Rachel Shackleton of Green Key Personal Development: Emotional Intelligence; What It Is, Why It Is So Essential, And How We Can Increase It

Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated
Authority Magazine
Published in
18 min readFeb 21, 2021


Look for the positives in everything whether person, idea, situation or experience, before criticizing and highlighting the negatives. Positivity generates positivity, in other words like attracts like. If you want others to treat you with respect, give full attention to what you say and be positive, lead the way and do this for others first.

As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Shackleton.

Rachel Shackleton, founder of Green Key Personal Development and Green Key Health is a business trainer and corporate wellbeing specialist. She has over 30 years training experience providing solutions in leadership, communication, customer excellence, and wellbeing in the workplace. Clients include Sperasoft, Apstec, DellEMC and Intermedia.

Founder of a successful business in Russia that she sold after 16 years operation to an international organisation before returning to the UK. She is also a practicing medical herbalist, naturopath and kinesiologist supporting individual clients in restoring balance and wellbeing to mind, body and soul, as well as consulting with top management in organisations that understand the importance of employee wellbeing and who want to build it into the company culture and leadership approach.

Rachel has been featured in Thrive Global, Up Journey, and interviewed on UK Health Radio and the Rick Nuske “My Future Business Show”. A guest speaker at the 2nd International Health Congress in Geneva on Non-Communicable diseases in September 2020.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

The middle one of five children, I had a happy childhood that was full of fun, experimentation and laughter. Living in a small village, we were out of the house most of time usually fishing, playing cricket on the village green, riding our bikes and any other activity that would come along that sparked the curious nature of young children. Of course, all this after doing homework and general house chores.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work in the hotel industry. It was mostly me that helped mum cooking meals for the family. As soon as was possible I got myself a job in a hotel as a waitress and from that point on learned the ropes and became a restaurant manager. In the early 80’s in Food and Beverage and actually most other department managerial positions were dominated by men. Rather than swim upstream I moved sideways into Learning and Development, which actually meant I was still very much involved in F&B, just from a different angle. At this point I was nurtured and encouraged by a person who sadly died of cancer about four years later. Jack was a great inspiration not only to me, but to many in the hotel. He had the ability to truly listen and coach you without you feeling you were being coached! Such a talent. Anyway, it was Jack that encouraged me to take a job teaching young people who were studying Food and Beverage at the HEART academy in Jamaica. That was my opportunity. Even though the contract was only for three months, I decided that I was not coming back. I sold everything, packed my belongings into a suitcase and had the amazing experience of working in Jamaica then Barbados and St Lucia for almost five years in the hotel industry, only returning because the Ministry of Immigration would not renew my visa anymore. With a heavy heart I returned to the UK, found it really limiting and claustrophobic and after a few months was sitting in an Areoflot plane on a frozen runway in St Petersburg, Russia on the 26th December waiting for the plane to park. That was a shock to my system with only one very small room to arrive in and collect luggage it took almost four hours to go through immigration. My coat at the time was not suited to -26 degrees and that was the inside temperature!

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

There have been so many people who have come along for “a reason, a season or a lifetime”, making it difficult to pick one. In Grand Hotel Europe, where I worked in St Petersburg, the whole management team were amazing. They were amazing individuals and together we made a phenomenal team. I have never before or since worked with such a team, except my own, of course. In that team was the Head of Security, who I initially shared an office with, which in itself was a mismatch if ever there was one? He was dealing with keeping guests and personnel safe through the control of prostitution and the use of weapons in the hotel, both being part of the so-called Mafia in the 80’s and 90’s, and I was responsible for Human Resources and Learning and Development.

