August 22, 2023

Mastering Emotional Intelligence: The Keys to Thriving in the Modern Workplace

In today’s dynamic and rapidly evolving world of work, navigating the complexities of human emotions is more crucial than ever. Enter emotional intelligence, a concept that has become a game-changer for individuals, teams, and entire organizations. Beyond just recognizing emotions, emotional intelligence empowers us all to understand, manage, and leverage our emotions and the emotions of others to foster better work environments.

Imagine a workplace where colleagues communicate with empathy, leaders inspire with authenticity, and teams collaborate harmoniously towards shared goals. This isn’t an idealistic utopia — it’s the tangible result of embracing and cultivating emotional intelligence.

In this article, we dive into emotional intelligence and explore its profound impact on individual and team performance, as well as the overarching fabric of company culture, based on our webinar entitled Emotional Intelligence at Work: Transforming Culture and Engagement. We’ll draw upon the experience and advice of coaches (and panelists) Dounia Zellou, Marek Rudak, and Bobby Melloy as we uncover how the mastery of emotional intelligence can pave the way for unparalleled success in the modern professional landscape.

Let’s begin.

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

We experience emotions in the limbic system, which is at the center of our brain. Our ability to be rational is in the prefrontal cortex behind our forehead. This is important to note, Marek says, because “we always experience emotions in a split second way before we decide at that moment what we’re going to do with those emotions.”

Displaying emotional intelligence is using emotions as a source of information to improve relationships with ourselves and others, which in turn produces better outcomes in our professional and personal lives. It’s about not letting our emotions rule us and instead building awareness of our emotions and letting them guide us. As Bobby expressed, “Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and express your own emotions as well as use them to regulate yourself in a way that is useful or productive.” This looks like being kind to an exceptionally difficult customer while at work and regulating yourself in a way to best perform your job despite how you might actually be feeling.

There is also a social competence component of emotional intelligence. Being emotionally intelligent requires that we also perceive the emotions and expressions of others and have the skill to be able to help regulate low or negative emotions and encourage positive emotions. For managers, this might look like reading a room and asking yourself “How do I take what I feel in the room or generate a new feeling and help others feel that as well?”

Enhancing Managerial Effectiveness through Emotional Intelligence

Being an emotionally intelligent manager empowers any leader to be more effective in their role. “Understanding the functions of emotions,” Bobby shared, “why emotions are occurring for yourself and others, is incredibly important.” It helps inform what questions ought to be asked to then better uncover the various challenges in front of others.

If you’re a manager, you might wonder why it’s important for you to know when or why your team members might be feeling pride. The answer is that you control rewards, recognition, consequences, and accountability. Knowing when an employee is feeling a great sense of pride based on how they’re showing up for a meeting or talking about a recent project can inform you on when to pull certain levers. And not too surprisingly, getting these responses right leads to employees experiencing higher levels of job satisfaction, improved performance, team harmony, and even leadership emergence.

As leaders, the mandate is to develop a collective sense of purpose and goal alignment amongst team members with the intent to inspire everyone toward shared objectives. Seek to recognize, understand, and encourage the emotions that excite and energize people as well as help people feel less stressed.

4 Strategies for Developing Emotional Intelligence

When it comes to enhancing your emotional intelligence, there are a number of different models. While Marek uses the Daniel Goleman model, he noted that all of the models agree that the best place to start is self-awareness.

Start with Emotions to Self-Awareness

With people being so busy, Marek opts to focus on low time investment activities and high payoff habits in his work as a coach. An example of this is journaling, and just like there are different ways to exercise and achieve physical fitness, there are plenty of ways to journal.

To begin, start with emotions. Identify the most negative emotion you experience in a day, such as fear, anger, or frustration, and write about what led to you feeling it. How did you contribute to it, and how can you work to experience that feeling less frequently? Then do the same with the most positive emotion you experience. This should take no more than five to ten minutes and is a great way to get things out of your mind so you can resume focusing on the present.

Practice Emotional Self-Management Techniques

There’s a quote from Viktor Frankl that Marek likes to use in his workshops to speak to the importance of emotional self-management. Frankel asserts that “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” In other words, after recognizing how we feel as a result of an event, take a moment to consider how to respond and do so with our best interest in mind. In doing so, we continue to promote both self-awareness and self-management.

One recommended practice during our event was to take three slow breaths. Whenever something activates us we tend to see our breathing get very shallow and our body gets ready to produce a response. When we are in this state we often look for reasons and opportunities to further validate our state of emotions. From there, it tends to go downhill. Taking three slow breaths is a simple yet powerful way to slow things down for ourselves and increase the likelihood that we make better decisions in these difficult moments.

Prioritize Social Awareness for Effective Communication

Intentionally considering our audience makes for more effective communication, and we begin to do this by practicing social awareness. It’s simpler than you might think.

Before you start drafting your next email or creating your next presentation, ask yourself who it is you’re speaking to. Where are they, how are they likely to respond to your message, and what can you do to help them make the best decision? As you start practicing this form of social awareness more regularly you’ll get better at reading people and connecting with them. In fact, that helps with the fourth and final point below.

Emphasize Relationship Management Skills

This final strategy for developing emotional intelligence is all about honing the precious three and then being able to use your relationships to bring out the best in people, like your team members, peers, and leaders. One simple way to do this is to show appreciation for people. This isn’t about being fake or manipulative. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, especially when they’ve produced results they’re proud of.

When we show appreciation to people we are able to build up more trust and have an easier time serving as a leader. This is because when we trust people we are more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. This trust, especially as modeled by a leader, creates psychological safety on teams and within organizations that results in people feeling better under your leadership and free to produce even greater results.


In our dynamic and modern world of work, mastering emotional intelligence has become a game-changer. It empowers individuals and teams to better navigate complex emotions, fostering better work environments. It also fosters workplace environments where empathy, authenticity, and collaboration prevail — the tangible result of emotional intelligence.

Embracing emotional intelligence isn’t just about personal growth — it’s a strategic approach to fostering cohesion. For leaders, it’s an important skill that inspires teams and aligns them in their work towards shared goals.

To learn even more about emotional intelligence from our panelists, we invite you to watch the recording of our webinar Emotional Intelligence at Work: Transforming Culture and Engagement.

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