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Lead out of who you are.

EQ, short for Emotional Quotient, but more commonly referred to as Emotional Intelligence shot into the corporate lexicon with the publication of Daniel Goleman’s book of the same name in 1995. At the time, IQ was considered the most important determinant of success. Goleman showed very clearly that EQ was much more important.

Watch Daniel introduce the concept in this 5:31 video.

The focus of Goleman’s thesis is that two separate minds live in our brains, one rational and one emotional. Developing our emotional abilities, through a few key skills that make up our emotional literacy is actually really important for happiness and success. While certain small aspects of his thesis have been debated over the past 3 decades since he published his book, the basis of his work and the value of developing EQ is now universally accepted. The Harvard Business Review lists EQ as one of most influential business ideas of the past few decades.

As he explains in the video above, Goleman’s version of EQ has four key aspects (this is an update from his book, which split the second factor into two):

  • Self awareness: The ability to recognize your own emotions for what they are and understand their origins, causes and effects. Self-awareness means knowing your strengths and limitations, and having frameworks to make sense of your impulses, emotions, responses and energy.
  • Self management: The ability to delay gratification, balance your needs with those of others, take initiative and to pull back on impulsivity. It is about self-control, not just self-awareness. Self-management is also about the ability to cope with change, make decisions and to stay committed. In his book, Goleman talked about Motivation as one of the key pillars of EQ – this is a key element of self management.
  • Social awareness: The ability to be attuned to other people’s emotions and concerns, as well as being able to notice and adapt to social cues in other individuals and group settings. It means being able to see the power dynamics at play within a group or organizational context. In his book, Goleman talked about empathy as a key pillar of EQ.
  • Relationship management: The ability to get along well with others, manage – and even anticipate – conflict when it emerges, inspire and influence people and an ability to communicate clearly.

These four areas are best developed in the order listed above, as each one builds on the previous set of capabilities. We first focus on becoming more aware of ourselves, and then learn to manage our own responses and emotions. Then we’re able to interact with other people, and finally influence them as we learn from them.

Here are some practical tips on how to go about developing EQ:

Developing Self Awareness

A good starting point is to acknowledge and become more aware of your feelings, and to identify what triggers more intense emotions for you – both good and bad. It really helps to document these for a few weeks, so you can track your emotions. At the end of the day, or even twice or more during the day, reflect on what has happened to you and how you’ve felt. Identify key emotions, noting everything from joy to sorrow, pain to elation, boredom to engagement, fear to calm, anger to empathy, hate to love, nervousness to confidence. Note whether you experienced these as positive/enabling or negative/paralysing emotions. Try to identify triggers – what caused these emotions to emerge. And identify effects – what did these emotions do to you, and to others around you.

There’s no formula for turning this information into self-awareness, and no simple steps to know which emotions are good and bad, and how to deal with them. But identifying them is definitely the right starting point. You’ll be surprised by what you discover.

Taking time to acknowledge how you feel about experiences is essential to improving your EQ. If you ignore your feelings, you’re ignoring important information that has a big effect on your mindset and the way you behave. Start paying more attention to your feelings and connecting them to experiences and situations. When you feel strong emotions, in particular, how do you react? Tune into your gut responses to situations you face during a typical day, instead of just reacting without any reflection. The more you understand what causes and enhances your behavioural impulses the higher your EQ will be and you’ll be able to change, or at least moderate, your behaviour in the future. For example:

  • Feeling embarrassed or insecure might cause you to withdraw from conversation and disconnect.
  • Feeling in love might cause you to become more self-conscious and battle to articulate yourself.
  • Feeling angry might cause you to raise your voice or leave dramatically.
  • Feeling overwhelmed might cause you to to lose focus or cry.

Our emotions play themselves out in different ways, but almost all of us will have some manifestation in our physical bodies. Instead of trying to silence what our bodies say to us, mainly by using medication designed to block the messages our body sends us by way of pain, for example, we need to learn to listen to these and try and find the root causes. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take medications once we know what the issues are, but we shouldn’t default to medication to help us mask our emotions if we haven’t dealt with them.

Learning Self-management

Practice deciding how to behave. You can’t help what emotions you feel, but you can learn to choose how you want to react to them and be more in control of those reactions. If you have an issue with lashing out in anger or shutting down when you’re hurt, for example, think about how you’d rather react, visualise that repeatedly when you’re in a good frame of mind, understand the triggers that you need to look for and then next time you’re hurt and start to feel the anger rising, choose a different response. It’s hard at first, but changing your reaction is possible and will become easier each time you do it. Instead of letting your emotions overwhelm you, decide how you’re going to behave next time your feelings grow strong.

