Why emotional intelligence is so important for success

Welcome back to Leader Talk! In this episode, we spoke to the inspiring Steve Sallis, Founder of Solutions Mindset.

Steve is an executive mindset coach who supports and helps create elite teams in the workplace. He excels as a leadership mentor, trainer, keynote speaker, and elite development mentor in business and elite sports.

Previously, he served as the Head of Performance Mindset at AFC Wimbledon and Cardiff City FC and also worked with the England U15 National Squad. With a background as a former footballer at Brighton and Hove Albion FC, Steve’s passion for education and sport is evident.

In this chat, we spoke about emotional intelligence, how to lead high-performing teams and self awareness.

Want to learn more? You can read or listen to our chat with Steve Sallis on YouTube, Spotify, Listen Notes, or Player FM. It’s also available anywhere you listen to your favourite podcasts via Buzzsprout.

Authored by Steve Sallis, Founder of Solutions Mindset.

There is a crucial connection between personal growth, emotional intelligence, and the success of leaders and teams. In my line of work, I see many leaders prioritise profit over people development, but what if we flipped the script? What if we recognised that a happy individual outside of work brings that happiness into the workplace? It’s important to explore how creating a culture that values personal growth and emotional intelligence can unlock the potential for not just professional success, but also more fulfilling lives.

The importance of emotional intelligence
Being a great leader should mean having strong emotional intelligence (EQ) as the baseline. While people are growing more aware of EQ in the workplace, we still see many leaders failing to show self-awareness, empathy, and other behaviours associated with high EQ. It’s an ongoing problem that needs attention. By making self-awareness a priority, both within your team and yourself, you can create a culture that promotes real growth and development.

I’m sure many of us today recognise the importance of showing vulnerability in leadership. We know the value in admitting when we’re wrong or don’t have all the answers and are open to seeking help. While, of course, I agree with this, I want to highlight the role EQ plays in this. It’s important to share vulnerability selectively only with people who have high EQ, as those with low EQ may see it as a weakness and take advantage of it. In order to get vulnerability from your team, you have to give vulnerability, but first, we need to build our people’s EQ. Without strong EQ and mutual understanding among your team members, nothing else is going to work.

Moreover, having high levels of self-awareness and EQ makes it easier to navigate mistakes and manage crises effectively. I see so many businesses where those who are responsible for crisis management are often experiencing their own internal crises and can’t remain calm under pressure. It’s a case of “people see, people do”. By modelling the right behaviour, you set an example for others to follow.

It’s a bit like the chicken and egg question: Does culture create good people, or do people create a good culture? This is a complex question, but it underscores the need for leaders to build an environment that values emotional intelligence and personal growth. When you possess high self-awareness and can handle your internal challenges, you’re better equipped to handle workplace crises and exhibit the behaviour you want to see in your team. Instead of reacting impulsively to mistakes or setbacks, people with developed EQ can remain calm under pressure, make informed decisions, and find effective solutions.

What is self-awareness?
Self-awareness is all about how you act, interact, and react in different situations. It means recognising how your actions, behaviours, vocabulary, and tone of voice impacts your connection with others. It’s about having emotional control and being aware of your own emotions. In the workplace, self-awareness also means knowing what you know and what you don’t know and being able to delegate tasks to those who are better suited. Sometimes, being self-aware as a leader means putting your ego aside and knowing when to ask for help.

The idea of “behaviour for learning” is commonly used in education, but can also be applied to the business world. We need to realise how our behaviour affects others’ learning and well-being in order to create a supportive work environment. I often tell people, “When I’m at my worst, just know that I still care about you.” This reminds them that even when I have emotional setbacks, I’m always aware my behaviour may impact their learning. So behaviour for learning is key, but, unfortunately, I don’t see many people having these conversations. It always comes back to having a high-level EQ. By openly communicating our intentions and acknowledging our mistakes, we can maintain positive relationships.

