Emotional Intelligence (EQ – also known as EI) represents a core dimension of our professional success. Some research data from Talentsmart outlines its impact:

  • if top performers are clustered into a group, 90% of them are high in EQ while just 20% of low performers have high EQ
  • people with high EQ earn $29K more each year than people with a low degree of EQ – in fact, every point increase in EQ correlates to $1,300 more in annual income

What exactly is EQ? It’s a competency – essentially, it has two prongs (we’ll subdivide these categories further as we dissect EQ later in this document):

  • the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your emotions
  • the ability to recognize, understand, and influence others’ emotions

IQ (intelligence quotient, which is a measure of cognitive competence), can only be developed through age 10, but EQ can be cultivated and grown regardless of age. Awareness, practice, and intention drive improvement in EQ, which is why this booklet includes a self-assessment, and explanation of the key elements of emotional intelligence, as well as strategies for improving your capacity and prowess in the areas of EQ that you want to target.

Let’s back up for a moment and look at the three elements that make each of us unique:

  • EQ
  • IQ
  • Personality

Emotions can be contagious, so awareness of your own emotions is helpful as you regulate yourself amid turbulent and conflict-ridden experiences (both at work and in your personal life). It’s also useful to be aware of your impact so that you can be intentional about the ripple you have around others.

Data from the Gallup Organization indicates that employees’ longevity and productivity in the workplace are directly correlated with their relationship with their immediate supervisor. Whether you’re a team lead or you’re reporting to someone, that defining relationship deserves attention and an investment in improving the skills that support the relationship.

Disruptive forces have exponentially elevated the pace of change within the global economy. We are frequently faced with high stakes decisions and those decisions, while rooted in data, also have sway from our emotions. In order to steer our careers, our teams, and our organizations in the right direction, we must come to them with clear minds and not be blindly hijacked by our emotions.

In short, EQ influences our work in critical areas, including:

  • Change management
  • Decision making
  • Relationships in the workplace (i.e. collegial relationships, client relationships, hierarchical relationships, etc.)
  • Conflict resolution
  • Professional development
  • Innovation
  • Productivity


Self-awareness consistently shows up first in EQ models because it is considered the foundation for the remaining dimensions of EQ. Basically, it boils down to recognizing and understanding your own emotions. Although it sounds simple – and it is –there are some nuances to emotional awareness, including:

  • Labeling your emotions with precision (example: rejected is different from discouraged) • Identifying and being attentive to your emotional triggers
  • Understanding your own limits (example: your boundaries, resources, strengths, and challenges)
  • Welcoming and navigating feedback, even when it’s difficult
  • Knowing the forces that motivate you, along with learning how to cultivate and foster those motivators rather than waiting for them to arrive
  • Recognizing your impact on those around you

Personal power is a key ingredient for self-awareness. When you can access your self-confidence and articulate your self-worth, you’ll find the seat of your own power. Often at work, we look externally (such as where we stand on an organizational chart in terms of hierarchy and authority), and while those qualities factor into the world of work and carry weight, they’re not the only source of our professional power.


Self-management shifts us from understanding to action, from recognition to behavior, and from introspection to observable acts. It’s important to realize that proficiency in this arena extends from a solid base of self-awareness, so make sure that you spend enough time building a solid foundation in self-awareness before moving on to this section.

Since we’re focusing on action and behavior right now, know that emotional management doesn’t necessarily look like charging into action. It can also look like pausing or interrupting a behavior that doesn’t serve you or your professional situation. Often, people are directed to this section of EQ if they demonstrate explosive outbursts or other troublesome behavior.

There are several dimensions to Emotional Management:

  • Resilience
  • Initiative
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Achievement orientation
  • Stress management
  • Intentionality (includes impulse control)
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional self-regulation
  • Integrity
  • Positive outlook

Daniel Goleman, one of the most well-known EQ researchers, explains that Emotional Management isn’t about Pollyannaish optimism. Rather, it’s about accessing a flow state where the intent is to create a desired result (instead of being at the mercy of our outer circumstances and our inner states).

Social Awareness

With social awareness, we are shifting from personal competence (which includes the previous two EQ ingredients, Self-awareness and Self-management) to social competence. Are you inclined to consider others’ perspectives? Guess accurately about their motivations and emotions? Not impose your own filters onto others? If so, you’re likely skilled in this domain of EQ.


The root of the word “empathy” comes from a German term, Einfuhlung, which literally translates to mean “feeling into.” It means imagining another person’s perspective, walking a mile in their shoes, going beyond the words that are spoken, listening (rather than formulating your response or zoning out), and offering sensitivity to their experience. It’s helpful to distinguish between sympathy and empathy. At its core, empathy is essentially joining or experiencing others’ emotions – almost as if those feelings were your own. In contrast, sympathy is feeling for someone. Sympathy tends to include elements of pity, sorrow, and concern whereas empathy leans towards understanding and acceptance. In general, empathy is present when there’s a strong association with another person while sympathy implies some distance between others’ experiences and our own. For example:

  • Empathy: Having suffered a miscarriage years ago, Feng felt pain in her heart upon hearing of her colleague’s recent miscarriage.
  • Sympathy: Watching videos of the hurricane news coverage, Feng imagined the struggle of people who were displaced from their homes.

Additionally, there are three flavors of empathy, including:

  • Cognitive empathy: understanding others’ emotions from a rational or logical standpoint
  • Emotional empathy: actually feeling others’ emotions; also known as emotional contagion or “catching” someone else’s emotions
  • Compassionate empathy: understanding others’ emotions and moving into action to support them

Organizational Awareness

The focus in organizational or political awareness is on power. Beyond people in positions of authority, who exert influence in a company what are the political undercurrents? What’s the difference between the list of values on an organization’s website and what actually happens in that organization? Listening and reading nonverbal communications are key skills in organizational awareness.

Relationship Management

Built upon the foundation of the other three dimensions of EQ, relationship management boils down to being purposeful with your interactions at every professional level: peers, those you report to, those you lead, and those you serve.

The main ingredients of relationship management include:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Communication
  • Leadership and influence
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Building bonds and trust

Under stress, relationship management tends to erode, which is why success in this area hinges on skill in the other three EQ arenas. When you’re self-aware, you recognize signs of stress and manage your stress appropriately to help ward off a stumble in your relationships. Managed stress also makes you attuned to external cues regarding the people who matter to you, thereby helping you avert missteps around relationship management.

What’s the twist that I mentioned that shifts EQ to EL (emotional literacy), a term that I use quite often in my practice? Emotional literacy digs deeply into self-awareness to identify patterns that both empower you and continually cause you to trip en route to fulfilling your goals and aligning with your purpose. Let’s talk about the building blocks that’ll help you recognize where you’re stuck in any situation and offer you a route to clarity and forward movement.