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Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is at the heart of your ability to manage and lead people, and yourself. Emotional Intelligence also equips you to respond to life's challenges in a more productive way, and help those around you to improve too.



Today's subject is emotional intelligence which can be seen as a new label for a very old skill -management gurus have a habit of picking up stuff, dusting them off, giving them a new label and presenting them to the world as something brand new. Emotion intelligence used to be called ‘interpersonal skills’, and prior to that, just called ‘getting on with people’.

Emotional intelligence is a critical skill for any kind of organisational leader. It's essentially the ability to persuade people to willingly do the things you would like them to be doing. So pretty straightforwardly, if you're not very good at that, or you're challenged by doing that, you're making your life as a leader that much harder.

Emotional intelligence is very much at the heart of your ability to manage people and lead people. But it's also at the heart of managing yourself. Really skilled emotional intelligence exponents are also very, very self-aware, and by being self-aware you understand yourself; what motivates you, what demotivates you, how you're feeling at any moment in time, and then the sorts of influences that life has on you. How you respond by knowing that by being aware of that, you're better equipped to improve yourself, control your better equipped to be able to respond to life's challenges in a very constructive, productive, and effective kind of way.

Unsurprisingly, the better you know yourself; the chances are you're going to overlay that understanding on what you see in others. You will understand more readily why they are reacting in certain ways, be that positively or negatively. And you'll learn the skills to adapt your own behaviour to get the kind of results that you're looking for from people.

Emotional intelligence is not a party trick, and it's not insincere. It's not a load of nonsense; or trying to persuade people to do something that they wouldn't otherwise to their detriment, this is simply about getting people onside in a genuine, real way that gives them satisfaction from what they're doing and wanting to work with you as that partner in that situation.

Obviously, emotional intelligence can be on a one-to-one basis or it can be between you and a bunch of people. It's not saying everybody's like this, and everybody is like that, or people will respond in this kind of way. That is not emotional intelligence. That's very nearly delusion. The truth is individuals respond, and individuals have wants, needs, hopes, aspirations, and it's your job to present what you'd like from them in such a way that suits them as best you can. There are some old sayings that are partly true, but not really very accurately true. So, the first one is ‘treat other people the way you'd like to be treated yourself’. Clearly treating people with respect, the same level of respect you'd want to treat yourself is fine. But imposing your values, imposing your interpretation of the world and the way that you will respond to life's challenges on other people is in effect inaccurate. The trick is what do they want? How, how will they respond? Give them the stimuli that they are looking for rather than you. And so, your self-awareness and the overlay on other people is really about understanding how they're feeling and what they're looking for. That way you can really reach out to them and connect with them.

The other phrase is ‘empathy, not sympathy'. I don't really believe in this now. It's very easy as a manager, as a leader, to think that all your team are fantastic and they're working really hard and they're giving you a hundred per cent or more. That may or may not be true, but if it's sympathy that you've got in that situation, you're not going to get the most from them, and they're not going to give you the most. However, if you empathise, if you understand how they're feeling, if you understand how they're looking at things, how they're seeing things, you will be able to tailor exactly what you say and how you present opportunities to them in a way that they respond most constructively to. So, empathy, not sympathy is the real key to this. Put yourself in their shoes. Understand what they're saying.

Now, very often as a leader, this is about nothing more than communication. As a busy leader, as someone who's working really hard, you can often assume that everybody around you knows what you know, everybody around you is up to date with all the latest developments in the organisation as you are. That's really unfair because they probably aren't, they don't see the emails you see, they don't go to the meetings you go to, they don't get the briefings. So, in order for people to understand what you're looking for, you may need to backtrack, go back to explain to them the reason why you're looking for help in a certain way, or why you're looking for them to understand something in a bit more detail, give them the background, give them the time because that way there'll be on the side.

The other thing about emotional intelligence is that you really do need to understand that their emotions and your emotions are linked and that the way you behave will directly impact them. So, if you run around like a chicken with his head cut off, if you run around in a very stressed, very hyper frame of mind, then that's going to affect them. They're thinking ‘everything's a bit difficult. Everything's a bit stressful. Everything's going wrong. If you project an air of calm, if you project an air of everything's in hand, we just need to knuckle down and do these things. That's a different frame of mind - Your behaviour is infectious. Emotional intelligence is being emotionally intelligent about the way you behave, whether it's the spoken word, body language, an email, whatever it is, is critical to getting the very best from the people around you.

If you, as a leader, give time to this. If you as a leader, think about how this works. And work on it as a skill, you will be the best leader that you can be. You will take yourself to another level. As an executive coach, I have met many, many leaders, business owners, senior executives, for whom emotional intelligence was the key; it was a missing part of the jigsaw puzzle that was so welled up in their own career, so wound up in their own troubles, so bound up in their own stresses and priorities that they missed the point with everybody around them. It can mean that people don't really like working with them. It can mean that people tend not to respond warmly to them. It can mean that people are completely misjudged.

In terms of your motivations and your true desires, just because you're not emotionally intelligent, doesn't mean you're an uncaring or unfeeling person. It just means you're not conveying those feelings, those emotions to people in a way that they can understand. Inside you believe you're doing your very best for people and you care about them deeply, so in many ways, it rebounds on you via disappointment. Why don't they understand what I'm doing?

So, emotional intelligence; It's not new. It's been around a long time. It's in many ways, common sense, but it comes at a price. You've got to work at it. You've got to sincerely mean it. You've got to become a professional manager of people, but understanding and empathising with them when you're communicating with them, when you're trying to help them deliver what you want to be done there, is emotional intelligence.


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