Category Archives: Leadership

The importance of Emotional Intelligence in your career and how to develop it

Published / by gopivajravelu / 4 Comments on The importance of Emotional Intelligence in your career and how to develop it

As your career starts out, the hard skills you learned in school will be very important. And if you excel as an individual contributor, you’ll get promoted to your first management position. From there on, your soft skills will become more important for future promotions than your hard skills. You’ll need to coach your direct reports, handle conflict within your team, and tactfully manage office politics. Building your interpersonal skills, and Emotional Intelligence, will help you excel as a manager up to Director, VP, and Executive.

Numerous studies show that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a trait great leaders have in common. Research shows that people with high levels of emotional intelligence are better at managing their stress, negotiating, and leading people. Daniel Goleman, the man who made Emotional Intelligence famous, noted that the qualities traditionally associated with leadership, such as intelligence, determination, and strategic vision, are required for success but are insufficient. Great leaders also needed other qualities – the qualities that he found associated with emotional intelligence. And these EQ qualities became even more important as employees reached higher positions on the corporate ladder. As someone got closer to the C-Suite, they needed higher levels of EQ to make the company successful and to move higher in his/her career.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize one’s own and other’s emotions and to manage them accordingly to achieve a goal.

According to Goleman, Emotional Intelligence has five components:

  • Self-awareness: knowing one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and goals – and their impact on others
  • Self-regulation: controlling or redirecting disruptive emotions and impulses
  • Motivation: being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement itself
  • Empathy: considering others’ feelings, especially when making decisions
  • Social skill: managing relationships to move people in desired directions

As you can see, the first three components all deal with recognizing and managing your own emotions. You need to know the emotions you are feeling, how to control your emotions, and to understand why you want to achieve your goals. One important point is that EQ is not about being emotionless. Emotions are good and healthy. You should not allow your emotions to your control you, rather you should feel and manage your emotions productively. That is the core of Emotional Intelligence.

The last two EQ components are about how you relate to others. Do you understand others’ emotions and do you know how to help them be productive toward their goals and the company’s goals. You can see how these two components are so important for leadership at the office. Whether it is helping a direct report manage his emotions with your social skills or understanding your boss’s goals using empathy, you can improve your career by developing EQ.

So then we get to the question, how do you improve your Emotional Intelligence?

A great first step is to read Daniel Goleman’s book which made EQ popular. But that isn’t necessary. You can also get started at home with two techniques: The Mime Technique and the Shoe Store Technique.

The Mime Technique helps you develop self-awareness and empathy. It’s pretty simple but very powerful.

Turn on your TV (or Netflix for all of us Millenials) and mute the sound. Try to understand the context of the show or movie just from the characters’ body language. The first time you do this, it might be hard. But as you do this a few times, you’ll start to notice which facial expressions signal anger, sadness, happiness, and stress. This will help you develop empathy.

As you watch more shows without sounds or words, you’ll start to label the emotions more in your head. You’ll see the difference between someone who feels joy and someone who feels ecstatic, and all of the other varying degrees of happiness. You’ll see the difference between the levels of anger, sadness, stress, and every other emotion in between. This will help you develop self-awareness. As you notice the different emotions in other people (empathy) you’ll also recognize the emotion in yourself better (self-awareness). That will also help you develop self-regulation over time.

As you learn to see these emotions in other people, you’ll have a better sense of good times to talk about sensitive subjects with your coworkers or when to give coworkers some space. You’ll see when they are stressed about a deadline and when they are happy about an accomplishment. You’ll get much better at handling office politics when you see the body language and underlying emotions people project.

The Shoe Store Technique is also useful: you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, figuratively. When you talk to someone and recognize their emotions, whether it is happiness or something else, put yourself in that person’s shoes. Ask yourself: Why might they feel this way?

Try on a few pairs of shoes. There could be a number of reasons why someone is stressed: is his child sick, did her boss just reprimand her, did he get in a car accident last night? You won’t know the real reason why someone feels the way he does, but picturing yourself in several different scenarios that would cause that emotion can help you empathize with that person.

You’ll understand how he feels which helps you manage your own emotions while talking to him and you will feel his emotion so you can empathize and create a stronger social connection between the two of you.

This can help you build allies at work and to just be a nice considerate person.

Emotional intelligence is one of the most important skills for advancing your career. Even early in your career you can start developing it now and see its powerful benefits.

