YNPN Activate!: Bringing Emotional Intelligence into the Workplace

As someone who is easily paralyzed by FOMO (fear of missing out), the bevy of options for conference attendees at this year’s annual YNPN Activate! Summit in Portland, OR, was a nightmare! I ultimately decided to attend a deep dive session entitled “Leading with Emotional Intelligence,” led by longtime nonprofit leader Signe Bishop. I walked away with some incredible, applicable skills!

I work in very collaborative environments and am a new manager, both at my day job and on the YNPN Boston Board. So when I read the description for this session — “Leaders with high emotional intelligence (EQ) are some of the best people to work with; they project confidence, are self-aware, understand what motivates others, and are effective collaborators and team members” — I was hooked! Here’s what I learned:

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Bishop defined EQ as “the ability to consciously and proactively seek to understand and manage the emotional states of self and others in a positive manner” (adapted from Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves).

Why does Emotional Intelligence Matter?

We then discussed why should we care about EQ. Why can’t we all just come in, get our work done, and go home again, without any of this touchy-feely (or, as Bishop put it, “squishy”) stuff? When you think about it however, we probably spend more time at work than anywhere else, and we humans are a squishy, complicated species.

Also, at any organization, our people are our most valuable asset. Given that we spend so much time at work with our many squishy colleagues, EQ can contribute to the development of positive interpersonal relationships and a happier workplace environment. Organizationally, having strong EQ leaders and staff also builds a more motivated, effective, and committed workforce.

Improving your Emotional Intelligence Skills

Thankfully, EQ skills can be learned, since improving your EQ is all about habit development.  The four core EQ components are outlined below.


Perception “What I Notice”

Behavior “What I Do”

Personal Competence

(Your ability to stay aware of your emotions and manage your behaviors/tendencies)

SELF-AWARENESS: Your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen. SELF-MANAGEMENT: Your ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behavior.

Social Competence

(Your ability to understand others’ moods, behavior, and motives to improve the quality of your relationships)

SOCIAL AWARENESS: Your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on. RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT: Your ability to use awareness of your emotions and others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully.

(adapted from Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves)

We also discussed some great tips for improving your EQ across these four areas:

React, then respond:

People are bound to say things or act in ways that trigger you. While you don’t necessarily have control over how you react to things internally, you do have control over how you respond externally. One approach to help you respond with intentionality is to buy yourself some time after reacting to something triggering by taking a breath, asking people “Can I take time to process this?”,  or signposting — naming what’s happening by saying “I’m feeling ____” or “I’m noticing _____” — before you respond. Employing these techniques can help you manage your initial reactions so that when you respond to a situation, you are doing so purposefully, rather than letting your initial reaction spill over.

Observe your emotions:

We experience something in the neighborhood of 2,000 emotions per day, and by recognizing and naming your emotions, you can notice their ripple effect and understand who and what pushes your buttons. You can even use a mood meter app to develop this skill—or an old-fashioned journal! When you recognize an emotion, don’t judge yourself; deciding your emotions are “good” or “bad” can make it harder to respond as your best self. Self-judgment interferes with your ability to truly track the impact of your emotions on yourself and others.

Be transparent about interpersonal interactions:

Allow team members to call a “process check” or a “vibes check” (or even assign someone to this role), to name if group dynamics seem off. Ask about your supervisor’s, employees’, and/or teammates’ pet peeves so that you can steer clear of them. Find creative and fun shorthands for acknowledging and expressing emotions with others; for example, one YNPN chapter leader said that she and her boss joke about their “inner snark monster” rearing its ugly head. This shorthand can allow people to acknowledge challenging emotions while defusing the tensions they can create in the workplace.

I came back from Activate! Summit incredibly jet-lagged but excited to use this newfound knowledge to develop my EQ skills, in order to improve my performance and relationships with others, both at work and at YNPN Boston. Relationship is so crucial in the workplace; if you’re able to use EQ to improve your interpersonal interactions, help a team function more effectively, and motivate and encourage others, your leadership potential will soar.

Additional EQ Resources

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves

Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups” by Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff

"Ground Rules for Effective Teams” by Robert Schwarz

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen


Alicia Ridenour is the Director of Board Talent & Recruitment at YNPN Boston. By day, she works as the Associate Director of Sole Train: Boston Runs Together, a program of Trinity Boston Foundation.


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.