The more Senior you get, the more you need to be able to understand how others might be thinking and what makes them tick.  Early on in your career, it was about getting stuff done and getting it right, but at a certain point, just being right isn’t enough.  You have to take people along with you.

People sometimes refer to this as Emotional Intelligence (see link below.)

But this can be a misleading phrase to use, as we tend to think (erroneously as it turns out) that intelligence is fixed and we can’t therefore learn and develop this as a skill.  Well, we absolutely can.


Emotional Intelligence is a learnt skill

When we are born, we are pre-wired to look for faces and smiles and differentiate between safe and dangerous sounds.  This much (the first fraction of a percent) is genuinely instinctive.  Thereafter, welearnemotional intelligence.

Some people then learn a lot of Emotional Intelligence at a young age, others learn less early on.  Often if we are strong in other areas and are quite confident, then there is less of an imperative to learn how to read and understand others.  It is entirely possible to be very successful academically and in the early years of your career without particularly needing interpersonal skills (To be clear, these skills always help, but they are not always essential.)

But just because it’s not something you have needed to actively develop so far, doesn’t mean we can’t deliberately work on it and improve it now.  It is not something which forms part of our fixed character (our character is less fixed than we think, but that’s for another day.)


How to become more Emotionally Intelligent

So where do we start?  Well there are some good models out there for Emotional Intelligence.  Working through these with a trained practitioner would be a great place to start, but equally, just paying more attention to the way others react can teach you a lot quite quickly.

Because it’s not what you say that counts.  It’s what people think you have said.  It’s what they understand and take from your words and what they are then motivated to do with them.  You should take responsibility, not just for the logic of what you say, but for the reactions (and actions) they produce.

So next time you are in a meeting, watch and listen carefully.  You can pick up far more than you might realise if you start to think less about what you are about to say and just observe how others are reacting and feeling. Don’t be afraid to (gently) call them out on what you see.  “Matt, you didn’t seem to agree with that?” “Lucy, it looked like you had something you wanted to say?” etc..  I suspect you’ll quickly find people looking at you in a different light if you start to recognize their emotions and their point of view.


Click on this link if you would like to see a framework for Emotional Intelligence