Give these two techniques a try at work this week and let me know what emotions you see around your office.

The Peter Principle

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The Peter Principle is a management theory that says an employee will continue to get promoted until he is in a role where he is incompetent.

In other words, if Sam was a great Associate he gets promoted to Senior Associate. Since he was also a great Senior Associate, he becomes a Manager. Once again, he does a great job as a Manager so he gets promoted to Director. But he’s not a good Director so he never gets promoted again. That’s unfortunately because Sam is now doing a job he isn’t good at which is hurting the company.

As a result, the Peter Principle says that a company is made up of employees who are working in roles they are unfit to be in. That’s a pretty grim outlook.

But like all theories, it’s written on paper and we don’t live on paper. When we reach a role that is too difficult for us, we can learn from our mistakes, seek education, get mentors, and become competent in our new roles. Over time, we turn our failures into success, get promoted, and repeat the cycle again.

How to be a great manager

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We’ve all had our share of great managers and not-so-great managers. Some managers bring the best out of their team. They can make you feel productive and like a valuable employee.They know how to take you from one level and make you even better. They are truly great managers.

Then there are the not-so-great managers. The types of managers that no one wants to work for. They are some combination of selfish, rude, and oblivious to how they make their team feel. The team isn’t productive and everyone hates Monday mornings that much more because it’s a week with a bad boss.

But what about when you become the boss? You’re now the manager. How do you make sure you’re the great manager? Whether you’re a first time manager or an experience one, it’s tough to know how to get the most out of your team, but it’s absolutely possible.

Your team comes first

At one point in your career you were a great individual contributor. Your boss and her boss both thought of you as a great employee and someone who the company can develop to be a leader.

One mistake not-so-great managers make is continuing to act as an individual contributor. As a manager, you are now evaluated based on how well your team does. Even if you are still tasked with making individual contributions while managing, you must keep your team’s development as the first priority before your individual contributions.

You are first a coach and second a player on the team. You are now in charge of developing talent, delegating the department’s priorities efficiently, and making sure your team has a work environment that will make them productive.

A large part of putting your team first and giving them that productive work environment is accepting the blame for problems and handing out the praise to your direct reports for the successes.

One thing that drives employees crazy is when their manager takes credit for their work or when the manager passes on blame down the corporate ladder. As a manager, you will need to own up to the team’s failures and share the success with your team.

If your boss asked why a certain project didn’t work out, you should take the responsibility for it yourself even if it was one of your direct reports who messed up. You should let your boss know that you didn’t help out that employee enough and the project has slipped up, but you will get it back on track.

Likewise, when a project goes great, let your boss know that the success for that project goes to your employee. And also let your employee know that your boss was told what a great job she did, perhaps by sending an email to your boss:

To: [Boss’s email]

CC: [Employee’s email]

Hi [boss’s name],

I wanted to let you know that the XYZ project wrapped up earlier this week. All signs point to success so far. [Employee’s name] did a great job on this project and deserves the credit!


[Your name]

Your boss will know that the accomplishments were led by you, but it also motivates your team to know their great work is recognized by upper management.

Treat everyone as an individual

Your team is a group of individual people, each with their own goals, fears, beliefs, and personality. As such, treat each of your direct reports as an individual person.

Give employees as much freedom as they need to work efficiently. Some people prefer to work solo and others prefer to work in pairs. Some work better with their manager checking in often and others work great with fewer discussions during the day. Find how each person works bests and give them a work situation where they can thrive.

Understand your individual team member’s emotions. Know when they feel overwhelmed. Know when they feel lost. Know when they are unhappy. All of this revolves around emotional intelligence and better leaders tend to have more emotional intelligence than other leaders.

When an employee feels overwhelmed, help him manage his workflow. Take an item or two off his priority list until he feels ready to take it on. When another employee feels unhappy about something at work, ask her what’s bothering her. If one of your team members needs support dealing with someone else in a different part of the company, stand up for her. If you need to go a level up for that support, ask your boss to support that team member too.

I remember once when I was having trouble getting a lower level employee at a vendor our company worked with to get a project done on time. It was a simple project that had been going on for three weeks. I told my boss about my frustrations and he picked up the phone that moment and call an executive at the other company. He voiced his displeasure with the situation…The job was done two hours later. But more importantly, he stuck up for me and my team. You can bet I had his back in the future too.

