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Steps for improving emotional intelligence

Like everything else, you can increase your emotional intelligence through a disciplined process:

To start, you’ll need a mental picture of your ideal self and a sense of your capabilities today through a focus internal audit and reflection. As you work to close the gap between the “real” and the “ideal” you, you’ll set a plan, practice new habits, and seek help from supporters.

As with learning anything new, you won’t master changes overnight. And you’ll likely need to break some bad habits first. It is only logical, just like treating a wound, take care of the bleeding first before anything else.

Step 1: Decide who you want to be (the ideal you)

Emotionally intelligent leaders have a clear mental image of themselves at their best. They use this “ideal self” to guide their decisions in life. Yet it’s surprisingly easy to get caught up in daily routine and to forget what truly drives you. Leaders need to feel purposeful to act in emotionally intelligent ways.

When you visualize an ideal life, you activate the parts of your brain connected with passion, hope, and optimism.

In order to start this visualization process:

  • Imagine the best version of you a decade from now. What are you doing? Who is around you? What do your relationships look like? Don’t worry about whether your ideas are practical or not. Just let the picture develop. Be a un-reasonable person with the best version of yourself, if I remember it correctly, the reasonable person adjust himself to the world, while the un-reasonable ones adjust the world to themselves and it is how progress is made.
  • Capture the important elements of that image. Describe, draw, record, or discuss them with a friend, whatever is most comfortable for you.
  • Analyze what you’ve gathered. What does your ideal self reveal about you? What’s most important to you? Do you live your values or simply talk about them? Trust me, it is harder to walk the talk than to do the talking. Maybe that’s the reason why action is louder than words.

Step 2: Improve your self-awareness

You’ve pictured your ideal self. Now assess where you are right now, including your strengths, limitations, and emotional patterns.

In other words, become more self-aware. Self-aware leaders monitor their feelings and actions and notice how others react to them. They’re open to constructive criticism. By being attuned to their emotional habits, they’re able to cultivate useful responses and let go of ineffective ones.

To become more self-aware:

  • Get feedback. Ask people in your personal and work life what interpersonal strengths and weaknesses they’ve observed in you. Make sure your feedback includes perspectives from all levels of the organization, not just from your manager. Research shows that your peers’ and subordinates’ perception of you is actually a better predictor of your long-term success than that of your manager. And remember to be open-minded with these feedback, as we all well aware, feedback does hurt (at times).
  • Seek constructive criticism. Effective leaders actively seek negative as well as positive feedback. To perform better, you need a full range of information—even if that information is difficult to hear. Criticism usually is a signal which indicate where and when you need to come out of your comfort zone and grow.
  • Analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Look for common themes in the feedback. It’s important to address areas for improvement and to feel confident about what you already do well. Depend on your ideal-self mental image, focus on developing the area of strengths and weaknesses which help you make daily progress toward it.

Step 3: Develop your learning plan

You know what your ideal is, and you’re aware of how people see you now. The next step is to create a plan for closing the gap between “real” and “ideal.”

The best kind of learning agenda focuses on what you want to become, that your own ideal rather than on someone else’s idea of what you should be, because it very frustrating to find out that when you met a goal just to find out that it is not yours (goal) to begin with. Aim for actions that help you better manage yourself, become more aware of others’ needs, and improve your relationship skills.

In order to make an effective learning plan, you shall,

  • Build on your strengths. Too often, people think of a learning plan as something designed to correct mistakes. But it’s even more powerful to focus on positive actions you want to take. This approach gives you the confidence to try new things and make necessary change. And by focusing on your strengths would give you better chances at becoming great at my strengths compared to focusing at your weaknesses, where you might become good at it. I would rather choose to become great first, before developing and improving on my weaknesses. I belief it would have greater impact, not just on myself but also on my organization and the world in general.
  • Focus on realistic, manageable steps. Design any changes so they’re integral to your daily actions. You’ll stick with your learning plan only if it fits into your current life and work. For instance, if you need to work on building rapport with your team, use daily staff meetings to practice listening to their concerns.
  • Design a plan to match your learning style. Are you someone who prefers concrete experience, for instance, learning to sail by simply getting into a boat? Or are you someone who’d rather study the principles of sailing first and then apply what you’ve learned? Plans that don’t match your preferences can hinder your learning.

Step 4: Practice

It takes dedication to improve your self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management skills. But the payoff can be profound.

As you practice, remember that mistakes are part of the process, treat them as valuable learning opportunities. When they happen, plan what you could do differently next time.

