First manage yourself, then manage others

A client of mine lost her temper with her assistant. She was stressed and tired, and, sooner or later, it was bound to show in her behaviour. As lost tempers go it probably wasn’t very high up the scale – it was more of a momentary lapse of control, a sharp word, some cynicism, a snarl.

But the damage had been done. Months of building a working relationship had been destroyed.

What a waste!

Many people are elevated to be managers without proper training. And, much of what managers are taught is designed to help them direct and support their staff, to motivate staff and bring about effective and productive working. Little or no attention is paid to the skills managers need to manage themselves!

A manager’s emotions can have a profound impact on staff morale, working relationships, and ultimately productivity.  Think about how you have been managed or want to be managed – remember the difference between being managed by someone who is happy or sad, passive or aggressive, resistant or compliant, supportive or indifferent.

Understanding emotions, knowing how and why they ‘happen’, how they affect behaviour and relations with others, is an essential skill for a good manager. One way of improving this skill is offered by the concept of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is ‘the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions’. The American psychologist Daniel Goleman has developed the concept in relation to work and working with others. Goleman proposes that we should have two broad sets of competencies – personal competencies through which we manage ourselves, and social competencies through which we handle relationships with others.


These are Goleman’s suggested competencies for a manager/leader.

Personal competences – self-awareness and self-management

Emotional self-awareness – the ability to recognize our emotions as well as understand their impact on our behaviour, relationships etc.

Accurate self-assessment – a realistic evaluation of our strengths and limitations.

Self-confidence – a strong and positive sense of self-worth.

Self-control – the ability to keep destructive emotions under control.

Trustworthiness – a consistent display of honesty and integrity.

Conscientiousness – the ability to manage ourselves and our responsibilities.

Adaptability – skill at adjusting to changing situations.

Social competences – social awareness and social skill

Empathy – skill at sensing other people’s emotions, understanding their perspective, and taking an active interest in their concerns.

Organisational awareness – the ability to read the currents of organisational life, and navigate workplace politics.

Developing others – the ability and propensity to improve the skills of others through feedback and guidance.

Communications – skill at listening and at sending clear, convincing and well-tuned messages.

Influence – the ability to wield a range of persuasive tactics.

Change catalyst – proficiency in initiating new ideas and leading people in a new direction.

Conflict management – the ability to defuse disagreements and orchestrate resolutions.

Building bonds – proficiency at cultivating and maintaining a network of relationships.

Teamwork and collaboration – competence at promoting co-operation and building teams.


It’s obvious that we all have at least a degree of emotional intelligence – we can sense our own emotions and see emotions in others etc. As a way of improving (we can always improve!) your own emotional intelligence, read through the list again and start to:

  • think about your own level of competence in these areas
  • become aware of some areas where you have competencies you hadn’t noticed, or areas where your competencies need to be improved
  • think about the impact of your emotions on your relationships with people in both your private and work life
  • ask others (staff, colleagues, your own manager, friends and family) for their thoughts.


I run workshops for those new to management or those who have been managers for a while but have never had any proper training. The workshops include an introduction to emotional intelligence. I also deal with emotional intelligence in my one-to-one coaching sessions. For more information email me at or phone 07932 657925.

This list of competences is taken from Daniel Goleman, Leadership That Gets Results, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2000.

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