A practical guide to improving your emotional intelligence and the way you do business

Categories Analytics

Last week I attended the Adobe UnSummit and heard a talk from Michael Helbling that caught my attention. Michael didn’t talk about some new analytics tool, he didn’t even talk about technology, he talked about people. As I’ve reflected on this talk more, I realized that so much of the content we produce in the analytics industry is around tech. Perhaps this is for a good reason, but have we neglected other important areas of business? I think the answer is yes, and I think it’s people we neglected.

People are one of the few unifying components across any and all organizations. From fortune 500 businesses, to nonprofits and experimental think-tanks, if you are an organization, you have people. The important fact to mention about people though, is that they can be difficult!

In fact, if you truly think about it, some of the biggest problems you face in your job today likely stem out of people problems, not technology problems. If this is true, shouldn’t we be working on improving our people skills as much as our technology skills? If you resonate with this, look no further. Today I want to cover the first “people skill” in which you can grow: emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence was coined by Michael Beldoch, but popularized by Daniel Goleman – a very well known author in the psychology and business sector. To quote Andrew Coleman (a famous psychologist), “emotional intelligence is the capability of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking behavior, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goals”. In essence, emotional intelligence is one’s ability to successfully identify and analyze emotions.

Why is emotional intelligence important? Because emotions affect the way we make decisions and do business. Emotions are the underlying framework for everything we do as humans. Not sold? Check out the following resources which show the impact of emotions on business:

  • Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action –  In this TED talk, Simon Sinek shows the neurological process of how people make decisions. Believe it or not, they aren’t made in the same part of the brain in charge of rational thought, they are made in the same part of the brain in charge of feelings.
  • Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation – In this TED talk, Dan Pink talks about why it’s so hard to motivate people to work for you and how to solve this. The answer? One of the answers is purpose. What is purpose? At it’s core, it’s a feeling.

Let’s say you’re ready to hop on this journey of growing in your emotional intelligence. “Where do I start?”, you may ask. I’m glad you asked. Below are 5 practical resources which can help you start to learn more about emotional intelligence. Additionally, I’ve included some ideas for people in management on how to create a culture which values emotional intelligence.

Practical Steps for Growing in Emotional Intelligence

  1. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence – Great collection of articles on what emotional intelligence is and how it works.
  2. Meditation – It may sound odd to recommend meditation, but one of the main goals of mediation is awareness/mindfulness. These skills allow people to become more aware of the emotions they are feeling, which ultimately allows them greater control over themselves. There are a few things to recommend under the category of mediation, which are listed below:
    • Headspace – If you want a daily practice of meditation but don’t know where to start, try Headspace. They do a great job of leading you through meditations and educating you on their value.
    • How to Meditate (Book) – A helpful introduction to meditation for those which like to read.
    • How to Meditate (Video) – Leo Gura does an amazing job of describing how and why we meditate. A must watch for those new to meditation.
  3. Actualized.org – I also list this as a separate point because Leo Gura covers a wide variety of topics, mainly based upon emotions. I like Leo Gura because he breaks down complex topics and explains them in a way I understand.
  4. Myers-Briggs – This test has revolutionized how people think about themselves. Take the test and learn more about yourself. And by doing this, you can increase awareness of how you work, which will allow you to identify emotions and thought patterns easier.
  5. Enneagram Test – This test is particularly powerful if you want to analyze how you work with specific people. The enneagram can give you great insight into how you work with other personality types, most notably the ones which may be difficult. Through this, you can become more aware how other people affect you and your emotions.

Ideas for Managers

  1. HBR Emotional Intelligence Toolkit – If you want an exercise to complete with your team, use the HBR toolkit. This gives you and your team some readings to go through, as well as guidance on exercises to walkthrough.
  2. Counseling – My desire is to see more companies offer counseling as a benefit in their employee’s compensation package. The reality is that we all have stresses and troubles in our lives, and yet we rarely talk about them. Counseling helps us talk about the things which really matter, which leads to greater emotional health.
  3. “Unproductive” Meetings –  One of the easiest ways to create a culture of acceptance and love is to take time to find out how people are doing. Especially if you are a manager, you can have regular conversations with your employees about their state of being. Take 15 minutes, don’t focus on assignments, and just focus on the person. You may just see an increase in their productivity.
I'm a Digital Analyst with an exuberant amount of passion for the digital analytics industry. I work with our analytics team to move clients out of reporting and into actionable insights. I believe in the power of measuring results and hope to one day integrate data-driven philosophies with the potential of social entrepreneurship.