Interpersonal Tools: Emotional Intelligence

What is the perfect formula for developing the best leaders? Daniel Goleman, Co-Director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University, set out to identify which competencies lead to outstanding performance. He found that when calculating the relative importance of technical skills, intelligence quotient (IQ), and emotional intelligence (EQ) on excellent performance, EQ proved to be twice as important for jobs at all levels.

Goleman also found that EQ is increasingly important at the highest levels of the company. The more senior the role, the more EQ becomes a primary marker of outstanding performance: In his study, nearly 90% of the difference in performance was attributable to emotional intelligence factors, rather than cognitive abilities.

At Aptible, we strive to build an environment that encourages and facilitates the perpetual development of EQ within our team. We place an emphasis on the importance of our own emotions and the emotions of others, and take inspiration from Goleman’s four clusters of EQ competencies:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Management
  3. Social Awareness & Empathy
  4. Relationship Management

It’s important for us to understand these clusters in connection with each other. The impact of having a self-aware team is only further amplified by having an empathetic team, and so forth.

First of all, you should understand that, unlike IQ, no one can summarize your EQ in a single number. Know someone with great self-confidence, but zero empathy, for example? I think of emotional intelligence in terms of a profile of specific competencies that range across four different areas of personal ability. [. . .] Nested within each of those four areas are specific, learned competencies that set the best leaders and performers apart from average. (Source)


Goleman explains that “Self-Awareness means having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives. People with strong self-awareness are neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful. Rather, they are honest—with themselves and with others.” At Aptible, we see Self-Awareness as critical for cohesive teamwork and productivity. We seek to work with people who have an acute cognizance of their strengths and limitations, and a subsequent desire to continue improving and learning.

The Self-Awareness cluster contains three competencies:

  • Emotional Awareness: Recognizing one’s emotions and their effects.
  • Accurate Self-Assessment: Knowing one’s strengths and limits.
  • Self-Confidence: A strong sense of self-worth and capabilities.

Honing these skills can be difficult. To help us connect with and identify our emotions in order to more effectively use them in disclosure, we utilize the Feelings Chart/Wheel. By referring to this when we’re communicating with each other, we can practice articulating more precisely how we’re feeling. As a result, we’ll be better able to connect with each other, grow as a team, and empower ourselves to solve the hardest challenges we’re facing. You can learn more about how Aptillians connect through disclosure here.

The Fort Light Feelings Chart
The Feelings Wheel (Originally Created by Dr. Gloria Willcox)


According to Goleman, the Self-Management cluster contains six competencies:

  • Emotional Self-Control: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check.
  • Transparency: Maintaining integrity, acting congruently with one’s values.
  • Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change.
  • Achievement: Striving to improve or meeting a standard of excellence.
  • Initiative: Readiness to act on opportunities.
  • Optimism: Persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks.

This kind of management extends beyond just checking in with ourselves, and into identifying the roots of our emotions. Byron Katie’s “The Work” offers a framework for learning distress tolerance. Specifically, the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet helps us reflect on and stay grounded in a stressful situation.

Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet

Social Awareness

At the core of our company, we are people-oriented, and as a result, we value social awareness—what Goleman describes as “how people handle relationships and awareness of others' feelings, needs, and concerns. The Social Awareness cluster contains three competencies:

  • Empathy: Sensing others' feelings and perspectives, and taking an active interest in their concerns.
  • Organizational Awareness: Reading a group’s emotional currents and power relationships.
  • Service Orientation: Anticipating, recognizing, and meeting customers' needs.

At Aptible, empathizing with our colleagues and customers helps us make better decisions. We work on this tangibly through concrete rituals and norms, and promote this via the Confirm-Respond Technique: Start by validating others' emotions and proceed with: 1) a caring question, 2) asking, “What would be helpful?” “What is the best way I can support you?” 3) expressing hope, and/or 4) referencing your similar story or experience.

By doing so, we avoid these pitfalls: 1) preemptively trying to problem-solve when not helpful, 2) excessive probing, 3) discounting their experience, or 4) hijacking a moment of vulnerability and de-centering the other person. To learn more, we suggest watching Brené Brown’s animated short on Empathy vs. Sympathy.

Brené Brown on Empathy

Relationship Management

Lastly, Goleman writes that the Relationship Management cluster contains six competencies:

  • Developing Others: Sensing others' development needs and bolstering their abilities.
  • Inspirational Leadership: Inspiring and guiding individuals and groups.
  • Change Catalyst: Initiating or managing change.
  • Influence: Wielding effective tactics for persuasion.
  • Conflict Management: Negotiating and resolving disagreements.
  • Teamwork & Collaboration: Working with others toward shared goals. Creating group synergy in pursuing collective goals.

At Aptible, People Managers sharpen these skills through Manager Training. But all team members hone these skills by thinking intentionally about their relationship to themselves, their peers, and their direct manager. To help, we use these templates for:

Upwards & Onwards

Unlike IQ, EQ isn’t fixed. Anyone who wants to improve their skills in Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness & Empathy, and Relationship Management absolutely can — and we wholeheartedly support this shared commitment and growth mindset within the Aptible Team.

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