Five Strategies to Raise Emotional Intelligence: Mastering the Moment, Part One Self-Development

In the last blog I wrote about why you need Emotional Intelligence. In this multi part series we will look at the main strategies and actions to raise your Emotional Intelligence and propel you to be a top performer. These “how to” actions are what most people are interested in after they realize they need Emotional Intelligence.

Mastering the Moment

Your success or under performance all happens in the moment. What is your response in each situation? Is it emotionally intelligent or exceptional or just average? How do you master the moment? The key is consciously mastering your input and output. What data do you get from yourself and others and then how do you proactively respond. Like a musician is your output on pitch, harmonious and hits just the right notes so that it resonates well with your listeners?

The formula for top performance we have been using is: E x I x C.

Empathy x Insight x Clarity = Top 10 % Performance

This first in the series will be on developing your insight, the self actions, while other blogs will explore developing empathy or others actions. These are some of the key actions that I talk about in my corporate training's and executive coaching.

Self Actions

1. Know your strengths and patterns: Do you know what your strengths are? I like Marcus Buckingham’s definition of a strength that is defined about what gives you energy. You move through three emotional states: Go, flow and glow.

Go: Before the activity there is a positive anticipation about it. It stirs up energy for you. There is also a release of dopamine when you are anticipating a positive activity. Flow: During the activity you are in state “flow” like athletes speak about. Time may slow down for you and you are very present and energized by the activity. You are in your “sweet spot.” Glow: After the activity you have a warm feeling and are energized with the “glow” from your performance.

Actions: Take a strength survey like Strength Finder, 2.0 from Gallup, Values In Action from, Emotional Quotient Inventory, (EQi, 2.0) or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Write down at the end of the day what activities you felt most energized or passionate about. How can you use these strengths even more or “dial up” these behaviors? Can you “build and broaden” these strengths to new areas, using Barbara Fredrickson’s terms. You are introverted can you have more one on one meetings than group meetings? People trust you can you use that strength more in resolving conflict with others?

2. Know your Success in Excess: One of the easiest assessments to correct or modify is when you are overusing a strength. A strength works for you but do you know the times you are doing it too much? We all do it; it works so we keep doing it. When working with executives I ask them are they aware of when they have “crossed over” the fine line of using their strength too much. These are times when they need to “dial down” this behavior. If you are aware of this success in excess it may only 1-2 times out of 10 that you need to do something different. It is a “micro-initiative”, small action with a big payoff.

Actions: Write down some of your key strengths on a piece of paper. Draw a line 2/3 over from top to bottom. (See below) Write weakness at the top of this third. Write your strength on the left and then how does it transform when used too much on the right. What have others said about you or what are their reactions when you do it too much. An initiator becomes too pushy or overbearing; a verbal leader talks too much and doesn’t get input from others or becomes boring. You have to “dial down” this behavior. Are you aware of the cues when you have crossed over and what do you need to do differently?

Strength Weakness

Initiator Pushy, overbearing

Very verbal Talks too much, lack of input

from others, boring

3. Know your triggers: The quickest way someone can derail and undermine their career is by a lack of impulse control. In less than five seconds an action or really reaction can display your poor leadership. This is the opposite of mastering the moment, more destroying the moment. You can snap at a person, send off the scathing email, not listen, ignore or constantly interrupt others, act in an insensitive way to others or be married solely to your ideas. Most of our reactions come from a lack of awareness and being on auto pilot. It is imperative you know what situations or cues have you undermining your best efforts.

Actions: Examine and deconstruct the last time you lost it. What caused you to get so upset? What behaviors of others got under skin? What happened if you were dissatisfied with your own efforts? What were you thinking and feeling before you lost it? If you don’t know this you are doomed to repeat it.

4. Manage your self talk: All of us talk to ourselves as much 50,000 sentences a day. As you think about your running dialogue or story are most of these thoughts positive or negative? If you are like most of us it is more negative than positive and again happens out of our awareness.

We unconsciously evaluate our actions harshly, too harshly, and ask bad questions. Like an "internal google search" we search with really bad questions, “How could I be so stupid?” Why is everyone getting this quicker than I am?” “When am I finally going to get this together?” Then we get the bad answers as a result, such as: “Remember how I failed that test in grammar school, I am just a slow learner, I don’t know if I will ever get it together as good as others.” We take these bad answers we programmed with bad questions as the gospel, versus being more aware and asking better questions to yourself. “What can I learn from this, what do I need to do better next time, what the first step I can take for a better performance?

Turn your beatings into learnings. Better questions get better and more constructive answers.

Actions: Are you more on your case or on your side? Has it been helpful for you to beat yourself up so much? How do you catch yourself quicker when on your case and redirect it faster? Look at this past blog for more strategies, and read the chapter on Confidence in Leading with Emotional Intelligence.

5. Accept first versus judge: Another strategy to help you be more on your side and others side is to catch yourself judging others and instead just accept it and them for what it is. Typically people are not consciously trying to irritate you. They are doing the best they can and often aren’t aware of what you want or expected. They are in their own world and unaware of you.

From attribution theory we know we attribute negative causation to them versus accepting them, exploring and giving them the benefit of the doubt initially. You can always judge them when you have substantial evidence that they really messed up.

Our quick knee jerk judging is a self-protective mechanism to protect or prepare ourselves from the worst. It can quickly take us down the road of “stinkin thinkin” about others

Actions: Give people the benefit of the doubt. Explore your assumptions before believing your assumptions. Is this judgement really true, what is my proof, what else could be going on? These are all better questions than quickly judging.

See the next blog for developing others actions.

In Leading with Emotional Intelligence there are over 100 strategies that leaders can do to increase and sustain their performance. A few micro initiatives can have a macro impact. For free EI tools go to:


Buckingham, M. (2005) One Thing You

Need to Know. New York: Free Press.

Fredrickson, B. (2009) Positivity .New York: Crown Publishers

Gallup Company, Gallup Management Journal,

Nadler, R. (2011) Leading with Emotional Intelligence: Strategies for Building Confidant and Collaborative Star Performers NY: McGraw-Hill

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Relly Nadler, educated as a clinical psychologist, has become a world-class executive coach, corporate trainer and author. He is the president and CEO True North Leadership, Inc. an Executive and Organizational Development firm, and offers his unique training materials that integrate the two leading and most-respected EI models from Drs. Daniel Goleman and Reuven Bar-On. In 1985, Bar-On created the term EQ as opposed to IQ. Later, in 1995, Goleman popularized emotional intelligence with his book, Emotional Intelligence.

Dr. Nadler has coached CEOs, presidents and their staffs, developed and delivered innovative leadership programs for organizations including Anheuser-Busch, BMW, EDS, MCI, Danone Water Products, and Driscoll. He has created and facilitated team trainings for DreamWorks Animation, Comerica Bank, America Honda and General Motors Defense. He is recognized around the world for his expertise in linking experiential learning and Emotional Intelligence to business objectives.

Dr. Nadler has recently launched his new eiLearning modules where you’ll get specific tips to immediately apply at work and help you improve your leadership performance, starting with a series of 3 free videos. Don't miss out today!