Remember that you are responsible for your behaviour and responses. You can’t help your initial feelings and emotions, but it’s you who chooses your response. Your ability to do this is the start of EQ.

Learning social awareness

We need to develop an understanding of frameworks that help us make sense of other people’s responses. You need to have a personality framework (we prefer the Enneagram), a framework to help you interpret culture (we prefer the CQ framework of Dave Livermore), one for gender and at least another for age (we use the generational framework made popular by Howe and Strauss, and developed in “Mind the Gap” by Graeme Codrington and Sue Grant-Marshall). These frameworks help us anticipate and make sense of how other people respond to situations.

We also need to learn to read people’s body language, in the moment. Make a point of trying to read between the lines and pick up on people’s true feelings by observing their facial expressions and other body language. Do this deliberately, and then try and find ways to corroborate what you think you’ve seen. It really is a skill that can be learnt and practiced. People often say one thing when the look on their face or their body language reveals that there’s a deeper truth, that might be very different from what they’ve said. Practice being more observant and picking up on the less obvious ways that people communicate their emotions.

You can also show empathy and develop connection with someone by observing and then mirroring their body language. Be careful of being too obvious and contrived though.

Understanding other people’s emotions is only half the battle when it comes to EQ – you also need to understand the effect you’re having on other people. Do you tend to make people feel nervous, calm, cheerful or angry? What happens to conversation when you walk into a room?

  • Think about what patterns you might need to change. Keeping a record, as we suggested above, will help.
  • Ask trusted friends or loved ones what they think about your emotionality where you have room for improvement.
  • Experiment with different approaches.

Learning Relationship Management

Practice responding, rather than reacting. Do you listen in order to understand, or in order to develop a response? Are you good at asking questions that are about helping the other person to explain their point more clearly, or are your questions aimed at trapping them or leading them down your path of thinking – or maybe you’re not good at asking any type of questions at all?

There’s an important difference between responding and reacting. Reacting is an unconscious process where we experience an emotional trigger, and behave in a way that expresses or relieves that emotion. For example you might feel irritated and snap at the person who has just interrupted you. Responding is a conscious process that involves noticing how you feel, then deciding how you want to behave. So, you might feel irritated, but your reaction is to explain to the other person how you feel, why this isn’t a good time to be interrupting you, and when would be better.

Probably the keys to relationship management are openness and being agreeable. A narrow mind is generally an indication of a lower EQ (and not IQ, as we might imagine). When your mind is open through understanding and internal reflection, it becomes easier to deal with conflicts in a calm and self-assured manner, and you’ll also be more open to accepting paradox. You will find yourself socially aware and new possibilities will be open to you. To strengthen this element of your EQ, consider:

  • Listen to recorded debates. Consider both sides of the argument, and look for the subtleties that require closer inspection.
  • When someone does not react emotionally the same way you would, consider why this is, and try to see it from their point of view.
  • Read books and listen to podcasts of people you know you will disagree with.

This is Important.

Emotional intelligence is a key to a balanced life. It’s essential to basically every aspect of life, for example:

Physical health – By being aware of our emotional state and our reactions to stress in our lives we can manage that stress and maintain good health.

Mental wellbeing – EQ affects our attitude and outlook on life. It can help to alleviate anxiety, avoid depression and manage mood swings. A high level of emotional intelligence directly correlates to the ability to generate a positive attitude and happier outlook on life. It’s not the only solution, but it’s a significant contributor.

Relationships – By better understanding and managing our emotions we can improve our ability to communicate our feelings in a more constructive way. This allows us to build connections with others, as we also develop an understanding of the needs, feelings, and responses of others.

Conflict resolution – When we have insights into other people’s emotions and empathize with their perspective, it’s much easier to resolve conflicts or even avoid them before they start. We are also better at negotiation and finding solutions to relational problems. It’s easier to give people what they want if we have a sense what it really is.

Motivation – Higher emotional intelligence provides stronger internal motivators, which can reduce procrastination, increase self-confidence, increase perseverance and improve our ability to focus on a goal.

Leadership – All of the above factors are critical to leadership. The ability to understand what motivates others, relate in a positive manner, deal with conflict and build stronger bonds with others in the workplace inevitably makes those with higher emotional intelligence better leaders. An effective leader recognises what the needs of her people are, so that those needs can be met in a way that encourages higher performance and workplace satisfaction. An emotionally intelligent leader is also able to build stronger teams by strategically utilizing the emotional diversity of their team members to benefit the team as a whole.

