Understanding and improving your emotional intelligence

To lead creative teams you need to be able to understand your emotions, understand how other people feel and how your emotions can have an effect other people. In this episode, we are going to look at the five different parts of emotional intelligence to understand how they are all connected, how they affect you and what you can do to improve it.

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Over the course of this show, we have talked about a lot of different aspects of leadership, emotion, and creativity. Creativity is emotional and personal which is why it is so important to be aware of how it affects your work. But all of the talk we have done around emotion really can be summed up in one overarching topic – emotional intelligence. The best leaders are ones who understand how they feel and how they affect other people. The worse leaders are the ones who are emotionally tone-deaf caring only about themselves and oblivious to the effects that their actions have on the team around them.

This is so important because IQ alone is not enough. Psychologists generally agree that among the ingredients for success, IQ counts for roughly 10% (at best 25%); the rest depends on everything else — including mostly EQ. In this episode, we are going to look at emotional intelligence to understand what it is, its 5 parts, and how to improve it.

What’s emotional intelligence?

We all have different personalities, different wants and needs, and different ways of showing our emotions. Navigating through this all takes tact and self-awareness – especially if we hope to succeed in life. This is where emotional intelligence becomes important. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your emotions, understand what they’re telling you, and realize how those emotions affect the people around you.

It also involves how other people see us because we need to understand how they feel because this allows you to manage relationships more effectively. For leaders, having emotional intelligence is essential for success. Who is more likely to succeed and how are you more likely to follow? A leader who yells at his team any time they are under stress or a leader who stays in control? As I was talking about that I am betting you just thought of someone for both of those cases. Keep them in your mind as we talk about this as reference points.

5 parts of emotional intelligence

Once again for this episode, I have been doing a lot of research to make sure I understand all facets of this. This time I turned to Daniel Goleman who is an American psychologist who helped to popularize emotional intelligence.

He breaks down emotional intelligence into five parts:
– Self-awareness
– Self-regulation
– Motivation
– Empathy
– Social skills


Of the five parts I wanted to start with self-awareness because I think this is critical so many parts of leadership and creativity. It is also the foundation for everything to do with emotional intelligence.

Self-awareness has 2 parts:

Emotional awareness.
– Your ability to recognize your own emotions and their effects.
– For your work, you need to be self-aware enough to understand how you have ideas and how you work best so you can start to summon your creativity on demand.

– Sureness about your self-worth and capabilities.
– It is also important for your growth in leadership as you have to be confident in your style and not let your emotions get the best of you.
– As leaders, we aren’t afforded the luxury of a bad day or losing our temper as we are held to a different standard.

How do start this process?

Keep a journal:
– Journals help you improve your self-awareness.
– If you spend just a few minutes each day writing down your thoughts, when you were happy, frustrated or mad then this can move you to a higher degree of self-awareness.

Slow down:
– When you experience anger or other strong emotions, slow down to examine why.
– It is the ability to identify when it happens and then identify the cause of it that starts to lead to self-awareness.


Self-awareness is the first step to having better emotion intelligence. Self-regulation is then your ability to control emotions and impulses. Self-regulation is important because you don’t want to become too angry or jealous, or make impulsive, careless decisions. You need to think before you act because creative people are more affected by but also prone to emotional outbursts.

Self-regulation has 5 parts

– Self-control: Managing disruptive impulses.
– Trustworthiness: Maintaining standards of honesty and integrity.
– Conscientiousness: Taking responsibility for your performance and actions.
– Adaptability: Handling change with flexibility.
– Innovation: Being open to new ideas.

How do you improve on this?

Know your values:
– Do you have a clear idea of where you absolutely will not compromise?
– Do you know what values are most important to you?
– Spend some time examining your “code of ethics.” If you know what’s most important to you, then you probably won’t have to think twice when you face a moral or ethical decision – you’ll make the right choice.

Hold yourself accountable:
– If you tend to blame others when something goes wrong, stop.
– Make a commitment to admit to your mistakes and to face the consequences, whatever they are.
– You’ll probably sleep better at night, and you’ll quickly earn the respect of those around you.

