Life, Liberty, & Happiness

Thoughts on Emotional Intelligence


nowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. (Lao Tzu)

About 20 years ago, Peter Salovey and John Mayer defined Emotional intelligence (EQ) as the collection of abilities used to identify, understand, control and assess the emotions of the self and others. Since then, both researchers and business leaders have studied this concept and it’s profound impact in the workplace.

Research by the Center for Creative Leadership has found that the primary causes of problems in executive leadership involve deficits in emotional intelligence.  One study of executive leaders found that how well leaders handled their own emotions determined how much people around them engaged with them and the level of effort the team put into their work.

Emotional intelligence is that intangible “something” in each of us that affects how we manage our behavior, navigate social complexities, and make decisions that achieve positive results. While hard to define - we all know how easy emotional intelligence is to actually “see.” We have all experienced working for a leader who is neither self-aware nor able to “read the room” and understand how the team is both thinking and reacting to their message.

Our emotional intelligence is the foundation for a host of critical leadership skills. It impacts most everything we say and do each day. Over the past 20 years of research, we are learning that emotional intelligence is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence.

What Makes Up Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

Emotional intelligence is made up of four key skills - and while there is much research in this area, I’ve simplified the findings down to a few basic qualities. These four skills are structured in two two domains: personal competence and social competence.

The first domain involves our personal competency:

1. Self-Awareness: Do I understand how I am seen? Do I fully realize how others view me?

2. Self-Management: Do I have control of what I say, what I do, and how I behave? Can I keep my thoughts and emotions in check, even if I’m upset or angry?

The second domain involves our social competency:

3. Social Awareness: Do I really see others (the whole person) and their point of view? Do I know how to “read the room” and gauge the level of engagement, stress, etc?  Do I choose the right time and place when I choose to share my thoughts?

4. Relationship Management: Do I know how to engage others for in mutually beneficial relationships? Do I try to understand another’s view before pushing my own agenda? Do I actively listen or am I just waiting my turn to talk?

The fusion of these four skills - and the degree to which we master them - determines our level of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence goes far beyond our trying to gauge an employee's mood -- it allows each of us (as leaders) to carefully examine business situations and approach them appropriately. Our EQ largely determines the degree of employee engagement and our ability to work through others to get things done.

Our self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills are key factors in defining our level of emotional intelligence as leaders. If we look around and no one seems to be following - it is likely we have no real emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is an understanding of what it means to be human. By recognizing that everyone has a personal story and by actively listening and showing empathy; we can connect and build relationships based on trust.

When we learn to better identify and manage our own emotions, build our own social awareness and invest in building meaningful relationships with others — our business decisions will become easier, interpersonal relationships will improve, and we become the leader our team wants to rally behind.

About Dr. Michael Burcham

Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.

“I built and sold a $40M company with Dr. Burcham as my mentor. This is the thing: if you EVER get the opportunity to learn from this man, from that moment forward, you’ll list him as one of the most influential people in your life, even if you live to be 90. And, you’ll know how lucky you were to have that opportunity and you’ll immediately say YES to any chance to be in his presence again—his wisdom is that impactful.”

Sherry Stewart Deutschmann

Former CEO, Letter Logic

“If you are looking for a trusted mentor and coach for yourself or your leadership team, I highly recommend Michael Burcham. He has worked with me as my executive coach for well over a decade now. Our conversations and his feedback have helped me sharpen my critical thinking skills. He’s a trusted advisor that I can confidentially speak with about any issue—and I know I’ll get valued feedback. I highly recommend him.”

Ryan McGrath

CEO, Asset Living

“Dr. Burcham’s depth and breadth of experience makes even the most ADD entrepreneurial leader sit up and take notes! His coaching skills bring out the ‘best you’ possible. He selflessly shares the good, the bad, and the ugly—leaving you with an authentic and moving experience sure to spur action and professional growth!”

Julie Lenzer

Director, U.S. Department of Commerce


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