How to Unlock Your Career Super-Power, Emotional Intelligence

Regardless of your career path or where you are in your journey along it, emotional intelligence is a crucial life skill that plays a significant role in how effective you will be.

It took us less than 15 seconds to agree, which is remarkable for two independently-minded veteran entrepreneurs to do.  The question posed to us was, “in any organization, no matter how large or how small, what is the most important element for sustaining success?”  No hesitation.  “It’s the people. It’s always the people.”  The other eight heads all nodded in agreement. 

It was the follow-up question that had us stumped: “what determines how successful people will be in performing their jobs in an organization?”  Some of the usual suspects were offered: culture, drive and desire, fit with the job, a good manager… all of these had merit.  But none was the single overwhelming characteristic for success in any role until we all agreed on emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence is a Significant Determinant of Job Success

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is defined as a person’s awareness of, and control over, the emotions and feelings inside themselves, and how to use and guide emotions effectively in interacting with other people.  EQ is both intra-personal (inside the person) and inter-personal (between people), and it is at the heart of who people are.  To learn about more about emotional intelligence, see Emotional Intelligence: Your Career Superpower.

Consider what several acknowledged experts on emotional intelligence say about the relationship between EQ and job performance: 

  • Travis Bradberry, president of TalentSmart and co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0: “EQ is so critical to success that it accounts for 58 percent of performance in all types of jobs. It’s the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence. The link between EQ and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary.”
  • Joshua Freedman, CEO of Six Seconds, a non-profit dedicated to emotional intelligence: “Emotional intelligence is a way of recognizing, understanding, and choosing how we think, feel, and act. It shapes our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. It defines how and what we learn; it allows us to set priorities; it determines the majority of our daily actions. Research suggests it is responsible for as much as 80 percent of the “success” in our lives.”
  • Daniel Goleman, co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations and author of the best-seller, Emotional Intelligence “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

Any way you consider it, EQ will be a critical influencer of your career success and trajectory.

Anyone Can Increase Their Emotional Intelligence

One of the best things about EQ is that anyone can raise their EQ over time. Some of the increase will be as a natural result of maturing. Life and experience both teach us better ways of managing ourselves and relationships with others. Experts who study emotional intelligence point out that EQ tends to rise by how long someone has lived, peaking in the decade between 50 and 60 years of age.

Because EQ can be learned and mastered, it has become one of the hottest personal and professional development areas of the 2020s. And like anything that can be learned and mastered, there are best practices that can make it’s learning more efficient to speed its mastery.

How to Develop Your Own Emotional Intelligence

Based on my work with clients on EQ development over the past decade, these steps have proved to be valuable and effective as part of a best practices approach to raise emotional intelligence:

1. Understand the value you receive when you raise your EQ. By taking the time to consider all the benefits of raising your EQ, you will develop the necessary commitment to making it so. After all, it’s nearly impossible to do anything if we really don’t want to do it. Here are five great questions to answer:

a. In what specific areas would improving your own EQ help you with your current role and planned career?

b. What new opportunities would become open for you if you possessed a higher EQ?

c. How would your personal and professional relationships be impacted by raising your EQ?

d. Would greater EQ provide you with increased happiness, health, or well-being?

e. What impact could a higher EQ have on your near-term financial status?

2. Measure your current EQ. No journey can be undertaken until you know your starting point. It is critical that EQ be properly measured. Most people cannot accurately self-assess their own EQ; if fact, people with the lowest EQ over-assess their own EQ by 50%. There are several ways you can reliably measure your own EQ starting point:

a. EQ assessments – select a reliable instrument that has been thoroughly evaluated for validity, reliability and correlation. Most of the freebies you see online are not certified for reliability, validity, or correlation and consequently may not be of real value.  Some are self-assessments, which are inherently unreliable.  Here is a sample report for the EQ Assessment my organization administers online that has been thoroughly tested and is reliable, valid, and correlated.  

b. 360degree EQ assessments – a 360-degree EQ assessment gathers input about someone’s emotional intelligence based on what different raters observe or experience with the person being evaluated. This provides valuable feedback to help the subject understand how others see him or her applying emotional intelligence. My organization uses a multi-rater 360-version of our individual EQ Assessment, which allows us to benchmark the results for additional insights.  

c. Psychological interviews – psychological interviews to determine EQ are typically conducted face-to-face by a licensed behavioral psychologist and may include written instruments. These are more time-consuming and expensive than the prior options, and EQ may be one of many areas evaluated as part of a comprehensive psychological profile.

