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How Managers Can Build Their Emotional Intelligence Skill Set

This article was based on episode 242 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get two months of Fast Forward membership for free. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

At the heart of any successful management practice is strong emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the ability to use our thoughts and emotions to make quality decisions and build authentic relationships. These skills don't appear the moment we’re promoted to manager. It takes a lifetime to achieve, which can start long before we’re in a management position and continue on long after we’ve left the workforce. Thankfully, Robin Hill joins me today to give us some key insights into how managers can focus on building emotional intelligence.

Robin is the director of Ei4Change, a company specializing in educational training, coaching, and personal development focused around emotional intelligence, positive psychology, and neuroscience. He has taught over 300,000 people in more than 195 countries on how to increase self-awareness and understanding of others. Robin explains the five key components to emotional intelligence and how to think differently about anger and happiness in order to collaborate more effectively with our colleagues.


We can divide emotional intelligence into five elements: self awareness, self regulation, empathy, communication, and motivation.

Self awareness is understanding your strengths and weaknesses. This includes knowing both your limitations as well as why you succeed at what you do.

Self regulation is how you work with and manage emotions. It’s the ability to control yourself when angry or express appreciation for a colleague’s work.

Empathy is the ability to see things from other people’s perspective and operate from that viewpoint. Empathy shows up in how you adapt your style to work with a coworker according to their thoughts and feelings.

Communication combines our social skills with empathy in order to connect effectively with others one on one or in a larger group setting.

Motivation is hard to define, but in essence, it’s generating desire internally or externally. We need to understand what drives us in order to keep going and growing.


Management is an acquired skill. The hardest thing for new managers to learn is how to go from being a doer to managing people who do things. We need to be patient with ourselves and give ourselves time to learn. Having strong self awareness makes it much easier to know what areas of management you need to develop.

Start by thinking deeply about your strengths. Look into different online assessment tools, such as the Myers-Briggs (my favorite!) or StrengthsFinder to gain that crucial insight into your skills and limitations. If available, ask your HR partner for suggestions for assessments, and always try to engage with a qualified assessment practitioner to interpret your results.

By learning more about your strengths, you will also appreciate more what your colleagues bring to the table. Managers aren’t there because they are the best at everything; they are there to figure out how to balance out everyone’s strengths to achieve more together.


The most common emotion that comes up at work is anger or frustration. It’s hard to know what to do when we feel our bodies start to heat up with annoyance. We don’t want to snap at our teammates. So what’s the alternative?

Listen to what the anger is trying to tell you. One reason anger shows up is when our core values are being transgressed. Another reason is to alert us of our own limitations.

When you feel anger start to build in your body, ask yourself: Is this going against one of my/my organization’s core values? If yes, act quickly to address the situation. If no, consider if the action your colleague is doing brings up something you don’t like within yourself: Are you frustrated that they can do something you can’t? Is this something you want to be involved with in the future? Or is it just about acknowledging you can’t do it all?

Understanding your hot button issues, whether it's a core value or limitations, gives you the insight necessary to stop, take a breath, and reset when anger starts to rise.

Robin suggests paying attention to the physical cues of anger within your body. It may be the skin on the back of your neck starting to prickle or your heart pounding. Recognize these signs and work to calm them down as you deal with the situation at hand.


We speak so often about the importance of happiness in the workplace. But happiness is a short lived emotion for a reason. Instead, what managers really want is for their people to feel challenged, supported, and appreciated. The best way to help our team feel appreciated is through acknowledgment of all of their work. Please and thank you are the backbone to building rapport and motivating our colleagues. Consider something as simple as I’m really pleased with the work that you’ve done. Thank you for all of your hard work on that paper.

Self awareness, regulation, empathy, and communication are key to navigating the tricky waters of modern management. Learn about your own strengths and limitations and see where your team can step up and shine. Consider how your team looks at things, and communicate taking their point of view into account. The more mindful we are of who we are as managers and what’s coming up for ourselves and others, the more we can address the situations on the ground in an open, non-judgemental, and efficient manner.


Get Robin’s ‘Working with Mindfulness’ Course, typically $49, for free when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at

This article was based on episode 242 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.



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