A manager’s guide to emotional intelligence

Arul John Peter gives us a guide to EQ.

We’ve all heard of emotional intelligence (EQ). We’re probably also very aware of how important it is, or at least how important it’s supposed to be, in our professional lives. Yet, despite all the books and articles that preach of its importance, there are few sources that actually tell us HOW we can improve our EQ competence.

As a result of this, many people view EQ as something innate, where one either possesses it or doesn’t. Fortunately, that isn’t true. The fact is that EQ competence can be learnt, improved, and mastered.

What is EQ?

Many people think of EQ as something necessary only when dealing with other people. Yet, EQ actually begins internally. The first of the five aspects of EQ starts by recognising one’s own emotion (self awareness) and is followed by managing it to situations (self management).

These two elements feed self-motivation. EQ is also about understanding how other people feel by perceiving their emotional signals and status (social awareness, also called empathy), and using this knowledge to effectively respond in an appropriate way (social relationship).

Effective managers focus on behaviours that matter, adopting the relevant behaviour that adds value to their organisation. 

Emotional intelligence, at its core, is all about personal mastery and people management. The benefits of EQ begin the moment we are prepared to think and behave differently using emotional intelligence. The mastery of EQ is the starting point to move forward and create a new level of experience for ourselves and others.

Effective management

Effective managers focus on behaviours that matter, adopting the relevant behaviour that adds value to their organisation. Their choice of behaviours is based on how they can make a difference in the workplace, considering the context and expected outcomes of their decision.

Given that most managers I’ve encountered usually wish to be more effective when dealing with others, and the fact that an effective leader as a manager understands that their role is more about their team and less about them, we’ll focus on how one can improve the external aspects of EQ.

Filling a bucket

The author Carol McCloud in her children’s book titled ‘Have You Filled a Bucket Today?’ identified a series of behaviours that children could adopt to express kindness, appreciation and love by ‘filling the buckets’ of those around them.

The author describes a ‘bucket filler’ as someone who ‘is a loving, caring person who says and does nice things to make others feel special’. I think the modern day manager can learn a lot from this children’s book.

The emotionally intelligent manager should focus on what is right with people. These managers should not only find ways to keep their positive emotions bucket full, but also go out of the way to fill other people’s buckets. They also need to introduce practices and policies in their teams and the general workplace that actively encourage employees to fill each other’s bucket.

Try these few simple yet powerful practices this week:

  • Greet, smile and say thank you.
  • Be a coach to someone
  • Celebrate success on a regular basis
  • Banish the mindset of No News is Good News
  • Recognise effort (not just the results)
  • Make time for others

By recognising people as people, and caring about their well-being, the Emotionally Intelligent Manager drives motivation and satisfaction among team members, leading to better results and sustained achievement.


The bedrock of influencing, motivating, and inspiring others comes from an understanding of that person. Empathy, or being able to see life through that person’s eyes, is core to that. Yet, how can we actually empathise with someone? For that, here’s a simple framework called W.I.N.E. All one needs to do when dealing with someone is to ask “What is this person’s W.I.N.E.?”

W.I.N.E. stands for Wants, Interests, Needs, and Expectations. These elements represent the motivation, actions, and behaviour of most people.

When consciously making an effort to analyse a person’s W.I.N.E., emotionally intelligent managers engage empathy to view life through the lens of the person they are interacting with, putting themselves in a better position whereby they can tailor their approach to achieve the best results for all parties.

With the mastery of EQ skills it is easy to be the ‘bucket filler’ and let positive emotions bloom and flourish in the workplace. The outcome of positive emotions at work is undeniable. Managers who are EQ competent not only demonstrate a broader level of thinking when seeking possible solutions but also able to inspire and transform others.

If as managers we are serious about bringing out the best in people, it is time to take the EQ way to be that effective manager who is ready to make a difference in the workplace.


About the author

Arul John Peter is the lead facilitator at Centre for Creative Thinking, a Singapore-based learning and development agency.


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