Failure is an event, not a person.

To get the most from your practice:

  • Mentally rehearse and practice. Scientists have shown that when you imagine yourself performing a task successfully, you increase your odds of doing it that way in reality. For instance, Olympic divers tend to mentally rehearse every detail of their dives in preparation for competition. If you visualize some common situations at work in advance, you’ll feel less awkward when you actually put the new skills into practice.
  • Experiment, then reflect. Try new approaches to familiar situations. A new way of acting might feel unnatural at first but don’t let that discourage you. People with high EI regularly review their interactions with others to figure out what went wrong or right and then apply what they’ve learned.
  • Repeat new behaviors to the point of mastery. Repetition is crucial to improving emotional intelligence. Professional musicians don’t just practice until they can get through a piece of music without errors they rehearse until the music pours automatically from them. This is what you need for better emotional habits. Without mastery, you’re likely to return to old patterns.

Step 5: Enlist support

Your final step is to create a community of supporters. Find personal and professional allies who will applaud your successes and keep you on course.

Include in your support network:

  • People outside the office. You’ll develop your EI skills faster and more deeply if you apply them across your life. Test your skills in personal settings, such as coaching youth sports or volunteering for a nonprofit. Seek feedback from family members and friends.
  • A coach. This person can be a hired professional or a trusted adviser. Either way, the coach should understand your organization’s culture, know your personal strengths and challenges, and use EI skills themselves. A coach can regularly observe you in action and help you keep track of your progress.
  • Others trying to improve their emotional intelligence. A leadership support group can help you stay committed to the work. Use the group as a forum to talk candidly, share best practices, and try new approaches.
  • Members of your team. Can you share your learning agenda with your team? What practices can they adopt for themselves? You’ll see powerful results when everyone works together to increase their emotional intelligence.


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4 Major components in Emotional Intelligence

4 major components in emotional intelligence include –

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

In brief –

  1. Self-awareness and self-management have to do with you. How accurately you assess yourself and your emotions, and your capacity for acting in a rational, controlled manner.
  2. Social awareness and relationship management are how you deal with others. Whether or not you take a genuine interest in people and whether you possess the skills to communicate effectively, resolve conflict, and inspire good work.

Clearly I have a long to go to master EI.

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What is emotional intelligence?

Why do some people seem to be natural leaders, easily able to connect with others? It’s likely because they have high levels of emotional intelligence.

Traditional intelligence (IQ) measures the brain’s ability to grasp concepts and make connections. Emotional intelligence (EI) is something different, EI is the ability to manage emotions and relationships effectively. EI is sometimes labeled as maturity, self-awareness, rapport, or empathy.

Whatever name you use, emotional intelligence is critical to workplace success. Research suggests a leader’s level of EI is a better predictor of achievement than his or her IQ. Studies also show that outstanding leaders are distinguished more by their degree of EI than by their technical or analytical skills.

Here’s the good news: You can increase your emotional intelligence through practice, feedback, and a commitment to personal growth.

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The importance to spell out your values

It is important to spell out your own values to minimize your own internal conflict.

Your core values are the principles and standards of behavior you aspire to uphold as you pursue your goals. Work-related values might include respect for others, honesty, achievement, autonomy, and a commitment to learning.

Your core values: 

  • Are not universal rules but are guidelines that you freely choose
  • Persist over time
  • Serve to guide, not constrain, your actions
  • Are active not static
  • Allow you to get closer to how you want to live
  • Free you from comparing yourself to others

Use your core values to assess whether your actions are moving you closer to or farther away from the person you want to be. The more you act in ways that are consistent with your values, the more authentic you’ll be as an individual and as a leader.

As a simple exercise, make a list of the 6-8 values that matter most to you. Alternatively, write about a value that is central to your life. Listing your values in this way can: 

  • Strengthen your leadership skills
  • Reduce stress
  • Increase your willpower
  • Make you more open to different positions and opinions
  • Reduce defensiveness

When you recognize what you care about, you can let go of things that aren’t important to you.

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Focus on your vision

In addition to knowing your purpose, it’s valuable to explore your personal leadership vision. A vision is a compelling image of an achievable future. It provides a sense of direction, focuses your actions, and inspires you and others to move toward a goal. It also compels you to continue to grow as a leader.

A personal leadership vision has four key components:

  • A future orientation. You should focus on a short enough time-frame that you can imagine the actions necessary to make it happen.
  • A compelling story. It should appeal to your head and heart.
  • A vivid image. It should be easy to visualize and remember.
  • An achievable stretch goal. It should be challenging but not impossible to reach through persistence and with the support of others.