Do what you need to do to keep your team members feeling positive about their work.

Ask for help

Like most things in life, getting the help of more experienced people will make you better. Find a mentor ask for advice in the areas you want to improve. Management is a skill that you can improve over time and it’s especially improve to get help during the first year when you transition from an individual contributor to a manager.

Your boss is probably the best person to ask for help. She knows the situation you are in and likely has more management experience than you. She was probably in a similar situation to you just a few years ago. I wrote about getting your boss’s help before: How to ask your boss for help without looking stupid.

If you know other experienced managers, perhaps bosses at previous jobs, you can also get their help. If you are dealing with a particularly tricky situation within your company, it can be better to talk to someone outside the company so you can be more honest about the problems you face with political situations inside the company.

And the most overlooked place to get help is from your direct reports. Everyone can learn from other people whether they are older than you, younger, your boss, or your employee. Your direct reports can tell you what you are doing best as a manager and where you need improvement.

During your regular one-on-one check ins with your reports, go through the normal agenda: projects, priorities, and your employee’s feedback. Then turn the tables and tell your employee about what you are working on. Perhaps it’s meetings with your boss, the different projects other people on the team are working on, and then ask for feedback about how you are doing as a manager. You can say something like this:

Since these one-on-one check ins are for both of us to learn, I was hoping you can give me some feedback. What is one area that you think I’m doing well as your manager? [Start with a positive point to open the conversation. It’s easier to give a compliment than criticism. Listen carefully.]

Thanks so much for that feedback. I’m glad I can help you and the team like that. What do you think I can improve on to make the team better? [Ask an open ended question. A yes or no question will get you a yes or no answer. Also focus on how you can help the entire team. This takes some pressure off your employee to give you more honest feedback.]

Here you are letting your employee know that you care about keeping her in the loop on other projects on the team and that you respect her opinion. You also get to know exactly what challenges your team is having with each other and yourself.

As always, take any negative criticism as well as you can. It likely isn’t personal. It might just be your direct reports wanting to vent about something beyond their control, but also use the feedback to improve the work environment for your employees.

In the end, being a manager is about making your team productive and engaged so they can help the company. Doing that will make you a great manager.

Inflection Points

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In a company’s life it goes through many inflection points, or times of significant change. Many employees at companies going through an inflection point get scared, and rightfully so.

Inflection points can be times for organizational restructuring, pivoting the core business, and low cash flows. During these times, employees tend to start looking for a new job and hedging their bets on the company.

But I suggest a different approach which has worked out well in my career. An inflection point is a time to dig in and support the company: take more responsibility and embrace the pivoting business model. As other employees leave the company, pick up the work they were doing. As executives want to build new products and go after a new market, lead the charge to break into that market.

The benefits will pay off when you hit the other type of inflection point: when the company is hiring again and cash is flowing in. Here, the company has emerged from its challenges and is ready to prosper.

Now that you took on extra responsibilities during the tough times and led the company into its new era, you will get the opportunity to manage the new hires, get promoted, and climb up the ladder. You are the only person in your company with the skill set that it now needs to scale and grow. There is no option but to let you lead the new department that will form around you.

You will reap the rewards of sticking through the tough times and creating a stronger company.

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Leadership: Inspire Others

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Your boss is demanding your team finishes the project today, when there just isn’t enough time. The employee you supervise is asking you too many questions that you don’t have the answers to. Your client is demanding that your team reworks your project by tomorrow and it’s going to require working through the night to finish it.

All of these are stressful situations. Situations where there leadership isn’t taking action and no one is stepping up to take charge. If you step up, you’ll prove yourself as a leader who can handle difficult situations. And proving your leadership skills is a key to moving up to a leadership position in your career.

What elements make a great leader?

Professors Amy Cuddy and Dale Carney from Columbia Business School and Harvard Business School found that effective leaders tend to have a calm but assertive personality.

People look to the calmest person in the room to lead during a crisis.

Adopting confident body language is a great start to becoming calm as your body’s feedback loop will make you more confident and assertive.

Part of remaining calm is to stay in the moment. People who stress tend to think about what caused the situation in the past or how bad things will get in the future. Work on learning to focus on what’s both in your control and important.


