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When we think of someone as being “smart” or “intelligent”, we normally assume that the person has outstanding academic abilities, extensive expertise, or a high IQ. Over the past 10-15 years, however, much has been written about a different way of being smart, referred to as “emotional intelligence” or “EQ”. In his book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman provides insight into the importance of understanding ourselves better and being able to manage our emotions in our work life. Learning how to effectively navigate through the web of interpersonal relationships in the workplace is vital to our happiness and success in our careers. 

Goleman conducted an extensive review of 25 years of research that illuminates the place of emotional intelligence in excellent performance in virtually any job. Emotional intelligence does not mean simply “being nice” or just “letting it all hang out”. More accurately, it means being able to manage our feelings in the workplace and express them “appropriately and effectively,” so that people can work together easily. “Workers who ‘opt in’, making a voluntary commitment to co-workers, will create a winning team,” says John Seeley Brown, a scientist at Xerox.

Our capacity to effectively manage ourselves and handle relationships at work is known as “emotional competence”, and is based on our emotional intelligence. These competencies are the skills we learn through life experiences and are not genetically determined. As we move through life, we get better at handling our emotions and impulses, motivating ourselves and demonstrating empathy toward others. Goleman has developed an Emotional Competence Framework, which includes competencies in the following areas:

Self-Awareness – Knowing our internal states, preferences, capacities, and intuitions;

Self-Regulation – Managing our internal states, impulses, and capacities;

Motivation – Emotional tendencies that guide or help us reach our goals;

Empathy – Awareness of others’ feelings, needs, and concerns, and;

Social Skills – Capacity to inspire and encourage desirable responses in others.

At times, work can be very demanding. This may create a tendency to be focused mainly on the project at hand, forgetting that the members of our group are unique individuals with unique interpretations and feelings about the process. Feelings about what happens in the workplace, our own and the feelings of others, are relevant and should be included in our approach to getting the job done. We need to be careful, however, that we don’t allow ourselves to succumb to “emotional hijackings”. This happens when part of the brain announces an “emergency”, and recruits the rest of the brain to act now - think later! 

Mastering the fundamentals of cooperation and making strong connections with others, significantly impacts our ability to be a “star performer”. We all have the potential to improve our emotional competencies at any stage in our career. The workplace presents us with daily opportunities to learn and exercise emotional intelligence…opportunities which will enrich the overall quality of life for us as individuals and as working teams. You may also find the following resources helpful:

Working With Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, 1998, Bantam Books.

An EI Based Theory of Performance

What is Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence as a Leadership Skill


Listed below are some of the characteristics of people who have the stated competency.

Personal Competencies


Emotional Awareness - Know the emotions they are feeling, why, and how their feelings affect our performance

Accurate Self-Assessment - Aware of their strengths and weakness

Open to candid feedback, continuous learning, and self-development

Self-Confidence - Strong sense of self-worth and capabilities

Inspire confidence in others at work


Self-Control - Manage disruptive emotions and impulses effectively

Trustworthiness - Are trustworthy and conscientious

Conscientiousness - Take responsibility for personal performance


Achievement Drive - Driven to improve or meet standards of excellence by setting challenging goals, taking calculated risks, and reducing uncertainty

Commitment - Make sacrifices and find a sense of individual purpose in order to achieve the team’s larger mission

Initiative - Seize opportunities and pursue goals beyond what is expected of them

Optimism - Persist despite obstacles and setbacks, operating from a hope of success, rather than fear of failure

Social Competencies


Understanding Others - Attentive to the feelings of others, sensing their emotional cues and actively listening to their concerns

Acknowledge and reward people’s strengths and accomplishments

Developing Others - Provide sensitive, constructive feedback, identifying people’s needs for further growth

Mentor or coach others, encouraging their growth and development

ServiceOrientation – Service oriented, anticipating, recognizing and meeting customer’s needs

Leveraging Diversity - Respect and relate well to people from varied backgrounds

Create an environment where diverse people can thrive

Political Awareness - Accurately read key power relationships, understanding the forces that shape organizational realities

Social Skills

Influence - Are skilled at winning people over, using complex strategies to inspire interest, building consensus and support

Communication - Communicate with others using active listening skills, taking in emotional cues of others to adjust their message

Promote mutual understanding and welcome the sharing of information fully

Deal with difficult issues in a straightforward manner

Conflict Management - Handle difficult people and tense situations with diplomacy and tact

Help to prevent potential conflicts by addressing disagreements openly, encouraging debate and open discussion

Leadership – Articulate and create enthusiasm for shared vision and mission

Step forward to lead, regardless of position

Guide performance of others and hold them accountable

Lead by example

Change Catalyst – Recognize need for change and remove obstacles
Champion the change needed and enlist others, modeling the change expected in them

Building Bonds – Cultivate and maintain extensive informal networks

Build rapport and keep others informed

Collaboration and Cooperation – Balance focus on task at hand with attention to relationships

Collaborate with others while promoting a friendly, cooperative climate

Team Capabilities – Model characteristics of desired team qualities, such as respect, helpfulness, and cooperation

Promote active, enthusiastic participation of all members, building team identity and esprit de corps

Protect the group and its reputation – share credit

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