3. Fill in your knowledge gaps. There are multiple ways to fill your EQ knowledge gaps, including:

a. Assessment report guidance. The better assessments provide guidance (as part of their report) on specifically what you can do to improve your knowledge and develop your EQ.  For example, take a look at pages 7-11 of the sample report for the EQ Assessment my organization administers to see the practical suggestions keyed to helping the subject take the next steps in developing their EQ. 

b. Reading and viewing. Google “best books on EQ for 202X” to see a current reading list of books suggested by the article.  Do the same for “best 202X articles about EQ” to see a current articles on emotional intelligence.  You can also do the same with videos about EQ.  By keeping your knowledge base growing, you gain more insights that can aid your development.

c. Training and coaching. Quality training programs on developing your emotional intelligence are beginning to emerge.  Depending on the provider these can be taken in traditional classrooms or virtually online, and may be coupled with coaching to help you optimize your development.  By way of example, here are two EQ development courses offered by my organization, one for managers and professionals and one geared towards sales and marketing professionals.  You can see the various topics covered. 

4. Build a self-development plan. One you understand your starting point and can gain knowledge on where and how to fill the gaps, you’re able to put together a professional development plan. An effective plan will consist of actions you should take as part of your everyday routine that are aimed at raising your EQ. Here is the approach I take to building a plan with my coaching clients, which has proven to be quite effective:

a. Your plan can be as simple as a list of the top 8-12 actions you can take to practice high-EQ behaviors, customized to your current work situation and the people with whom you are interacting. You might separate the actions into behaviors you need to do more of, less of, start doing, or stop doing.

b. While you might be able to list hundreds of good practices, focus on only those 8-12 actions that will have the most impact for you. This is a key point: it takes 21 days to acquire a new habit, and 45 days to replace an ineffective habit with an effective one, so the best plans are those which cover a 60-day period which you view multiple times per day to evaluate your progress.

c. At the end of 60 days evaluate whether you’ve mastered some or all the actions on your plan.

d. Using the previous process develop and commence your next 60-day plan. Repeat the process every 60 days. If you master just 8 best practices in every 60-day plan, at the end of one year you’ll have acquired 48 new best practices.

5. Measure and celebrate your progress. Some of my clients re-take the EQ Assessment after a year in a training and coaching program to measure their progress. Others use a 360-degree version to see if others are noticing the improvement. Progress reports can also come in the form of formal and informal feedback from co-workers and people with whom you work. It is important to reward yourself when you successfully complete a 60-day plan!

Bottom Line

Raising your EQ will have a significant impact on the quality of your relationships and interaction with others. It will also significantly increase your lifetime earnings and improve your career trajectory, and could be worth more than $1 million to you over your career. The stakes are significant! The very best time to start is TODAY! So what are you waiting for?

This post is taken from the best practices taught in our internationally acclaimed leadership and sales training programs, Leading Through People 18, Leading With Emotional Intelligence and B2B Sales Essentials 15 – Selling With Emotional Intelligence.

I love working with people and organizations who want to improve their effectiveness! Here are several outstanding resources that can help you and your organization to go to the next level:

I work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. I also help job seekers, higher ed, and employers connect people to better jobs faster. My two books on job search ( help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


Latest Leadership Posts


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 5 Continue Reading


The Seven Essential Soft Skills of Highly Effective Salespeople Continue Reading


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 4 Continue Reading