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+ Emotional Intelligence Essentials

Learning about emotional intelligence on the job can improve performance at work and play.
Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the foundation of effective workplace leadership, whether you are aware of it or not. Putting this skill on the agenda can have a profound effect that extends beyond the confines of the office cubicle.

Sue Langley, CEO of The Langley Group, is a consultant who teaches professionals to be more intelligent about their emotions. She was featured on the hit ABC-TV series Redesign My Brain, holds a Masters in Neuroscience of Leadership and has written an e-book How to Lead with the Brain in Mind. She says the strategies that encourage employees to master empathy are essential in today’s fast-paced and increasingly disconnected world.

“When we are emotionally charged our decision making becomes less effective,” she says.

“Emotional intelligence is more than just a soft skill. Unless a business is doing something to improve the emotional climate, there’s no point in measuring engagement. It’s a win-win to make sure you have happy employees. Emotionally intelligent leaders help businesses achieve that.”

Test your EQ (emotional quotient)

To measure individual emotional intelligence ability in leaders, Sue advocates using the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), named after the academics who developed it. She says research has shown that by practising skills that help manage stress and by practising daily positive rituals, the brain can be rewired.

“The ability to stop and calm down is a valuable skill. How we interpret events and handle emotional content is important but it’s not easy. Humans will want a quick fix, yet learning to be more intelligent with emotions takes time. The steps have to be practised daily,” says Sue.

The benefits of emotional intelligence

The benefits of improving your emotional intelligence can spill over into other areas of your life.

“Your emotions can affect your whole life. By practising reading other people’s emotions for example, you can approach stressful situations with confidence and learn to manage frustrations. That leads to better outcomes from a business perspective and in your personal life, too.”

Scott Nell underwent a Langley Group Emotional Intelligence at Work program while working at energy management company Schneider Electric five years ago. He believes he has become a much smarter manager as a result.

“I was never a hard-nosed boss but I now have improved tolerance levels, am more resilient, and the frustrations that once overwhelmed me have subsided,” says Scott.

He says he has become more aware of non-verbal cues and office dynamics.

“The workshop taught me to be more mindful of people and what they are experiencing at an emotional level. Now, emotional intelligence is very much a part of my everyday life, both at work and at home,” he says.

Improve your emotional intelligence

To incorporate emotional intelligence into your everyday life, Sue Langley suggests that you

Put people first

Take time to listen and understand what the people you work with feel and what drives them. Look beneath the surface when conflicts happen and seek to understand the emotions, interests, values, needs and expectations that are influencing their behaviour and decisions.

Treat emotions as data

Emotions are not good or bad, just information. Being aware of what you and other people are feeling gives you more choices about how to respond to situations. If you are not aware of the emotion, or you are inaccurate in your perception, you have less data and fewer choices.

Listen to your body

We often miss out on the physiological signs behind our emotions. When you feel angry or anxious, watch where you hold tension. The better you become at perceiving your emotions, the better you will be at managing them and the faster you can take action before they escalate.

Shift your feelings

There are many ways to change your emotional state. For example, a few deep breaths will get oxygen to your body and brain, which changes the intensity of your emotion. Even a simple action like tidying your desk or cleaning your house can provide the space and emotional balance you need to better respond to situations in life.


Smiling not only makes you feel positive, it makes others feel positive too. The muscles we use to smile tell our brain we are happy. Mirror neurons in the other person’s brain pick up on our feeling and our intention, creating a positive connection. Humans are social animals, and smiling is one way to tap into our brain’s capacity for empathy and relationships.

Attend an EI course to hone your skills in this area

Many organisations provide short courses such as the Langley GroupKonnect Learning and the Australian Institute of Management.


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