My Career Article

Developing your emotional intelligence.

Getting comfortable with the “f” word – and how it drives performance. By Anna-Lucia Mackay

 Anna-Lucia Mackay says feelings drive performance.


If there is one word in business that makes people roll their eyes – it’s the “f” word! Not the swear word – that’s common and almost welcomed in business – far worse is that dreaded word “feelings”! The word that makes many people at work wince and squirm   – and feel generally uncomfortable. The word which often pre-empts illogical, ambiguous, and unpredictable behaviour. The word most busy people just don’t have time for in this fast-paced and competitive world where getting jobs done and products out the door is hard enough without any other added complications.

The fact is   feelings drive human performance and, unless your business is run by robots, human performance drives business performance. Today, technical competence is a given   – understanding what makes people tick is the differentiator – and your competitive edge. The needs of clients, customers and employees have changed significantly and are far more complex than ever before. The more well-off people are – the more complex their needs. Therefore understanding the wants, needs, motivations and behaviours of people enables you to predict and anticipate far more accurately what they will do and how they will act. This is emotional intelligence at its best. A term most people have heard of – but a concept most people misunderstand – or confuse it with something to do with being “warm and fuzzy”.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Emotional intelligence is a critical business skill and is not for the faint-hearted! This competence is crucial to innovating, creating and delivering products that people will buy, for building cultures where employees are driven to serve and over-achieve – and is critical to influencing buying decisions. So where do we start?

There are about 12 core competencies to develop –  here are four tips to get you started:

1.  Develop self-awareness

This must always be the starting point. In the words of Socrates: “Know thyself.” Once people understand what signals, cues, impressions and perceptions they give off,  only then will they become more attuned to the reasons behind behaviours, reactions and responses in others. The more attuned they become to their own behaviour, the more effective they will be at analysing, trend spotting and pattern identification of these in others.


2. Master self-management

The ability to override emotions, feelings and reactions which interfere with getting the job done – or undermine relationships. This is often the trait that distinguishes an emotionally intelligent person from another. This characteristic requires mental strength to  rein in emotions – which enables a person to remain rational to make better decisions and solve problems. This skill also enables a person to anticipate tricky situations   – and prepare for them thus reducing knee-jerk emotional responses which drive down productivity and moral.

3. Activate your intuition

This skill is essential for innovation and creativity and in understanding people – and therefore essential to business sustainability. Most people believe that intuition is a trait,  that you either have a predisposition for it or not; you were born with it – or not. However, intuition more often than not is a result of data analysis, pattern and trend spotting and rational and logical thinking – not a gut feeling — although this does come into it too. Intuition is an aptitude that simply requires a deeper consciousness of what is really going on around you and why. To activate simply start tuning in more by listening, observing and being more curious as to why people do the things they do and behave the way they do!

4. Understand the role of mindsets

As a business owner and leader you must understand the impact of mindset on performance. In simple terms, a mindset is “a way of thinking that determines a person’s behaviour, outlook and attitude”. As the owner or leader of a business you are the most influential person in driving the high performance mindset of your team. You must consciously and purposefully choose behaviours, actions and activities which directly influence how your people think and feel about the business and about you as their leader. Remember the quality of their mindsets are a direct reflection of yours. That’s the truth and there’s often nothing warm and fuzzy about that!

Anna-Lucia Mackay is an award-winning educator, speaker and writer in management and education and is the author of The Four Mindsets – How to Influence, Motivate and Lead a High Performance Team. Visit 

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