Building Your Emotional Capital

20th July 2015

Posted In: WMB Careers
Barbara Nugent

Just for a moment think back to the best bosses you ever had. What did they have in common?

Words like trusting, empowering, inspiring, optimistic and empathetic probably spring to mind.

Now, think about those bosses you didn’t get on with? Micro-manager, controlling, shoot-the-messenger, distant – does that sound about right?

Words: Barbara Nugent

Studies have shown that successful performance in the workplace is strongly impacted by high Emotional Intelligence (EI). A well-known study in Metropolitan Life Insurance company proved that sales people with high optimism outsold their pessimistic counterparts by 38%. The results are real and tangible.

As a leader, you can inspire or demotivate those you lead by the way you manage your own EI. We all know how a careless word can pull the rug from under us and undermine our confidence.

Emotionally Intelligent leaders operate at a level of self-awareness that ensures they understand the job their people do, and can see issues from the perspective of their team. This is called Empathy, and is one of the highest indicators of successful leaders.

More women possess this skill than men – and yet the incidence of women leaders still lags behind their male counterparts.

Perhaps this is because men score much higher on Self-Confidence than women. As women leaders, and indeed potential women leaders we need to question this anomaly and actively work on changing it.

Developing good relationships within your organisation makes good sense. Working with other departments and other leaders gives you the advantage of understanding how the company works, and allows you to learn from others. This increases your value to the company.

Understandably, those who can control their emotions make better decisions than those who tend to blow up under stress.

Being self-reliant means that you are not afraid to speak up with an idea or opinion, and you have the confidence to follow through with it.  But, if you score extremely high at self-reliance you may also be someone who does not share with your team, and that will impact your leadership adversely. A strength overplayed, can become a weakness.


Why is this so important now?

Since the global economic crisis, organisations can see that the “command and control” style of leadership doesn’t have the desired outcome. Surveys of over 500 US companies show that senior management WANT employees to actively contribute within the organisation.

Now more than ever, HR professionals realise that creating an organisational culture espousing leadership traits has proven to be the way forward. Companies like L’Oreal, BSkyB, Citibank, Telia, Grant Thornton and others are building EI into their leadership programmes with great success.


Where to from here?

Having the technical ability to do the job is the first dimension on which individuals are measured.

Having the experience in a given role or area is the second dimension on which performance is measured.

But when candidates are equally qualified in these dimensions, it is the third dimension that will indicate which one will be most successful.

Emotional Intelligence tends to increase with age, unlike IQ which is set in your 20’s. The real gain for those who aspire to lead, is how to accelerate EI development and reap the benefits in a leadership role?

At best practice organisations, potential leaders are being identified and their EI is measured. In their development towards leadership they are coached to improve their weaker points and build on their strengths. Strategies include:

– Practicing listening instead of always speaking helps to develop relationships and empathy.

– Tuning in to your own emotions and understanding them, improves self-awareness. Mindfulness can help to slow down the mind so that you can recognise your emotions and have time to respond rather than react.

– Accepting yourself as you are, agreeing that you are OK – not perfect but OK – helps to grow confidence. Write down all your successes, however small and review them regularly. This is your “trophy room”. Seeing all your achievements reinforces your confidence.

– Guarding your thoughts so that you do not linger in negative, derogatory self-talk ensures optimism. Looking for the learning in a situation turns adversity into opportunity.

And remember, building these skills takes time. Making small changes every single day amounts to big changes by the end of the month or year.

International psychologist & author of New York Times bestseller ‘Emotional Intelligence’ Daniel Goleman reminds us: “Interpersonal ineptitude in leaders lowers everyone’s performance. It wastes time, creates acrimony and corrodes motivation.” Can you afford not to invest in Emotional Intelligence?


Barbara Nugent is an Executive Coach and Business Mentor. With over 20 years experience working in large organisations, leading teams and holding senior management roles, Barbara founded Cork-based Transilient Coaching in 2014.