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Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence In Leadership: How To Improve Motivation In Your Team

via TSW Training Matthew Channell October 13, 2021

Learn how to lead and manage your team using best-selling author, Daniel Goleman’s, psychological theory on emotional intelligence.

Who is Daniel Goleman?

Daniel Goleman is a scientific journalist, author and psychologist who popularised the concept of ’emotional intelligence’, which was first coined in 1990 by Peter Salavoy and John Mayer in their article “Emotional Intelligence”, published in the journal Imagination, Cognition, and Personality.

He developed a framework of five key components that make up emotional intelligence, plus a range of skills that can be developed and improved, so it’s possible for anyone to become more emotionally intelligent.

*Further reading: Our Top 10 Books & Other Resources About Emotional Intelligence – recommended reading by Matthew Channel, TSW Training

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Fig. 1. The 5 components of emotional intelligence via TSW Training

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and feelings, as well those of others.

As a manager, you can apply emotional intelligence to achieve self-awareness, objectivity and equality, all in the name of improving results, workplace culture and employee fulfilment.

Goleman breaks down EI into five components:

#1. Self-awareness
#2. Self-regulation
#3. Motivation
#4. Empathy
#5. Social skills

The five components of emotional intelligence in the workplace

#1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to recognise and understand your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions, which can all affect your interactions with others.

For example:

  • If you are a manager with low self-awareness you may struggle to recognise and understand your own emotions and thoughts, which can lead to difficulty in regulating your behaviour and making sound decisions.

  • If you are a manager with heightened self-awareness you have the ability to recognise and understand your own emotions and thoughts, and how they impact your behaviour and decision-making.

You understand your strengths and shortcomings, and how you might respond in certain situations and to certain people. That information gives you the power to meet goals, motivate, and create a fair, inclusive and sustainable culture.

Self-awareness helps you temper your communication style and gives you a reason to listen to the people around you.

In other words, you’re self-aware enough to know when you need help, and from whom and how you can apply your characteristics to achieve a favourable outcome.

💡A Working Example of Low Self Awareness💡 Luka, a newly promoted manager in an office environment, is helping his team complete their day-to-day tasks. His actions are being interpreted as micromanaging.

Luka senses the tension but hasn’t made the mental jump from worker to manager. He doesn’t realise his actions are detrimental to team performance.

When Luka’s employees say: “Don’t worry, you’re busy, I can do it”, he doesn’t hear the truth of the statement – that his focus should be elsewhere – and assumes they’re demotivated.

A solution: To gain more self-awareness as a new manager, Luka could keep a self-reflective journal, to help him process the situation. Or, he could use the Einsenhower Matrix to help him prioritise and delegate.

#2. Self-regulation

Think back to your last employer who acted impulsively, or irrationally. Did you trust them? What was work like under their watch?

An emotionally charged environment is usually fraught with unresolved conflict. It feels tense and distracting. You probably felt like you couldn’t contribute without fear of reprimand.

Calm in the face of adversity is not a natural response or something you’re born with.

The emotional brain is far faster (and older) than the rational frontal cortex. It sends us into fight or flight mode whenever we need to defend ourselves, and it can happen at innocuous and frustrating moments.

💡A Working Example of Low Self-Regulation💡 For example, when an employee challenges your decision, or if you’re asked a question you don’t know the answer to in a meeting.

Self-regulation is a skill you need to practice, and there are great rewards if you can master it. You become approachable, able to deal with conflict, create a nurturing environment and lead by reliable example.

#3. Motivation

Goleman’s third component refers to motivation for enjoyment, rather than money or a promotion.

What is motivation at work?

Motivation at work refers to the drive or inspiration an individual feels to perform a task or achieve a goal within their job or career. It is the inner force that drives an employee to put in the effort required and achieve success in their work.

There are different types of motivation, such as intrinsic motivation, which comes from within oneself and is driven by personal interest and enjoyment, and extrinsic motivation, which comes from external factors such as rewards or incentives.

💡Five things you can do to drive self-motivation💡

  1. Find meaning and purpose in your work: When you feel that your work is important and has a greater purpose, you’re more likely to feel motivated and engaged.

  2. Set clear, specific, and challenging goals for yourself: Having a clear sense of what you want to achieve and a plan for how to get there can provide direction and purpose, and increase motivation.

  3. Focus on your strengths: Emotionally intelligent individuals tend to be aware of their own strengths and use them to their advantage. Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, focus on what you do well and use that to drive your motivation.