Be sure that your vision describes something you want, not something you don’t want (focus on the positive and drown away the negativity).For example, you may envision your business unit developing a new product that excites employees and customers rather than one that doesn’t lose ground against the competition.

In order to draft your personal leadership vision:

  • Think about the future. Consider questions such as:
    • What does my organization need from me? My team? My peers?
    • If my team could accomplish anything over the next few years, what would I want it to be?
    • At the end of my career, how do I want people to think of me?
    • At the end of my life, what will I regret not doing, seeing, or achieving?
  • Compose a draft of your vision—how you want to be as a leader and what you want to accomplish in the next five to 10 years. Write your vision in the first person, and as if the events that you are describing are already happening.
  • Share a one-minute version with others. The process of saying your vision out loud should bring a sense of excitement and potential.
  • Revise your draft to ensure that it’s both really true and truly inspiring—to yourself and others. It’s always an option to improve on your leadership vision.
  • Take steps to make this vision a reality. Do you need to build your skills in certain areas? Research a new business opportunity that you can propose to senior leaders? Show initiative, but know when to speak up, but make sure to do your research thoroughly.


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Articulate your purpose

Many organizations have a strongly articulated purpose, or mission, statement that summarizes why the company is in business and what it stands for. These statements guide strategic decision making and differentiate a company from others.

For the same reason, you should know your own purpose because you could that the purpose of life is to live a life of purpose. When you spend time reflecting on what drives you and why, you better understand the unique contributions you make to your team, your organization, and the world. Having a clear sense of purpose can make the difference between going through the motions at work and passionately pursuing results you care about.

In order to articulate your purpose, you need to –

  • Find a small group of peers to work with. It’s difficult to see yourself clearly without trusted colleagues or friends to provide you with feedback. However, it is important to remember that you need to take these feedback with open-minded.
  • Reflect on meaningful events in your life. What did you love doing as a child? What challenges have you grappled with and how have they shaped you? What pursuits energize and fulfill you? What thread unifies all of these experiences?
  • Craft a clear, concise purpose statement. Use your own words. Make sure they capture the essence of who you are and are energizing. Here are two models you can follow:
    • My leadership purpose is… This statement should be short and crisp. For example, Carlos, a marketing director who also spends time outside of work tutoring students on improving their writing skills, might state his purpose as “Polishing powerful messages to make a difference.”
    • The value you create + who you’re creating it for + the expected outcome. For example: “Using my innate curiosity and finely honed technical skills, I support researchers in creating drugs to cure rare diseases.” *
  • Identify ways to live your purpose. As you go through your workday, make sure most of your tasks connect with or advance your purpose in some way.
  • Periodically revisit your purpose statement to keep it relevant and fresh, based on new experiences and insights.

And don’t spend majority of your time on minor things.


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How to develop leadership skills

It’s never too early to start developing your leadership skills. Even if you don’t play a leadership role in your company yet, you can:

  • Ask for “stretch assignments.” Seek out challenging projects that will test your capabilities.
  • Look for mentors. Rather than focus on a single adviser, cultivate relationships with a diverse group of successful individuals in your organization. One of the suggestion that I’d taken a liking of is, find yourself 3 mentor/idol, either in your organization or outside of the organization and list down 3 of their personalities each, and ‘copy’ them. Hence, you be a mix of 3 of your beloved mentor/idol with 9 great personality traits. 
  • Take advantage of organizational resources. Learn about leadership development programs offered by your organization. Ask for sponsorship to attend local conferences or programs that build leadership skills.
  • Pursue international opportunities. An overseas assignment is often a powerful resume-builder. If that opportunity isn’t immediately available, look for other ways to gain experience. For instance, join a team involved in a project that will be launched internationally.

It’s never to early nor to late to develop your leadership skills.

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The importance of trust

Trust plays a key role in every global collaboration, whether you are negotiating with a vendor from another country, selling products to an overseas market, or participating in a geographically dispersed team.

In the context of such collaborations, trust can be defined as confidence in a person’s integritycompetencereliability, and benevolence.

When you trust others with whom you’re collaborating, you believe they –

  • Will be honest
  • Will do what they say they’ll do
  • Have the collaboration’s best interests at heart
  • Possess the skills needed to achieve mutually important goals
  • Genuinely care about others’ well-being

When participants trust one another, they cooperate and can surmount difficulties that arise during a global collaboration.

