Reaching for emotional intelligence – a manager’s guide

By Elisabeth Goodman, 17th May 2016

Why is emotional intelligence such an important skill?

Emotional intelligence helps us, as individuals, to cope more easily with the ups and downs of work and life.  It helps us to build stronger relationships, collaborate with and influence others more effectively and to make better decisions.  In a work situation, it helps us to be better managers.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence enables us to be more aware of our own and other people’s responses to the situations that we find ourselves in, and to more consciously and actively change those responses.

It relies on us being more in tune to the relationship between how we think, feel and behave, and how changing any one of these can actively influence the other two.

Emotional Intelligence enables us to be more aware of our responses to change. (The survivor illustration from "The Effective Team's Change Management Workbook", RIverRhee 2013
Emotional Intelligence enables us to be more aware of and to influence our responses to change. (The survivor illustration from “The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook”, RIverRhee 2013

How does emotional intelligence work?

I have been watching Gareth Malone’s work with the Invictus Choir, a simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting experience.

The two one-hour episodes were graphic portrayals of many of the individuals’ journeys from barely coping with the aftermaths of the physical and emotional traumas that they had experienced, to releasing their emotions and moving to a new stage of acceptance and hope. Their injuries are still there and things to be dealt with every day, but they can now choose how they respond to them.

The choir’s opening lines :”Don’t turn your eyes away, and leave me in the dark” summarise for me how we can all interact with each other at a deeper level.

Gareth himself was truly impressive in how he steered and supported the members of the choir. He combined his impressive technical skill in teaching them to find their voice and excel, with what seemed to me tremendous emotional intelligence.

One of Rob Jeung’s publications focuses on emotional intelligence and I turned back to my copy to remind me of some of the key concepts. These are the ones that particularly stood out for me in watching Gareth Malone and what he achieved with the Invictus Choir.

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training courses for managers
Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers
  1. Be alert to and aware of each individual. Respond to each person appropriately.
  2. Listen, really listen – use your eyes and ears, pick up on body language and tone of voice, not just the words.
  3. Give people one-to-one time – it shows them that you care about and value them, and gives them the space and time they need to say what’s on their mind, as well as build rapport between you.
  4. Say what it is you are observing – just that can open up the conversation.
  5. Don’t try to solve their problems – only the individual can do that.
  6. Judge when it is best to leave people alone, when to give them a chance to talk, when to give them a hug (if this is acceptable behaviour).
  7. Recognise that you are also learning how to deal with other people’s emotions, and that it’s alright to have your own “wobble” now and then!
  8. Don’t forget to be assertive. You still need to influence your team to achieve their primary objective. Being clear and direct about what this is will give them an anchor and a goal during their emotional journeys.

How are you applying emotional intelligence

What works for you?  What are your challenges?  As ever I’d be really interested to hear about your experiences.

(You might also want to read one of my previous blogs about empathy – the magical leadership ingredient.)


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

2 thoughts on “Reaching for emotional intelligence – a manager’s guide”

  1. I am very pleased that you have picked up on Gareth Malone’s programme in this context . I am a singer as well and find his programmes very inspirational in so many ways. I saw the first Invictus Choir episode but not had time to watch the second one yet. Our local Military Wives choir did a concert for my local church in 2014 and the enthusiasm that he has passed on to that choir was amazing ; my sister sang for him at a festival last year. He would be an amazing ‘motivational speaker’ – any chance of asking him to an information professionals’ event in London to talk about his experience? I was singing in a choir which did joint events with the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus in the early 1990s so could have been on the same stage as him!

    1. elisabethgoodman

      Hi Jane, thanks so much for your comment. Yes I sing too and so also find Gareth inspirational on that level. Interesting idea to see if he would be interested in speaking at an event! Are you a member of CILIP or another information professional organisation? We should probably continue this conversation off-line. I will contact you by e-mail.

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