Initially he did not speak much English, but on most days we would sit and talk about life in Russia, including politics, traditions, and other topics that came up in the course of a day. He learned English and I learned about aspects of Russia that foreigners are not generally privy to. To this day, Sergey (not his real name) is a good friend and fountain of information.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Life is about lessons, when open to seeing them doors open, and close sometimes that enable your progress whether career progress, emotional or spiritual progress. Carrying on the theme of security, in one of our conversations Sergey asked if I would be able to train his security team to be able to discreetly and delicately inform guests that the lady he is bringing into the hotel is a prostitute (no offense meant) and that he is to take care of his personal belongings? As you can imagine, this is not a regular request for training in customer service, but one requiring discretion, a good command of the English language with the ability to decipher whether indeed the lady is a prostitute. As a person that always says “Yes” and then works out how to do it, I said “Yes.” As the saying goes “This is the oldest profession in the world”, therefore not one that we were going to stop in our beautiful hotel. The ensuing conversations with Sergey and members of his team to understand the problem in more detail led to some very specific training in how to address the guest in such a way that it would not cause offense. One of the details that came to light was that the positioning of the security team made it very accessible for them to make money through the supply of ladies to hotel guests. This very fact highlighted the need to look not only at training, but at the system as a whole; 1) to protect the guests and 2) to stop individual security officers from falling prey to ladies who are able to bribe them to get access to our guests. We came up with a very sound procedure that ticked all the boxes that is in operation 30 years later. The learning for me was about understanding that not everything you “see” has a training solution.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Know what you want and in that knowing go where life takes you. I have traveled the world, seen and experienced aspects of life in the countries where I have lived that no visitor or tourist is ever likely to see. I believe the reason for that is my willingness to mix in, to want to live as a part of the local community and not be concerned about the lack of marmite, cheese, toilet paper, soap or whatever it is you are missing from your own culture. Simply live with it. I believe that by doing this, you develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the people, their hardships, their joys, habits and traditions. Most importantly you are trusted, and perhaps whilst still being classed as a foreigner, the acceptance of who you are goes much deeper.

Avoid being ethnocentric — there is no such thing as a superior culture. Cultures are simply different and differences can be the strengths, especially in when working in a team. Trying to “force” other cultures to do it the way your culture does, creates deep resentment and breaks trust before it has had a chance to build.

Observe, listen and ask questions to understand why something is done a particular way and then add your thoughts and ideas to the conversation to allow others the opportunity to learn about different ways of doing things, but more importantly create something new from the best of both worlds that solves the problem, improves the process or addresses the situation appropriately.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There are so many books that have played a part in my life. The book you need to read tends to spring up at the time you need it. One of the books is Pavlovsk, The Life of a Russian Palace by Suzanne Massie, published in 1990. I am lucky to have known the author who was advisor to President Reagan on Russian issues. This book is written in the most beautiful way showing a deep knowledge and understanding of Russian people and life. On reading this book, I gained a deep insight into Russian people and into the deep pride they have of their history, country and culture through the history of Pavlovsk and the Revolution and the Siege of Leningrad to the restoration of this unique palace.

At the time of reading this book, I was still working in St Petersburg and it provided so many answers to what I was experiencing at the time that appeared to have no logical explanation. One does not see one’s own culture unless you leave it and return looking with fresh eyes. If you want to understand the soul of Russia and the roots of its history, there is no other book that I can recommend more strongly.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel”. Maya Angelou

This quote is so pertinent to our lives, especially in the Western world. We tend to rush around trying to accomplish everything on the ‘to do” list only to wake up the next day and do the same thing. Is this living? The joy of interacting with others fills you up with knowledge, kindness, understanding, laughter and so on. A written message goes a long way, but it will never replace the face-to-face personal contact when you are fully present with another person. Maya Angelou hits the nail right on the head with these words that tie in so aptly with the theme of Emotional Intelligence.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

My answer to this question is not about a project, but rather a way of seeing organizations, leadership styles and those who come to see me for a consultation on their health. Each one of us is a unique soul, each organization is made up of many souls. Whether treating an individual or an organization it is not about “plugging” up the holes by treating the symptoms, it is about getting to the soul level and enabling the emergence of the blossoming soul in each and every one of us. It is about taking a holistic view, in business terms we might call that a “helicopter view”. We limit our boundaries, or we allow others to do that, whether on an organization level or an individual level this leads to malfunctioning and ill health. In individuals this might be manifested in different ways; diabetes, hypertension, gut issues, pain that has no explanation and so on, in organizations it manifests as increased sickness and staff turnover, loss of productivity and profitability, a toxic work environment and so on.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority about Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is something that I learned through working most of my life in other cultures. Each time I took myself out of my comfort zone of everything that was familiar to me to start again in an environment that was different from my own, it was Emotional Intelligence that was the foundation to my success. It so easy to use phrases such as “In England we do it this way,” or “That won’t work because…. ” and so on. In a new environment you are the minority. If you are sensitive it forces you, in the nicest possible way to expand your thinking, look for the positives and ways to achieve the goal that are acceptable to your colleagues, despite it being different to what they are accustomed to.