Availability of trust would enable the team to ~

  • Negotiate more effectively with mutual respect. Participants respect one another, assume that everyone involved wants to craft a mutually satisfying outcome, and believe that each player will honor the agreed-upon terms of the deal. So they persevere through tense moments and explore a wider range of options.
  • Overcome misunderstandings caused by language differences. For example, suppose one participant says something that seems rude on the surface. With trust, another participant attributes the misstep to cultural differences, rather than to malicious intent.
  • Resolve problems caused by physical distance. Participants work out difficulties scheduling meetings across numerous time zones. Among any other solution for this would be to share the recording of the meeting to those in the time zones which are not available to attend the said meeting for better transparency, and anything which required voting could be done once those whom did not have the opportunity to attend the meeting have listen to and analysis the audio recording. Hence, better transparency and inclusiveness for all party.
  • Unite and align with their common purpose. Instead of fracturing along cultural or geographic lines when misunderstandings or conflicts arise, participants stay focused on the goals of the collaboration and identify with the overall team. 

Trust enables participants in a global collaboration to bring their unique experiences and perspectives to the effort. This diversity of contributions in turn spurs creativity, decision making, and productivity.

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Teach yourself Cultural Intelligence

You often can’t rely on your organization to provide formal training, so seek out opportunities to learn about the culture you’ll be collaborating with on your own.

In addition to being confident in your abilities, observing how people from other countries operate, and adopting new culturally appropriate behaviors, here are some ways you can further prepare for a cross-cultural collaboration:

  • Read a novel or nonfiction that is set in the culture of a country where someone you’ll be collaborating with lives or was raised.
  • Take an immersion course in the language spoken in that country. The better you speak the language, the deeper your understanding of the other culture.
  • Watch documentaries on the culture as well as movies and TV series produced in that country to get a sense of the values and beliefs held by its people.
  • Find a mentor who’s familiar with that culture and who can help you become more familiar with it. Tap into your existing social network, alumni groups, and professional associations. Social media has opened up opportunities to connect around the globe.

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Four personality styles in the workplace

Experts have identified four personality styles in the workplace:

  • Director
  • Thinker
  • Socializer
  • Relater

Your coworkers almost certainly represent a mix of these styles. Once you recognize characteristic behaviors, you can choose the approach that will make your employee most comfortable in a feedback session. By ensuring you customized your approach relative to the personality type will drastically improve the effectiveness of the feedback sessions.


Directors are focused and achievement-oriented. Their motto is “I want it done right, and I want it down now.” Directors are often high performers, but may end up over-committed and under pressure.

For directors, make sure your feedback is:

  • Well-organized and focused. Deliver your message in a crisp, professional manner. Get quickly to the most important ideas and don’t belabor your point.
  • Based on facts. Don’t put forth intuitions with directors; show them the solid proof that supports your feedback.
  • Flexible about next steps. Directors like to make their own decisions. At the end of the feedback session, let a director set the next steps.


Thinkers are persistent, systematic problem solvers. They may work slowly, but they do so with a high degree of accuracy.

For thinkers, make sure your feedback is:

  • Practical, logical, and thorough. Be systematic in how you present your information. Offer documentation and specifics. Think about what questions your employee is likely to ask and be prepared to answer them.
  • Paced. You can get to the specifics of your feedback quickly, but allow thinkers time afterward to reflect, ask questions, and review any concerns.
  • In writing. Thinkers are naturally skeptical. Written “evidence” helps lower their defenses.


Socializers are animated, intuitive, and inspired by ideas. They are often ambitious and energetic, but less intrigued by practical details.

For socializers, make sure your feedback is:

  • Collegial. Allow them time to talk and give input; don’t rush the process.
  • Vivid. Illustrate your points with stories and anecdotes, rather than data. Emphasize to your employees who are socializers how their behavior could impede or further their career dreams.
  • Summarized in writing. Because details and accuracy aren’t necessarily socializers’ strengths, be sure to specify the next steps in writing to help hold them accountable.


Relators are warm, supportive, and reliable employees who thrive when given a sense of security. They’re often excellent listeners who are reluctant to share their own opinions.

For relaters, make sure your feedback is:

  • Built on trust. Don’t overload relators with feedback at the beginning of the relationship because they’ll likely find it overwhelming. First establish rapport and credibility with them.
  • Consistent and regular. Relators derive security from routine, which can help them feel comfortable expressing their ideas and perspectives.
  • Informal and reassuring. Make sure your relators know that you value their presence in the office—especially when you deliver constructive feedback. Reiterate that you’re committed to helping them grow.