Mastery of Self

This is the ability to govern emotions and impulsions, as well as knowing how to best adapt to a variety of situations.

Those who have a good level of self-mastery will not allow themselves, say, to become overly angry; they do not take impulsive decisions, but preferring to reflect before electing the course of action.

What characterizes those who have honed the skill of self-mastery? They are able to foresee events, are comfortable when it comes to change, and prefer to think of long-term success rather than being absorbed in immediate results.

Would your colleagues describe you in such a way?

Third: Motivation

One’s motivation encompasses his or her emotional abilities that allow one to reach goals: continued effort, commitment to oneself and to the objectives of the group or organization, demonstration of initiative, seizing opportunities on the go, tenacity in reaching goals, optimism even during hardships… all are the trademarks of a motivated person.

Fourth: Empathy

Empathy is defined as the ability to truly know others, all the while understanding their feelings, being able to perceive their point of view, cultivating a sincere interest for their concerns and hence being able to sustain harmonious relationships with a wide range of personalities.

Fifth: Social Skills

It is usually quite easy to talk to and appreciate people with great social skills, which is a manifestation of emotional intelligence.

People who have strong social skills are usually team players by nature. Rather than vying for their own success, they would rather help others develop and shine to their full potential. They know how to communicate efficiently and have great conflict resolution skills, all the while being adept at developing and maintaining healthy relationships with others.

How to Develop Emotional Intelligence

Wonderful, we now know what defines EI. Yet the question remains on how to apply this knowledge to progress and grow!   Of course, coaching and training (optimal conflict resolution, motivation and employee engagement, active listening, self-control, self-knowledge, optimization of human resources, etc.) are excellent tools in that matter.

Another resource is, quite simply, to inspire employees to ask the right questions, to help them know themselves better, to understand how they really interact with others, as well as to encourage them to view situation from another person’s point of view.   Here are a few tips that could help your employees develop their emotional intelligence.

1-    Get to Know Themselves Better

A very good starting point is advising your employees to get better acquainted with… themselves! With this goal in mind, psychometric tests are excellent resources to turn to. After all, emotional intelligence is scattered through various dimensions of one’s personality.

2-    Have an Honest Look at Themselves

Request that they make a list of their strengths and weaknesses, and then that they review it with those they trust and who know them well. The most important part of this exercise is to bring your employees to accept that they are not perfect and realize that there are always ways to better oneself.

It is crucial for them to understand that they should not try to hide and camouflage their imperfections since it is only through embracing them that solutions can be found and implemented.

3-    How They React with Other Individuals

Request that they take notes on that matter; this will allow them to determine the elements that keep coming back. Do they have a tendency to dole out judgment without knowing all the facts? Of stereotyping? Do they desperately seek the approval or attention of others?

4-    Walk a Mile in Another’s Shoes

Help your employees be open to different points of view. In order to achieve this, they should ask themselves a few questions: “How would the other person feel in this situation?”, “How do you think you have contributed to this dynamic?”, “What could the other person’s point of view be like?”, “According to you, what was this person’s positive intention when they decided to act in this way?” (Indeed, that last one is hard, but when it is answered, it has the potential to cause a paradigm shift!)

These simple questions often end up broadening horizons, defusing tense situations and avoiding conflicts.

5-    Help Them Understand Other People’s Personalities

That, and the compatibility that they may share. It is an excellent way of putting oneself in the other’s position, understanding the dynamics ruling the situation and defusing potential conflicts.   And while you’re at it, learn to listen to your employees and help them develop active listening skills, be attentive and available, avoid jumping to conclusions, ask open questions, deal with silence, be attentive to non-verbal language and create a rapport with others.

6-    Analyze What Motivates Them

Are they showing engagement? Are they exhibiting initiative and optimism? If not, attempt to contribute to their understanding of why that is so, to identify what blocks these positive reactions, as well as the actions and choices that your employees can make in order to remedy the situation.

7-    How Do They React in Stressful Situations?

Are they unsettled when there are delays or unforeseen circumstances? Are they sensitive to refusals and critique? Do they have a tendency to blame others even when the fault could not be attributed to them? Are they highly preoccupied with the opinion of others? Are they too hard on themselves and others? Are they excessively concerned with getting quick results?

Remaining in control of one’s emotions is an important aspect of emotional intelligence – and it is also a crucial skill for good leadership. Thus, it is important to find ways of evacuating stress at work so as to develop EI.

8-    Take Responsibility for Their Actions

Help your employees become responsible and accountable when their actions hurt or hinder others. This aspect goes hand in hand with the knowledge and acceptance of self, and it is absolutely essential in order to optimize human relationships.

All in all, in order to help your employees develop their emotional intelligence, which is essential to professional and personal success, you simply need to help them understand their feelings and those of others, teach them to manage their emotions, and to better interact with their surroundings. Are you ready to begin? A better understanding of the self and of others starts here !

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