Emotional intelligence can be learned, and it’s a lifetime process. It never ends. You can always get better at it.

It’s never too late to learn anything, it just takes continuous observation, conscious effort and practice. No matter how old you are, what life-stage you’re in, or where you are in life, you can still improve your EQ and make the rest of your life better and happier.

Embracing Diversity: Understanding the difference between variety and diversity and why it matters.

Another of the most significant leadership issues in the 21st century is going to be the issue of diversity. This is because it’s not just about ensuring the requisite numbers of women and ethnic minorities at various levels within your organisation; it’s about engaging with a difference and using that engagement to enhance your business success.

But this can only happen if we have a significant change in mindset.

Put simply: the goal of diversity is not harmony

And this is the problem: Most leaders approach the issue of diversity with a checklist in one hand (to make sure they’ve covered all the ‘diversity factors’ they’re being measured on) and a hope of maintaining harmony in the other. They see the management of diversity as the “taming of difference”.

The result is that you end up with something that looks and feels a bit like a zoo does: all the different species are there, neatly and carefully labeled, but they’re all locked up, artificially caged, and the visitors are not allowed to feed them. Zoos have their place, of course, and a lot of good work goes on in the world’s zoos. But they’re sterile places. And they are not self-sustaining.

What we need instead is something more akin to a safari park, where animals are free to live in a “wild” ecosystem. This isn’t a “nice” place – the lion eats the antelope and the vultures’ feast on the bones. But, the lion also dies and provides fertiliser for the grass the antelopes eat. It really is “the circle of life”. It’s not a perfect analogy, this “zoo vs wild” theme, but it’s designed to get you thinking rather than provide a framework for implementation. I think this is what people who talk about diversity AND inclusion mean. It isn’t just about getting a lot of different people together in one space, it’s actually about giving each of them the space to be who they really are.

The zoo and the wild both achieve the same goal: to have a broad range of animals living in close proximity to each other and producing outcomes in their environments. The zoo does this by containing, constricting and controlling the way in which the animals live and ‘work’. The wild allows them more freedom to be themselves, to interact with others in a less structured way, and to find their ‘natural’ ways of living and ‘working’.

If we get diversity in our workplaces right, what we will succeed in doing is creating work environments that are more like wild ecosystems than zoos.

The benefits of true diversity would include:

  • Resilience – the more diverse an environment, the more resilient it is when change occurs and difficulty strikes. This is true in nature, and it is true in communities too.
  • Understanding – in an ecosystem, it is vital to understand the different components and who does what (and to whom). True diversity will ensure that the full scope of your client base is understood within your company, regardless of how large or multinational or company is.
  • Morale – your people will feel more comfortable and confident ‘being themselves’, and will be encouraged to discover and contribute their best selves. This will be energising and fulfilling for them. This, by the way, is the primary message of the “strengths-based” approach to people development, best represented by the work of Markus Buckingham.
  • Collaboration – people will feel more confident in working with many other people, even (and especially) those they don’t agree with or don’t initially ‘click’ with.
  • Creativity and innovation – it is only when we allow different people the space to see and experience the world in different ways that we can only really achieve innovative thinking. I firmly believe that the reason most companies never really achieve innovation is that they’ve never really embraced difference.

There are also benefits in product development, marketing, reduced staffing issues and much more. In fact, there will be benefits just about anywhere in a company where people and opinions make an impact on business performance. All of this is both well attested in business research and common sense if one thinks about it.

How do we get to this new type of thinking?

We need to first change their mindset about diversity. The goal is to build a flourishing, self-sustaining ecosystem, in which there is a natural, but sometimes scary and robust interaction of worldviews, attitudes, approaches, cultures, and convictions. Leaders need to embrace this slightly chaotic environment, not attempting to tame or control it, but rather to immerse themselves in it and become guides to lead others through it.

