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How I Built A More Emotionally Intelligent Work Culture Than Me

Source | FastCompany : BY PETER HOLGATE

I’m the first to admit that I’m not always the easiest person to get along with. I can be abrasive. I frequently interrupt and occasionally instigate. I’m often impatient, and bad at reading the room. And while I’m working on all of these habits, they were much worse in my salad says. (I wince to report that I quit my last corporate job by telling my boss to “go fuck himself.”)

Popular wisdom used to be that tendencies like these are nothing to worry about. Some of society’s most famous leaders were notorious assholes. Take the late Steve Jobs, whose innovative and strategic genius is still often conflated with his reputation for tearing employees (not to mention family members) to emotional pieces. More recently, consider Travis Kalanick’s notorious harangue of an Uber driver earlier this year, precipitating his demise as CEO.

But the tide is turning. For one thing, the long and growing list of leaders recently accused of sexual harassment bears a troublingly high proportion of men with reputations for less than empathetic personalities. For some time, though, the world has been waking up to something I’ve always known to be true, if only because, at times, it has made me profoundly uneasy: Emotional intelligence (EI) is the cornerstone of true leadership. There’s a fine line between positive leadership qualities–like decisiveness, passion, and unswerving vision–and being abusive or hurtful to others. It takes emotional intelligence to tell the difference.

Over the years, I’ve consciously worked to get better at recognizing and addressing my own shortcomings in this department. But I’ve also recognized that, to a certain extent, you’re stuck with the personality you’ve got, and the best you can do is play to your strengths and manage your weaknesses. So I made it a priority to build a work culture that doesn’t reflect and magnify the least constructive of my own personality traits. Here are a few ways I’ve tried to create–collaboratively–a workplace that’s more emotionally intelligent than I tend to be.


Personality tests are often dismissed as pointless or airy-fairy. But the reality is we all have blind spots, and self-knowledge can be both eye opening and empowering. The longstanding Myers-Briggs assessment has been called into question by psychologists over the years, yet it’s still used by huge corporations including General Motors and McKinsey. Personally, I’m a fan of an instrument called StrengthsFinder 2.0, which quantifies skill sets into 34 distinct “talent patterns.”

Here at Ronin8, all employees (leadership included) fill out an online questionnaire to determine the areas where they naturally excel. According to StrengthsFinder, I’m good at taking action, making decisions, and seizing command, and not so great at empathizing with others and creating harmony. While this information certainly didn’t come as a shock, seeing it all laid out was sobering. Ignoring my weaknesses was no longer an option.

Read on….

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