What is Emotional Intelligence?

In a world of work where people are increasingly accepted to be the competitive edge, any idea that seems to offer the possibility of enabling them to work together more co-operatively and productively is likely to raise a great deal of interest.
Interest in emotional intelligence (EI) has grown over the last ten years with EI establishing itself as a viable idea in HR and business. The continued growth of EI in the business context has been driven by claims that EI can predict workplace and leadership performance (Martyn Newman).

Emotional intelligence can be characterised as a set of skills and competencies – such as initiative, empathy, trust-building and personal discipline – that affect an individual’s ability to cope under different pressures and circumstances. In a work context, this could mean knowing when to share a joke with colleagues, or speak out in a meeting, or the ability to handle an indecisive manager.

John D Mayer and Peter Salovey (1989) defined emotional intelligence as

“the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions”.

The authors argued that emotional intelligence consisted of four separate elements (the Mayer-Salovey ability model):

  1. Identifying emotions: the ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others, as well as in objects, art and events.
  2. Using emotions: the ability to generate, use and feel emotion to communicate feelings, or employ them in thinking or creating.
  3. Understanding emotions: the ability to understand emotional information, how emotions combine and progress, and to reason about such emotional meanings.
  4. Managing emotions: the ability to regulate emotions in oneself and others so as to promote personal understanding and growth.

Daniel Goleman defines Emotional Intelligence as

“the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well, in ourselves and in our relationships”.

The most significant areas within EI include:

Self-awareness: Only when somebody is aware of their strengths and weaknesses can they maximise their potential.
Self-regulation: In a constantly changing business world, the ability to control your emotions is paramount. Panic and anger are understandable, but rarely produce good working relationships.
Empathy: The successful manager is the one who convinces people that they are important, and is aware of the changing moods and emotions of their people.
Social skills: First impressions are very powerful and can be difficult to change. The first handshake or greeting and initial facial expressions form the basis of our opinion, and begin to develop the reputation we have within an organisation.

GOLEMAN, D. (1996) Emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ. Bloomsbury: London

Why is it important?

Emotional intelligence is increasingly being regarded as a valuable people skill that distinguishes the top-performers from average staff.

“People respond well to those they respect and trust, and this is why it is important to realise EI is not just about being nice – it is also about achieving superior business outcomes.” (Martin Dodds).

When people in the workplace do not act with Emotional Intelligence the costs can be great: low morale, bitter conflict and stress all limit business effectiveness.
Emotional Intelligence also contributes in a positive business enhancing way, improving team working, customer service and the managing of diversity.

People with high EI cope well with their own emotions and notice and respond appropriately to the emotions of other people. This makes it easier to harness their potential, and thereby the potential of the organisation.

You can make a quick measure of your own EI by answering these questions:

  1. Are you aware of the subtleties of your own feelings?
  2. Do you usually know what other people are feeling, even if they do not say so?
  3. Does your awareness of what others are going through give you feelings of compassion for them
  4. Can you carry on doing the things you want to do under distressing circumstances, so they do not control your life?
  5. When you are angry, can you still make your needs known in a way that resolves rather than exacerbates the situation?
  6. Can you hang on to long‐term goals and avoid being too impulsive?
  7. Do you keep trying to achieve what you want, even when it seems impossible and it is tempting to give up?
  8. Can you use your feelings to help you to reach decisions in your life?

People with high EI will answer yes to these questions; however self-assessment can only provide a measure for people who are self‐aware.

The Emotionally Intelligent Leader

  • Is self-aware, motivated and perceives others accurately
  • Manages emotions to create well-formed outcomes
  • Is emotionally literate, recognising underlying blanket emotions
  • Prepares for people interactions by looking at the psychological process as well as the task
  • Thinks positively, is authentic, clears things up and does not easily quit if a difficult conversation is required
  • Has increased flexibility, able to let go of out-of-date visions and plans
  • Proactively creates a life/work balance, has excellent social skills and sense of community
  • Is resilient when the going gets tough, seeks solutions
  • Seeks personal development without a sense of personal deficit

Learn more about yourself

Sharpening your emotional intelligence quotient involves both an understanding of your own ambitions and sensitivities and the viewpoints of others, so it is necessary to have your emotional intelligence assessed. Frank and impartial feedback is a key element of understanding how you are seen by others, and heightening self-perception.

At FP Training, we are trained and qualified to administer and provide feedback on the EQi and EQ360 assessments

Practice makes perfect

Although there is some debate about whether every aspect of emotional intelligence can be learned, it is widely accepted that practice is the best way to develop these sought-after skills.
Run through any unpleasant or awkward scenarios you might be facing, preferably with a mentor or trusted colleague, to work out the most constructive and sensitive way of tackling them.
Remember to keep a journal as it can help with personal reflection and understanding your motivations.


GOLEMAN, D. (1996) Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ. Bloomsbury, London
COVEY, S. (2004) The 7 habits of highly effective people. Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.
NEWMAN, M. (2008) Emotional Capitalists: The new leaders. Jossey-Bass
CARTWRIGHT, A. & SOLLOWAY, A. (2007) Activities for developing your business. Gower.

How we can help

If you would like to discuss how you can change the behaviours of your leaders by developing their EQ, please contact us on 01332 527144 or enquiries@fptrainingltd.co.uk