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Ever made a major gaff in the office and caused someone offense? Gotten into a heated discussion where you let off a little too much steam – and right in front of the boss? Or had a staff member who pushes your buttons and makes you do things you later regret? 

In all of these scenarios, emotional intelligence (EI) is at play – and acting with high EI would make them play out very differently. 

Why Do We Need Emotional Intelligence At Work? 

A good middle manager knows how to foster a good relationship with their team and co-workers. Since we’re all social creatures, that manager knows that our relationships have a significant bearing on our happiness.  

Good relationships only develop when people use their emotional intelligence (EI), so when you hear staff say they love their boss, what they usually mean is that their boss has a high emotional intelligence  

Managers – and people – with high EI know how to:


– Recognise their own emotions and use them for good, and 

– Recognise the emotions of others so they can positively influence them. 


As a professional coach, when I hear a middle manager say their team is engaged, I know they’re skilled at nurturing relationships. 

When they report that their team is innovating, I know the manager has been able to connect with staff individually and deliver what each person needs. 

And when I hear that employee turnover is low, I know the manager listens to their staff, knows what’s important to them and creates an environment where they can achieve their goals. 

EI is one of the most valuable skills for managing teams, including Team Fam. 

But here’s the bad news: most of us think we’re the bomb at emotional intelligence, but few of us really are. 

The Good News About Emotional Intelligence

Here’s the good news: EI is not something we’re born with. It’s something we develop.  

If you’ve ever watched a two-year-old have a temper tantrum, or been that mouthy teenager who explodes when asked to set the table, you’ll know that EI generally gets better with age. After all, you don’t see too many adults sucking their thumb when things don’t go their way – but that’s not to say they’re not doing it on the inside! 

And the more emotionally intelligent you are, the more emotionally intelligent you become. That’s because EI starts and ends with awareness. The more aware you are of your own and other’s emotions, the more emotionally intelligent you become.  

Nature or Nurture? 

In the same way that barracking for Port Adelaide is hereditary, emotional intelligence is something that’s passed down through families.  

But, it’s not on your genes. Instead, the more you’re surrounded by high EI in action, the higher your EI score will be.  

That’s not to say that the EI influence all has to happen in your early years.  

Because EI is developed, the more time you spend with emotionally intelligent people, the better you will become at it. 

Entrepreneur and author Jim Rohn said, ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ And finding good people is a choice you can make today. 

Teach Yourself To Become More Emotionally Intelligent 

Research shows that we have up to 400 emotional experiences a day. From not wanting to do the dishes, to smiling when the dog greets you like a long-lost friend, to being devastated when you don’t get that promotion you know you deserve.  

The fast track to increasing your EI is self-awareness and mindfulness: 

– recognising your emotions 

– accepting them as part of the human experience  

– not shoving them down when they come to the surface. 

As busy Westerners who live in a world that increasingly shuns negative emotions, putting a lid on our so-called ‘bad’ feelings is something we have normalised. For many of us, giving a name to that knot in the stomach, or that tightening of the back, or that flutter in the chest can sometimes be challenging. 

But you can’t change what you can’t see. Once you learn to recognise your emotions, you can begin to harness them. 

And when you can recognise your own emotions, you begin to recognise what’s going on for others.  

Only then can you positively influence them. 

Are Emotional People Emotionally Intelligent? 

If EI is measured in someone’s ability to keep their emotions from spilling over, then it could go either way when judging if emotional people do or don’t have a high EI.  

Think of someone who has expressed strong emotions at work, and ask yourself, ‘Can they recognise their emotions and display them in a manner that’s appropriate to the circumstances?’ 

In the same way, someone who doesn’t display much emotion is not necessarily emotionally intelligent. They might just be keeping it all in – which can also be a sign of low EI. 

There are times where it’s wise and proper to express emotions. Improving your EI will teach you when and how that is. 

Managing A Staff Member With A Low EI 

The higher up the pay scale, the more emotionally intelligent people usually are. At least, we all hope so!  

So it’s fair to say that many managers will have staff who are less emotionally intelligent than they are – simply because the staff have had less exposure and practice. 

The best way to supervise a direct report who you believe is managing their emotions inappropriately is to:  

– Not judge the situation  

– Act with humility  

– Get your own emotions in order 

– Understand when their non-productive emotions are likely to be triggered  

– Have a strategy ready to manage them. 


The most important strategy is to demonstrate emotional intelligence yourself. 


When people are inspired by the actions of those around them, they’re more likely to emulate them. 

And that means more people with high EI in your team. 

Is EI More Important Than IQ? 

If being a great manager is about getting the best out of the team…  

And being emotionally intelligent is about reading and harnessing other people’s emotions… 

Then YES. EI is more important than IQ. 

An emotionally intelligent manager: 

– is inspiring because they turn up each and every day with an even, predictable temperament that makes everyone feel comfortable 

– develops others by always watching and listening intently making deductions about what’s important for their direct reports 

– focuses on bringing a team together by creating an environment where people are motivated to be together 

– builds trust by walking their talk, and 

– is always focused on building relationships into the long term. 

How Do You Test Your Emotional Intelligence? 

EI is only a new science. Said to have been developed in the 1990s, Harvard psychologist Daniel Goldman popularised it. Goldman believed that EI was far more important in the workplace than IQ.  

From there, scientists have sought to measure it. See how you rate in this 5-minute EI test.  

If you could do with a skills refresher, then read this article




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