“How Can I Improve My Emotional Intelligence?”

A high potential manager may define this developmental goal as the primary focus of her coaching program. What is emotional intelligence and how can she begin her journey?

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) was popularized by Daniel Goleman over 10 years ago when he published books about EI. Today, it is probably common knowledge that EI, also referred to as Emotional Quotient (EQ), is more critical that Intelligence Quotient (IQ) in enabling people to succeed. In the 50’s and 60’s there was a lot of hype about IQ. Then in the 90’s, understanding about EI and how it helped make people more successful grew.

I remember someone I knew who was very smart but because he was a loner and didn’t work with well with others, his career growth was negatively affected. With his intelligence, he could have been promoted to the manager and executive level. However, because of a low EQ “handicap,” he remained at the supervisory level for many years and didn’t get the opportunity to move up and achieve more of his full potential as a person and leader.

In a nutshell, Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize your emotions and understand how they affect you and the people around you. EI also involves how you perceive others, understand their feelings, and manage yourself and your relationship with them more effectively. EI has also been described as the ability to create positive outcomes in your relationships with others and yourself. Such positive outcomes can include joy, optimism, and success in your life and work.

People with high EI tend to be more well liked and successful in most things they do. They have greater self awareness and self management and can work more constructively with other people despite challenges that might exist in their personal and working relationships.

The five dimensions that define EI are self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, empathy, and social skills or coaching other’s emotions. These may be labeled a bit differently in various sources. There are excellent sources to learn more about EI and some are the following:

How Can She Begin Her Journey?

Back to the high potential manager who has set a goal of improving her emotional intelligence.

One way to start the process and journey is to have a conversation about what is emotional intelligence, its dimensions, and what would be different between her present and future self as “being” more emotionally intelligent. Having a good understanding of what EI means and how she can be a different and better person with a higher EI is essential to success.

Another place to start is to explore how a self assessment can help her get a snapshot and baseline of her EI skills. Before she can improve her emotional skills, she must first understand what her strengths and areas for improvement are. There are different tools for this and, while they may be built around the five EI dimensions or competencies, they may differ in how they are constructed and in the amount of research done on them to ensure their validity and reliability.

The point is that she must know where she is beginning her journey and where her destination is, so that she can monitor how well she is moving towards achieving her goal of increasing her EI.  In addition to a self assessment,  feedback from others who work with her is helpful.  Then, helping her define how she would be different in terms of each EI dimension, how she would behave differently in ways that reflect higher levels of EI skills, will help her concretize the changes she wants to see in herself and her relationship with others.