This means, secondly, that we need to model a behaviour that is suited for the wild, not the zoo. In a zoo, the goal is to cage and tame the scary animals. In the wild, you want them to run free. You want them to be who they are best meant to be. And you want everyone else to understand them, respect them, trust them and connect with them in the most appropriate way. This means we need to allow people who are different from us a space to tell their stories, be themselves, and show us how they are different. You can do this by trying the following:

  • Deliberately spend time with people who are different from you. Think not just about gender, but also sexuality. Don’t just think about skin colour, also think about race and culture. Think too about age, income bracket, professional background, physical ability, and as many other areas of difference as you can.
  • Ask questions: ask these people what it’s like to be them; ask them to tell you about their life experiences; ask them what they struggle with. Ask them to tell you something about themselves that they don’t think you know. And ask them, if they were you, what they would do.
  • Be deliberate about building networks of diversity in your organisation. And in your life.
  • Make sure that there are clear anti-discrimination policies in your business. And enforce them.
  • Identify the special requirements of different groups and work hard to make sure that everyone is catered for. Remember that being fair requires you to provide different benefits for different people. We want to be fair, not equal.

Dignity, trust, respect: these are not just words on a meaningless list of values handed down from head office. They are the heart of leadership in the 21st-century ecosystem – and they are instilled best when they are instilled by example.

Thirdly, we need to promote diversity as a tool, not a goal in itself. Diversity is only a means to an end. The purpose of a zoo is to showcase animals. But the purpose of the wild is to live, to grow, to flourish together. That should be the goal of diversity.

How to build an inclusive culture in your team / work environment

A number of years ago, we were developing an innovation workshop for a client and came across a remarkable insight around Nobel Prizes. Before 1960, most Nobel Prizes in the sciences (Physics, Medicine, etc) were awarded to individuals. Since then, most of them have been awarded to teams and groups of collaborators. As we looked at great innovators and innovation companies, we realised that this was almost always the case.

The myth of the “lone genius” is indeed a myth. Edison had an army of researchers working in GE’s labs. Google was founded by two friends working together, and their first significant hire was an older tech industry expert (Eric Schmidt). Richard Branson talks often in his books about his “suits” – the teams of business experts who turn his ideas into reality. And for every Steve Jobs, you need a Wozniak (and a Jonny Ives), at least.

The same picture emerges from elite athletes, elite military squads, world class musicians and almost every other field you can imagine. It takes a team to win a medal. It takes a village to raise a child. It takes collaboration to succeed in our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambitious VUCA world.

The reasons are obvious. In order to make sense of a VUCA world, you need multiple perspectives and insights. You need to see this world through different lenses. Even on a day to day basis, when one person is down another member of the team is up – in energy, focus, attitude and engagement. Taking a team approach evens out the peaks and troughs of life. But this article is not going to try and prove this to you. We’re simply going to take this as a given, and give you some ideas on how you can benefit from sharing the journey with others.

We have a few ideas we’ve seen and tried, and know will work.

1. Conversations

This might seem like an obvious starting point for a relationship but we don’t often get to have good, focused conversations at work. That’s why our team has developed a simple process we call START conversations for use in your workplace. We suggest allocating 20 minutes once a month in your team meeting to have a quality conversation.

The START process works like this:

  • Show an image to help focus attention on a particular theme or issue (See).
  • The team observes it in silence.
  • Read or show a quote to guide your team members thoughts (Think).
  • Again, this is contemplated in silence.
  • A question is asked to start the conversation (Ask).
  • The Response is a conversation between your team members as they reflect on these provocations.
  • The session ends with each team member making a commitment to a measurable Takeout.

You can find our Start Conversations here: .

Of course, you don’t need a starter kit to start a conversation. But sometimes it can be helpful to make sure you have meaningful conversations. That’s the goal – if you want to develop as a leader, that is.

2. Curiosity Meetings

One particular type of conversation we need to become better at is one that is based on questions and investigations. The old model of leadership saw the leader as someone who was certain, someone who knew, someone who would provide us with answers. In the fast-paced, ‘disruptive change’ world we now live in, this might not be the best approach to leadership.

We need leaders who ask great questions, leaders who are not afraid to say they don’t know, and leaders who are curious. We need learner leaders – leaders who are addicted to learning.

A way to ensure we learn is to read.

We highly recommend that you start a book club. Pick a book, get a few other people to buy a copy, and read it – a chapter a week – and then meet together to discuss what you learnt.

You can also access websites like and to provide you with provocative conversation starters for your meetings. Or pick a TEDx video, watch it together and then discuss it. The idea is to be curious and seek new knowledge. Together. If you want to develop as a leader, that is.

3. Professional Development Dinners

Our team has a saying: “Talented people run in herds”. People of a certain skill level, with similar world views, tend to find each other and hang out together. If you’re developing your skills in a particular field, you’ll soon find who else is in that field and work out where you fit in its development stages. You need to find ways to hang out with this “tribe” whenever you can.