Sadly, emotional intelligence is often overlooked in performance management processes, despite its huge influence on overall success. How can we start having these productive conversations and foster a sense of psychological safety in our team?

Tools for boosting your EQ
As humans, we can grow and evolve. To develop emotional intelligence and self-awareness, personal growth and continuous learning are key. But there’s no one size fits all approach. I can give you a toolbox of techniques to enhance your emotional intelligence, but ultimately, you get to decide what works for you and let go of what doesn’t.

Firstly, make time for self-reflection and introspection. By looking within, you can uncover your values and life purpose, which will guide you towards a more meaningful life. When interacting with others, just be kind and empathetic because everyone’s behaviours and actions are shaped by their own life experiences. And as leaders, it’s then our responsibility to provide support and guidance to those who may not have had the opportunity to develop empathy and understanding.

I’ve found writing can be a therapeutic activity that allows for self-expression and exploration of thoughts and emotions. Reading widely and seeking knowledge will give you more options and a broader perspective. Luckily, with social media, we don’t have to learn purely through books. We have modern forms of learning, with platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and social media to help gain new skills and promote personal growth.

Leading a high-performing team
Each person sees the world differently, and when building a great team, it’s important to consider each individual’s unique lens. Embrace and acknowledge diverse perspectives, regardless of factors like race, beliefs, inclusion, or diversity. This appreciation for diversity within the team is crucial.

Emotional intelligence is not complicated; it’s like the law of attraction. Treating others with love and respect tends to elicit the same response, while negativity tends to attract negativity. With high emotional intelligence, we remember that not everyone has the same background or support system, so it’s important to be respectful and understanding of each person’s unique perspective.

It’s also crucial to emphasise that work is work and life is life. By distinguishing between professional and personal matters, misunderstandings can be avoided. Every conversation I have between 9 am and 5 pm is always professional, never personal. Make sure your team understands that feedback or criticism pertains to the work itself, not personal judgments.

Communication and conflict
Growing up as the son of a plumber, I witnessed my dad on construction sites making sure that everyone involved in the project was on the same page. Alignment is key. When it comes to communication, you have to be mindful of how your words are perceived and interpreted. People come from diverse backgrounds, and their experiences shape the meanings they assign to words. To communicate successfully, we need to establish a shared understanding and align our meanings to avoid misunderstandings.

Empathy also plays a major role in resolving conflicts and promoting effective communication. Being empathetic means being sensitive to others’ viewpoints and respecting their perspectives. Some individuals may have experienced trauma or struggle with expressing their emotions, which leads them to avoid conflict. But if we approach conflicts with kindness and understanding, we can find solutions that respect everyone’s backgrounds and viewpoints.

Resolving conflicts within teams requires a strategic approach. The Betari Box concept teaches us how our mindset affects our behaviour toward others, which in turn affects their mindset and behaviour. We should exhibit positive behaviours and attitudes if we want them to be mirrored. Understanding group dynamics is also crucial. According to the Tuckman model, conflicts often pop up in the storming phase when egos start to show and differences surface. But with high emotional intelligence, conflicts can be effectively resolved, leading to a high-performing team.

Last but certainly not least, apologising and acknowledging mistakes is a powerful tool for resolving conflicts and promoting effective communication. Saying “I’m sorry” shows humility and taking responsibility for our actions. It demonstrates that we value our relationships and are willing to address any harm caused. In the complex world of work, where conflicts can and will arise, never underestimate the power of apology.

The link between personal growth, emotional intelligence, and leadership success can’t be underestimated! When leaders prioritise their own development while creating a culture that values EQ, they open the doors to both professional success and a more fulfilling life. Practising self-awareness, modelling the right behaviour, and encouraging your team to do the same will create a supportive and high-performing team.

With emotional intelligence, leaders can navigate challenges, manage crises, and make informed decisions. So, let’s reflect on this: Is your emotional intelligence up to scratch?