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What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in the Workplace?

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Emotional intelligence: What it is, why it’s important on teams, and how can you improve it throughout your organization in your employees and leaders.

First, I want to unpack what emotional intelligence is.

  1. Self Awareness: Am I aware of the emotions and feelings that I’m having in real time as I have them, can I identify what’s going on with me and why?
  2. Self Management: Am I in charge of my own emotional behavior, regardless of my emotions and feelings? For example, being angry is an emotion, but yelling at someone is a behavior.
  3. Social Awareness (empathy): Am I able to read and discern and identify accurately other people’s emotions and their behaviors and what’s going on with them?
  4. Social Management: Do I understand the importance of and am I skilled at networking, conflict management, as well as building and maintaining relationships with other people?

Why is it important to grow emotional intelligence in teams?

“Hire for EQ. Make it a non-negotiable deal breaker when creating and building your teams and culture.”

People with high emotional intelligence are more:

  • In charge of their behavior. It is normal to experience a variety of different emotions on a day to day basis. People with high EQ are able to control their emotional behavior as they get frustrated, or things go wrong, etc. This make them able to navigate conflict more effectively, remain cool headed when things get tough, and have less negative impact on their fellow team members,
  • Empathetic. People with higher emotional intelligence have an easier time relating to, communicating with, and navigating situations with people who are different than them. They are able to put themselves in the other person’s shoes, which means more understanding, less silos between departments, and an ability to work more collaboratively with different personality types, communication styles, etc.
  • Accountable. Someone with high EQ is more likely to take responsibility and ownership for their actions. They are less likely to blame others or see themselves as victims in situations regarding circumstances and other people.
  • Trainable. People with low emotional intelligence are typically less willing to be vulnerable which means they have a harder time receiving feedback and are usually extremely adverse to it. They aren’t as willing to admit mistakes, or grow, and also avoid taking risks if they can’t guarantee a successful result. AKA more reluctant to be leaders, and lack courage in the face of uncertainty. This is all tied into having a growth mindset, another important trait for humans in the workplace

Emotional intelligence is a must for leaders.

Leaders have to support their team in ways that require a higher level of human management skills like helping their team navigate conflict and difficult conversations, for example. Leaders also need to be able to effectively give feedback and coaching to their people and adapt their leadership style based on who they are leading. Leaders have such an impact on culture and how people feel about their jobs which greatly affects retention and people’s performance and engagement levels.

How to increase emotional intelligence on teams.

“It’s a must that organizations hire for emotional intelligence, ranking higher or at least equal to the ability to perform a role.”

  1. Educate. Have conversations and increase awareness around EQ and what it is. Use resources like this blog, books, etc. and make sure that it’s included in your hiring strategy and decisions, feedback and coaching, and conversations involving talent.
  2. Focus on training and building skills that reflect the behaviors of people with high EQ. Identify the skills and traits of people with high EQ and then build and improve those in your people. For example, navigating conflict. Providing skills training on non-violent communication and conflict management is one way to improve emotional intelligence your team. Another example is effectively giving and receiving feedback.
    You can’t fundamentally change people’s lives and who they are, but you can increase their skills and modify their behavior by increasing their ability to navigate these situations.
  3. Hire for it, promote for it. When you’re hiring, ask questions that indicate and gauge people’s EQ. For reference, here is a great article from with some advice and questions directly aimed at revealing a candidate’s emotional intelligence. Also, promote for it. Do not put people into leadership positions who have low emotional intelligence, it’s suicide. Make high EQ a deal-breaking requirement to be a leader of people.

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This article was created by keynote speaker Galen Emanuele for the #shiftyestribe. Free leadership and team culture content centered on a new focus every month. Check out the rest of this month’s content and subscribe to the Shift Yes Tribe at

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