You can do this online by joining LinkedIn Groups, writing and contributing to blogs, journals, etc, and positioning yourself as an expert. You can also do it by attending conferences and meetings organised by the experts in your field of interest.

One way to get connected and share the journey is to host a dinner for this “tribe” of yours. This could be people from different parts of your own business, but preferably would also include people from a variety of different backgrounds and positions. It could be at your home, or probably better at a neutral venue like a restaurant. You probably want to limit the size of this group to no more than 20 people. 12-15 is an ideal size. Choose a venue that has a private or quiet area for your group. Everyone who attends should pay for their own food and drink.

The format is very simple, and needs to be managed by someone with the ability to guide conversations in a relaxed style. Start with a strictly timed self-introduction of each person – 1 or 2 minutes at most. Now place your orders. Then (and you will need to have arranged this in advance), get one of the attendees to give a 10 minute insight into one aspect of their job. Preferably this should be something they’re known for, something that’s slightly controversial and/or something thought provoking. Then, open up for conversation. This continues through the eating.

After main course, stop that conversation and before dessert, get each person to give one “top tip” on a topic (send this out in advance, and tell people they will be giving this top tip so that they come prepared with something good).

For example, I do a lot of work as a speaker on main platforms at annual conferences. I host dinners for top professional speakers fairly regularly. Some of the controversial/thought provoking topics we’ve discussed include: should speakers use PowerPoint or ban it, the importance of humour, how we measure the impact of our speeches, and when (if) to give a client a discounted price.

Some of the “top tip” topics we’ve covered include: dealing with hecklers/interruptions, travel tips, the latest cool technology for speakers, how to get testimonials and the best books you’ve read recently (some people use this each time as a fourth element to these dinners).

Of course, if you start to get a group that meets regularly and gets to know each other, you can “share the journey” by inviting suggestions for these topics from the group.

We have never been disappointed with what happens at the development dinners we host. We think it’s a great idea for everyone to try. If you want to develop as a leader, that is.

4. Planned Spontaneity, Formal Informality, Intentionally Unstructured

Ok, a weird title, and this is not a specific programme or format. What I mean by this is that we need to create space in our diaries to just be together with other people. Space that isn’t programmed or structured.

This can be attending sports events together, taking a walk, going away for a weekend or going out to dinner. This might not be where you start in these relationships, but if you’re genuinely sharing the journey with someone, then unstructured time and space with them is going to be valuable and important. If you want to develop as a leader, that is.

5. Mentoring

Some people have had bad experiences with formal mentoring pr
ogrammes – and many are not fit for purpose. Mentoring definitely has a place but, like so many other things, needs to be transformed to fit in with the requirements of the new world of work.

Mentoring needs to take a big step forward and away from traditional views where the mentor is seen to be all-knowing. In these changing times, the mentor has a critical role to play but not one that is based on their experience alone – rather it requires them to effectively combine their experience with a toolkit for real support, development and guidance of talent. Mentors need skill – and not just good intentions – to be able to have a real impact on the lives of today’s younger employees.

Of course, mentoring can be done informally. But the best kind of mentoring today is a relationship that adds real value, and doesn’t just stop as a rushed chat over a quick cup of coffee. If you want to develop as a leader, that is.

6. Reverse Mentoring

‘Reverse mentoring’ is simple – you ask young people in your team to mentor the older people. What would younger people know that older people need to know? It’s normally around technology.

We ask young people to get together with older people in their organisations for an hour, once a month, and teach them technology. This could be social media, whatsapp, how to record and edit a video on your phone or tips and tricks on how to get better use out of your smartphone.

It really is an excuse to get young and old people together. Why does reverse mentoring work? It engages young people, it goes them a platform that they know they’re an expert in. It connects young and old people in an organisation. A lot more happens than just technology training of course: conversations, business insights and improved relationships.

We don’t know of any company that has implemented this idea that hasn’t thought of it as one of the best ideas they’ve used.

Do Reverse Mentoring! Try it in your team and then roll it out in your company.

It doesn’t have to be a formal, in depth, organised structured program. It can simply be something that you just start to implement. You won’t regret it!

See a 2 minute video I recorded a few years ago on Reverse Mentoring: you can show this to your team to motivate them to think about this as a concept.

This will go beyond just learning. Most companies that do reverse mentoring report cultural shifts happening over time. And they definitely see people develop as leaders.

So what should you do?

There’s an old African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

So, go together. If you want to develop as a leader, that is.


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