In your control vs what is important


There are tasks that are in your control but not really all that important, such as what you eat for lunch and what color socks you’re wearing. Then there are things that are important but out of your control, like state of the economy. Finally there are things that are both in your control and are important. That is where you should focus your time, energy, and money. In stressful work situations these could be understanding what your boss wants from the project, getting your project done by the deadline, or training the new hire to succeed in the company.

We have limited willpower and cognition so focus on the tasks that will move your team closer to success.

Another strategy for staying calm is to practice staying in the moment:

Think about your toes. Wiggle your toes and feel them inside your shoes. Feel their weight. Where are they pointing. After that, your mind will have cleared a bit and you’ll be back in the moment.

Now you should be feeling calm, the first part of becoming an effective leader. But what about being assertive? You’ll need to make quick decisions with your team’s trust.

In the book The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane breaks down the ins and outs of charisma. It’s something that can be learned with practice and you can become more or less charismatic as the situation calls for it. People who are charismatic can lead people and inspire others to accomplish more than they think is possible.

She explains that there are four charismatic styles:

  • Authority: based on perception of power through body language, titles, and status symbols
  • Focus: based on listening to and understanding people
  • Visionary: based on presenting confidence and belief in the cause
  • Kindness: based on making people feel welcomed and accepted

My primary style is visionary, but yours may be different. If you are someone who lives in the moment, you may want to lead with focus charisma. If you like to help people open up their emotions, you may want to lead with kindness. If you are the most senior person in the room, you may want to lead with authority. If you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve in the future, you may want to lead with visionary charisma.

Use your charisma style to lead others.

People who use authority charisma are often already the defined leader in the situation. In business they are often the most senior person on the team and need to step up when they sense the team is going off track. In a business situation, people respond to authority charisma because it’s the social order.

  • Getting the team focused: “Let’s get back to work.”
  • Motivating employees: “Our annual reviews will depend on this project.”
  • Delegating work efficiently: “Sharon, can you analyze the data and Jack, can you write the status report for the client?”

Leaders using focus charisma will keep the team focused on the task at hand. They may not be the designated leader by job title, but they will call the team’s attention to times when they go off track. They will also ask questions from team members like:

  • Getting the team focused: “What do you think we should work on next?”
  • Motivating employees: “The sooner we get this task done, the sooner we can go home.”
  • Delegating work efficiently: “It looks like we have too many cooks in the kitchen. How do you all want to divide the work?”

Visionary leaders drive with their confidence of the future and desire to reach a goal. Elon Musk is one of the most notable visionary leaders today because he sees a future where space travel and solar power will move humanity forward. You don’t need to believe in going to Mars, but you can adopt a visionary leadership style with belief in reaching the goal:

  • Getting the team focused: “We need to build and ship this product on time so it will make make our customers’ lives better.”
  • Motivating employees: “If we do this task to the client’s specification, we’ll get more interesting projects from her in the future.”
  • Delegating work efficiently: “Sarah, can you access and analyze the sales data to help the sales team understand the patterns. It will help them improve the sales pipeline.”

Kindness charisma makes employees feel good about their work. Many people like to work for leaders who use kindness because these leaders acknowledge emotions and make employees feel important. Leaders who use kindness will say the following:

  • Getting the team focused: “This team works so well together. I’m impressed by your work ethic and how you all get excellent work done.”
  • Motivating employees: “Working with you all is such a pleasure. If this project works out well, I’m sure we’ll get noticed for our excellent work.”
  • Delegating work efficiently: “John, you do a great job with PowerPoint. Can you polish the final pitch deck?”

Be genuine with the style you choose to use and what you say to your team. Don’t use a style because you can manipulate people to do what you want. Be genuine and keep everyone’s best interest in mind. As you practice being a leader, you will also learn to move from one style to another. You’ll respond to the style of leadership your team needs at that moment and what will work best.

Demonstrating leadership early in your career is a great way to stand out when the time comes for a promotion. Leadership can be learned and you should practice when you have the chance. Take on side projects at work, request to train the new hires, ask your boss if you can take on some of the work she doesn’t want to do herself, and take every chance you can to lead in those tasks.

And when you’re the leader, stay calm, be assertive, and your team will follow you to success.


This article is part 2 in a series about building interpersonal skills for your career. Click on the links below to see the rest of the series:

Introduction: Feeling stuck on the corporate ladder? Maybe your interpersonal skills are holding you back?

Part 1: Body language – projecting confidence

Part 2: Leadership – inspire others

Part 3: Networking – more than LinkedIn