In any business, whether that is banking, hotels, retail or construction, Emotional Intelligence is essential to communicating and dealing with clients and customers as well as for working in and leading a team. Without it customers will go somewhere else sooner or later, because they can. Employees will either do the same or their morale, willingness and performance will drastically decrease, leaving their leaders bewildered and trying to work out what is wrong through surveys and interviews. If you have a good level of Emotional Intelligence you are not only aware of your own behaviour, but can regulate it through your social skills, generating self-motivation whilst inspiring others to want to do a good job because they like working with you and/or within the organization because all the leaders have a good level of Emotional Intelligence.

For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?

Emotional Intelligence, was initially labelled by Daniel Goleman back in the mid 1990’s. (Please correct me if I am wrong.) In Goleman’s words it refers to “the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves in our relationships. It describes the abilities distinct from but complementary to, academic intelligence, the purely cognitive capacities measured by IQ.”

Salovey and Mayer define Emotional Intelligence in terms of being able to monitor and regulate one’s own feelings and to use feelings to guide through an action. Goleman adapted their model so that it could be applied and measured in the context of work life, which he named Emotional Intelligence, often referred to as EQ, as opposed to IQ. His adaptation includes five basic emotional competencies, each with their own definition, making it easy to measure. The competencies are:

  • Self- Awareness
  • Self-Regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social Skills

How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?

As touched on above Emotional Intelligence is not about academic intelligence or how intelligent a person is around a specific topic. This is usually measured through IQ or Intelligence Quotient. In other words someone can be highly knowledgeable in a particular area such as immunology, virology or pathology, but if they are unable to express themselves clearly around their knowledge, becoming defensive if another person challenges their point of view or stops listening and withdraws because they cannot accept that someone else might have another point of view, this demonstrates lack of Emotional Intelligence, but does not detract from their academic intellingence.

Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Emotional Intelligence is the foundation to getting on in this world. It is that simple. Every day we meet people. People who come from completely different walks of life, we meet colleagues at work, we lead others, and interact at some point with our boss, with friends and family members. Lacking Emotional Intelligence may possibly mean that the person lacks self-confidence to pass the time of day or to express their ideas and thoughts around solving a problem, or get upset because their suggestion was not accepted or when they disagree with their boss. We normally have hundreds of interactions every day, face to face, on the phone and through email, the inability to communicate with Emotional Intelligence will affect how others react, will affect how you react to others and consequently you can be misunderstood, the degree of which can be small or huge.

Would you feel comfortable sharing a story or anecdote about how Emotional Intelligence has helped you in your life? We would love to hear about it.

Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?

The five competencies of Emotional Intelligence are all relevant here. However, choosing Self-awareness and Self-regulation — when using these skills in the business world you can “feel” what is happening in the now when communicating with others, and consequently use the gleaned information to guide decision making with a realistic understanding of your own abilities with a well-grounded sense of self-confidence.

Self-regulation means that you are able to handle your emotions in a way that they facilitate openness, discussion etc. in any particular situation rather than interfering or perhaps even blocking any movement going forward. Self-regulation is also the ability to recover quickly and well from emotional distress that might have been caused by your own actions, the actions of others and/or a particular situation.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?

One of the emotional and social competencies in the Goleman model is “Social Skills”. This is the ability to handle emotions in relationships, being able to accurately read others whilst interacting and therefore responding appropriately to assist in creating a smooth interaction to persuade, influence, negotiate and overcome conflict whether the relationship is work-based, friends or within your family.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?

This is a critical question and again involves most of the competencies mentioned. However, Emotional Intelligence through self-regulation helps us to recover quickly and well from emotional setbacks. Motivation helps to go inward and remind ourselves when in the overhang of an emotional situation what are our deepest needs and preferences, and consequently to not give up, but persevere in situations that frustrate us or cause a major setback. It helps us to regulate our response both to others and to ourselves putting everything into context so that we do not become overwhelmed, which then de-stabilizes our mental and emotional health, overall helping to build resilience.

