Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

Leading with Emotional IntelligenceLeading with Emotional Intelligence

By George Marino CPC, CMMT August 30, 2021

Do you remember something happening to you that you didn’t expect—a surprise and not in a good way? Maybe you passed two parts of the CPA exam and your parents, rather than celebrating with you, questioned you about the other parts you didn’t pass. Or maybe it is something more recent at work when your supervisor berated you for not completing the work within budget. How did you feel? Or the time you were passed over for a promotion or were not asked to join your colleagues for lunch. What emotions came up for you?

Now think about when your child was born or when you met the love of your life. What emotions did you feel then?
A growing body of research has convincingly illustrated that emotional intelligence is essential for leadership. You can see why this is the case as you look around at institutions, businesses, and informal group gatherings. But before anyone can increase their emotional IQ, they first must become emotionally literate. In responding automatically, we often have an opportunity to not only identify the core emotion but also to develop a clear, accurate meaning of what that emotion means to us on an experiential level. In doing so, we can shift what might otherwise be a negative experience into a quality learning opportunity for enhancing our emotional IQ.

Most people struggle with defining their emotions, mostly because it was not taught in school or at home. I like thinking of emotions as the process of energy in motion. At a fundamental level, emotion is energy moving in and out of the body, and feelings are the corresponding physical sensations that come up. Imagine that. Every time you experience an emotion, you feel a sensation in your body (images, sounds, etc.). Thoughts may be present, but not every time. Irritation has a certain sensation, as does shame and anger. Your feelings are these sensations.

In my opinion, understanding this basic definition is vital. If we agree that emotion is energy and feelings are sensations moving through the body, then we can drop binary thinking of good or bad and realize the emotion “it is what it is.” Knowing this and taking it a step further implies that you are no more your emotions than you are your toothache or broken finger.

Next, it is essential to identify the core emotion. Just like molecules are made up of a group of atoms, all emotions come from five primary emotions—fear, anger, joy, sadness, and sexual feelings—each with a unique energy pattern and set of sensations in the body. Underneath these five basic categories are the plethora of sub-emotions. For example, under anger we can include emotions like upset, frustrated, and irritated. I won’t get into all the various combinations and sub-categories here.

It is important to be aware that your feelings are too often repressed in business settings, as they are unfortunately viewed by many as distractions for making good decisions. This reasoning is starting to change as more and more business organizations are placing high priority on conscious leadership and development. In our everyday work, we can lead by example by not only using our mind as the go-to place for solving our work- related problems, but also include our heart center and gut in an integrated mind, body, soul, and spirit connection. Mindfulness is one of the paths that can foster that connection. Mindfulness is the basis for conscious decision making in an empowering way.

In my coaching practice, I like to pause in the conversation and ask my clients, “What are you feeling right now?” This empowering question invites people to stop and take a “look” inside and see what is happening in their heart and gut. This simple noting is more profound than you can imagine. Often, when I ask this question in an executive coaching session, I’ll usually hear something like, “if I do that, I feel that I won’t know who I am anymore,” or “I feel that I am anxious about the results,” or “I have a resignation toward another busy season.”

If you look closely, these honest statements are more like judgments, opinions, or beliefs rather than true feelings. Feelings are followed by one of the five core primary emotions, such as “I feel angry,” “I feel sad,” or “I feel joyful.” Once a client identifies a feeling, then I would ask my client, “Where is that feeling in your body?” This practice takes you out of your head and into your body. Remember, as accountants we often spend much of the day using our analytical minds, so tapping into your body when a feeling comes up shifts your focus from thinking to awareness, which is a core aspect of mindfulness practice. By doing this, you’ll be moving from understanding basic emotions to emotional maturity—a key aspect for success at work and for life in general.

I help people who are struggling at work and life with stress, frustration and overwhelm by helping them break free and live a life they love in a conscious coaching partnership.