Practice being calm
– The next time you’re in a challenging situation, be very aware of how you act.
– Do you relieve your stress by getting angry and taking it out on other people?
– Try to write down all of the negative things you want to say, and then rip it up and throw it away.

Don’t respond immediately
– Expressing these emotions on paper (and not showing them to anyone!) is better than speaking them aloud to your team.
– You need to do these things because you have to make sure your reactions are fair to everyone involved


Motivation is next and is an interesting and tricky part of the equation. But in leadership positions, motivation can be in short supply sometimes. Self-regulation tends to be more about your reaction in the heat of the moment but motivation looks at your longer-term emotional intelligence and control

Motivation has 4 parts

– Achievement drive: Your constant striving to improve or to meet a standard of excellence.
– Commitment: Aligning with the goals of the group or organization.
– Initiative: Readying yourself to act on opportunities.
– Optimism: Pursuing goals persistently despite obstacles and setbacks.

How do you improve on this?

Re-examine why you’re doing your job
– It’s easy to forget what you really love about your career.
– Take some time to remember why you wanted this job.
– If you’re unhappy in your role and you’re struggling to remember why you wanted it, try the Five Whys technique to find the root of the problem.
– Starting at the root often helps you look at your situation in a new way.
– And make sure that your goal statements are fresh and energizing.

Know where you stand
– Determine how motivated you are to lead. Our Leadership Motivation Assessment can help you see clearly how motivated you are in your leadership role. If you need to increase your motivation to lead, it directs you to resources that can help.

Be hopeful and find something good
– Motivated leaders are usually optimistic, no matter what problems they face.
– Adopting this mindset might take practice, but it’s well worth the effort.


This is perhaps the second-most important element of emotional intelligence. Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. People with empathy are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationships , listening , and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly, and they live their lives in a very open, honest way.

Empathy has 5 parts

– Service orientation: Anticipating, recognizing and meeting the teams and clients’ needs.
– Developing others: Sensing what others need to progress and bolstering their abilities.
– Leveraging diversity: Cultivating opportunities through diverse people.
– Political awareness: Reading a group’s emotional currents and power relationships.
– Understanding others: Discerning the feelings behind the needs and wants of others.

How do you improve on this?

Put yourself in someone else’s position
– It’s easy to support your own point of view. But take the time to look at situations from other people’s perspectives.

Pay attention to body language
– Perhaps when you listen to someone, you cross your arms, move your feet back and forth, or bite your lip. This body language tells others how you really feel about a situation, and the message you’re giving isn’t positive! Learning to read body language can be a real asset in a leadership role because you’ll be better able to determine how someone truly feels. This gives you the opportunity to respond appropriately.

Respond to feelings
– This can feel strange or different as a leader but it is an important part of the position.

Social skills

It’s usually easy to talk to and like people with good social skills. Those with strong social skills are typically team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help others develop and shine. They can manage disputes, are excellent communicators, and are masters at building and maintaining relationships.

Social skills have 8 parts

– Influence: Wielding effective persuasion tactics.
– Communication: Sending clear messages.
– Leadership: Inspiring and guiding groups and people.
– Change catalyst: Initiating or managing change.
– Conflict management: Understanding, negotiating and resolving disagreements.
– Building bonds: Nurturing instrumental relationships.
– Collaboration and cooperation: Working with others toward shared goals.
– Team capabilities: Creating group synergy in pursuing collective goals.

How do you improve on this?

Learn conflict resolution
– Leaders must know how to resolve conflicts between their team members, customers, or vendors. Learning conflict resolution skills is vital if you want to succeed.

Improve your communication skills
– How well do you communicate? Our communication quiz will help you answer this question, and it will give useful feedback on what you can do to improve.

Learn how to praise others
– As a leader, you can inspire the loyalty of your team simply by giving praise when it’s earned. Learning how to praise others is a fine art, but well worth the effort.

Final thought

Confidence will come, and it will go. But know that we all struggle with this so you aren’t alone and having this problem isn’t a problem – unless you don’t work on it. But believe that you can be a great designer, do the work, don’t give up, question your motives and imposter syndrome will be less and less a part of your life and you will have the tools to fight it when it is.

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