  4. Self-reflect and monitor your emotions: This can help you to be aware of your own emotional state, and help you to recognize when your motivation is low and what might be causing it.

  5. Reward yourself for your progress: Celebrating your progress and small wins can help you to stay motivated and focused on your goals.

Even in the face of a bad day, you can still find the silver lining, feel energised to fix problems and determined to cheer the people around you onto the next success.

It’s self-motivation. You’re doing it for you, to fulfil your personal goals and needs, to drive higher performance.

#4. Empathy

If you can understand the emotions of others and relate to them, you can see problems from all perspectives and make objective decisions. Empathy defuses bias.

Being empathic as a leader means you’re a good listener and interpreter, attuned to body language and facial expressions.

💡A Working Example of Empathy💡 Imagine that you are a manager at a company, and one of your employees has been struggling with their work recently. Instead of immediately jumping to criticism or blame, you could try to understand what might be causing the employee’s poor performance.

You could say something like: “I’ve noticed that your work has not been up to your usual standard lately. Is everything okay?”

An empathic manager is considerate, balanced, and fair.

⏰Key Point: Applying empathy gives you a superpower. You can read what your employees need from you – when they need challenging, when they need constructive feedback, and when they need more training.

#5. Social skills

It’s important to build a strong rapport with your team.

Not only is it part of good leadership, but it’s also essential to boosting staff productivity and increasing loyalty.

Having solid social skills such as active listening, verbal communication, nonverbal communication, leadership and persuasiveness enables you to connect with your team.

How to handle low emotional intelligence

Symptoms of low emotional intelligence will impact workplace performance.

Argumentative and emotional workplaces, where blame culture is rife and no one listens, lack leaders with emotional intelligence. If it sounds like where you work, or like your team, emotional intelligence can be taught and practiced to turnaround the culture, productivity and efficiency.

Goleman believes that emotional intelligence can be learnt or improved. His five components make it easier for you identify areas of improvement and work towards understanding emotions and managing them.

⏰Key Point: Having strong emotional intelligence skills will enable you to empathise with your team, communicate effectively and manage conflict. These three capabilities are qualities of an effective leader or manager.

How you can use emotional intelligence to help motivate your team?

By practising emotional intelligence at work, you can help your team strive for success and reach their full potential.

Goleman’s motivation element is key here – motivation is an infectious quality. Through being self-motivated, you can inspire members of your team to become motivated.

Utilising your social skills, another of Goleman’s components, will play a part in encouraging your team to go the extra mile. If you form a strong relationship with your employees, they’re more likely to go above and beyond.

Are there any disadvantages of using emotional intelligence in the workplace

There are pros and cons. Emotional intelligence in the workplace is extremely beneficial, but there can be disadvantages to using EI too.

Emotional intelligence can be used to manipulate others. While this shouldn’t be on the agenda for anyone in leadership or management, it’s important to be aware that emotionally intelligent members of your team might use EI to their advantage.

However, generally, the use of emotional intelligence at work has a positive impact. It can increase job satisfaction and performance through the following:

  • Controlling stress and minimising conflict

  • Creating smoother, easier adjustments

  • Improving communication and teamwork

  • Increasing motivation

  • Promoting a positive work environment

Above all, as a leader or manager, you’ll be effective and respected.

9 Ways to Improve your Emotional Intelligence

To improve your emotional intelligence, you can identify your weaknesses, referring to Goleman’s five components, and ask for help and feedback from your own manager. Once you have identified the areas that need attention, you can actively practice emotional intelligence.

Here are 9 expert tips to help you improve your EI:

  1. Keep a journal, record your observations and responses and get to know yourself. Learn what your values are and why they are important to you, what motivates you, what riles you up

  2. Ask for feedback from your seniors: “Am I aware of what’s happening around me? Do I regulate your emotions well? Do I appear motivated? Am I empathic? What are my social skills like?

  3. Take responsibility and stop blaming everyone around you

  4. Take it slow and don’t react, take a minute to think and breathe

  5. Practice seeing the good in the world

  6. Put yourself in other people’s shoes: “I wonder what Ty would think about that? What about Olivia?

  7. Sit back and watch body language, ask yourself “What does that posture mean?” and imagine, “How would I respond to that?

  8. Practice responding to emotions, whether you’re reading a book or watching the TV, take a second and think how you would advise, comfort, or support a person in need

  9. Attend our brand new Master Your Emotional Intelligence Course.


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