Ok. Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you recommend five things that anyone can do to develop a greater degree of Emotional Intelligence? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Listen attentively and empathetically when you see that the other person is expressing emotions or a different opinion to yours, through tone of voice, gestures and/or the words they are using and respond through mirroring to show you recognize how they are feeling, before addressing the actual reason for the conversation.
  2. Change your response pattern by identifying your triggers. Increasing self-awareness of how you feel and respond to a particular statement, comment, person or attitude goes a long way to identifying triggers and increasing Emotional Intelligence through putting steps in place to change your response pattern.
  3. Show empathy by putting yourself in another person’s shoes especially when they are emotional. This helps them see that you care, you truly understand and are not passing any judgement. When responding verbally, use expressions that transmit your empathy for them and how they are feeling at that point in time. For example, phrases such as, “I would be so upset right now if that was me in your situation.” “I really feel for you right now.”
  4. Train yourself to connect first on a human level by taking a reading of how the other person you are talking to is feeling in the moment with so called “small talk”. Show respect by truly listening to the answer. Only after this carry on with the main reason for calling/talking to the person.
  5. Look for the positives in everything whether person, idea, situation or experience, before criticizing and highlighting the negatives. Positivity generates positivity, in other words like attracts like. If you want others to treat you with respect, give full attention to what you say and be positive, lead the way and do this for others first.

Do you think our educational system can do a better job at cultivating Emotional Intelligence? What specific recommendations would you make for schools to help students cultivate Emotional Intelligence?

Yes, most certainly. This last year has not helped in developing Emotional Intelligence in our children. Early years are one of the most important times for learning how to notice and “read” others’ emotions . For example, to realize that what you just said was hurtful to the other person and to do something about it, as well as learn the impact how your behaviour impacts another person. Social skills are learned in lessons, but most importantly, in the playground through “playtime” which gives room for children to cooperate and interact with each other in spur of the moment games, through teamwork of school games whether netball, football or hockey as well as just sitting and chatting.

To develop and foster Emotional Intelligence I recommend:

Classes on softs skills around the communication and Emotional Intelligence competences that address how to listen effectively, self-regulate, build self-awareness, social skills and giving empathy to yourself and others all of which require minimal explanation when learning is facilitated through exercises with group discussion afterwards.

Mobile phones which are a part of our daily lives very often take away from communicating face-to-face with those around us, rather allowing the user to avoid socializing (if that way inclined) as well as avoiding difficult issues, such as minor conflict, embarrassment and guilt for some reason. Mobiles to be banned at certain times therefore encouraging communication, fun and creativity in the now, as well as helping our children to manage phone time consciously and not have their phone manage them.

Mindfulness is also a powerful tool that can be shared in schools with children of all ages. Mindfulness because it encourages the art of being present, living and enjoying each moment, not only teaches to be more aware of yourself, but also of being aware of others.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The simple things in life are often the best. In most Western cultures we have moved away from community life. I would love to see the return of community life around all kinds of activities to engage individuals of all age groups in having fun, being creative and sharing time together. Activities could be held in local parks on the village green or the local community allotment, as well as in care homes to access those that do not have the mobility. There are no end to the type of activities that could be enjoyed by all — playing cricket, rounders or some other sport where teams can be randomly drawn up sharing the young, middle aged and elderly amongst the teams. For those who do not want to participate, they could be the spectators and cheer leaders. If on the allotment, it might be the older members of the community sharing knowledge around planting, growing and harvesting, getting children involved and learning about the doing aspect of these activities. There might be local competitions for the largest pumpkin, marrow, or cabbage or photography competitions that are focused to a local theme or area, which can later be used on the local website and other social media. Getting the elderly together with children benefits all involved, the elderly receiving joy from interacting with the children and the children learning about local information, experiences and life by talking to their elders, whilst also learning Emotional Intelligence.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

Ex-President Donald J. Trump would be my choice. This is probably a surprising and may be even controversial figure to want to have breakfast or lunch with. Whether you like him or you do not, there is still much to learn from such a controversial person, whose level of Emotional Intelligence perhaps needs some work. You seldom get a chance to talk to an ex-president and to have the opportunity to ask about his learning during his term, and if he could live that term again, would there be something that he would change and if so, why? As a well traveled president it would also be interesting to know who was the most interesting country-leader that he met and why? I also believe that talking to Donald Trump could never be boring, and most likely he would pick up the tab!

How can our readers further follow your work online?



Twitter: @gkeydevelopment

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Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.



Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated
Authority Magazine

Entrepreneur, angel investor and syndicated columnist, as well as a yoga, holistic health, breathwork and meditation enthusiast. Unlock the deepest powers