Emotional Intelligence in Leadership


Leadership is generally challenging, requiring as it does constant adjustment to a changing and often ambiguous environment. The bar is set considerably higher for those with a lower than average emotional intelligence quotient, (EQ). An impressively high intelligence quotient or IQ can only take you so far – if you can’t bring others along with you on the journey, a lynchpin of leadership, you are unlikely to succeed as a leader – emotional intelligence is the critical difference.

In a recent article by the hugely interesting Dr Travis Bradberry listed Eleven Signs You Lack Emotional Intelligence; to summarise the key elements: –

  • You are easily stressed
  • You find it difficult to recognise and describe your emotions
  • You don’t know your triggers
  • You are easily offended
  • You don’t get angry
  • You find it difficult to assert yourself
  • You come to assumptions quickly and defend them vehemently
  • You hold grudges
  • You hold on to mistakes
  • You feel misunderstood



If, like almost 50% of the population, your EQ is lower than average, or indeed, if you score well and simply want to improve your ability to understand and connect with others, the good news is that our emotional intelligence is not fixed – recognising one’s low EQ is the first step in taking action improve it, become a better leader and probably get more out of life generally.

Here are some tips to improving your EQ: –


  1. Recognise and name your emotions

Instead of suppressing your emotions become aware of the way you are feeling – acknowledge it to yourself and namethe emotion – “I feel angry/frustrated/upset/excited” – by doing this we improve our self-knowledge, are better able to recognise feelings in others and understand better the messages we might be sending out.


  1. Know your triggers

Observe the things that create an emotional response within you. Once we are aware of our triggers we can anticipate our knee-jerk reaction and be aware that we might be about to react illogically/inappropriately. This gives us extra time to consider what reaction, (if any) serves us best in the current situation.


  1. Engage fully

Pay full attention to others in your interactions. Stephen Covey came up with the adage “listen to understand” – what marvellous advice! Too often we are waiting to the opportunity jump in with what we have to say, instead of concentrating on what is being said. In this way we fail to appreciate the full content the other person is trying to express. We are most of us guilty at some point of failing to be fully present in an exchange – perhaps checking a text message, thinking of the next thing on our agenda or even thinking we know what is about to be said. By giving our full attention not only do we actually understand more, but we make the other person feelunderstood, which builds trust leading to greater disclosure and therefore better co-operation/team working.

When delivering, think about your message from the perspective of your audience and frame your points in a way that can be understood by them – what is their preferred style – direct/with humour/high level/detailed? If someone likes a high level outline, you are unlikely to reach him/her if you dive straight into the detail – a little like speaking Swahili to an Italian speaker – they simply won’t understand.


  1. Develop a sense of curiosity and suspend judgment

Curiosity is a playful and joyous thing – it leads us to wisdom. Rather than assuming that you recognise the situation and therefore know the answer, be open-minded and think through what the underlying causes/motivations/triggers might be. This applies to both seemingly positive and negative situations – some we might wish to replicate, while being curious about the negative might help us to prevent such episodes in the future.

By judging too quickly we miss a huge opportunity, as we are foregoing some of the relevant information available to us – we are making up our minds with only half of the story. Equally, if we feel judged we tend to be defensive – the death knell of expansive thinking and creativity. Being quick to judge ourselves is also damaging – be curious about your own motivations (and triggers) and thus receptive to new and innovative ways of doing and thinking.


  1. Be aware of your biases

Sadly, we all have biases – some conscious, some not; in both cases we are choosing to see only part of the picture and closing down possibilities. Look for your own biases, and also ask for feedback – “was I being fair/did I miss something relevant/how else might I have approached that situation”.As always with feedback, it should be specific and constructive – “you did quite well” is of no use to anyone, “what specifically was good and what aspects could I have been better?” Encourage others to be honest with themselves about their biases – this should be done gently, for example, by asking what evidence brings them to their conclusion. This is not a point scoring exercise – it this is your motivation for asking then please keep your enquiry to yourself.


  1. Keep a Reflective Learning Journal

Call it what you will – reflective learning journal/diary/notebook/brain dump – but keep a record – commit your inner thoughts and observations to paper (or digitally, if you prefer). The act of writing slows our brains down and helps us to process our thoughts with fewer interruptions from within our own heads. It also allows us to be open and honest with ourselves and provides a record to which we can return.

This record is simply a repository for your thoughts. It is entirely private, (helping you to be open and honest with yourself). It is a ‘book’ dedicated to this purpose alone – it is not the next page in your general notepad – this is an important record; treat it like treasure. It also comes with an appointment to engage with it on a regular basis – at least once a week, (by preference a few minutes each day) reflect on what has happened, how it came about and how you have reacted, concluding with what you learnt.



First Steps

I acknowledge that there is a lot to take in, this is a journey – do not attempt all six steps at once. Instead start by finding yourself a reflective learning journal – a private place to record your observations, thoughts and plans. Be it physical or electronic, it is for your eyes only, so you can be be entirely open and honest with yourself. Your first entries should name the emotions you have been feeling and if possible the triggers. Move on to point 3 once you have master this.

Next month I will write a little about getting the most from your reflective learning journal, but please don’t wait until then, make a start, experiment and see how you get on – remember, perfection is the enemy of good, take that first step and learn as you go.






About the Author: Fran McArthur is a coach, trainer, action learning facilitator, and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of £1 – 10m turnover and who wish to effect positive change, particularly those making a positive impact on the environment . She collaborates to help them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach

Your can contact her at

enquiries @yibp.co.uk  or 07789 520205

Speaking Out

“What I most regretted were my silences….And there are so may silences to be broken”  Andre Lorde

The theme of my previous blog The Sound of Silence was an appreciation of silence as an opportunity to reflect on life from the quiet sanctuary of one’s unspoken thoughts. Nevertheless, we should be in no doubt that there are occasions when speaking out is the right thing to do; when to be silent is to be complicit in wrongdoing.

American writer Rebecca Solnit says in her latest book The Mother of All Questions “silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard”.

Think about your values – those you hold to be right or wrong – and speak out about them. Speaking out really does change or even save lives – perhaps your own if, say, you are a victim of abuse. Speak out to help change other people’s lives as well. Remember the 1980s campaigns to raise awareness of AIDS and, more recently, campaigns that challenged society’s tolerance of sexual harassment or the safety of children in school. The social media hashtags #MeToo and #MarchForOurLives have amplified our voices and strengthened our hope that change can happen when we have the courage to speak out.

But none of this is new. In 2018, we are celebrating the brave, courageous work of the Suffragists and Suffragettes who, 100 years ago, refused to be silent. They won the right for women to get the vote – an important victory in a battle that is not yet over – and we, in turn, must continue to speak out for women’s right to be equal.

Those of you in Manchester, or visiting, might like to check out these fascinating exhibitions at the Manchester Art Gallery – Annie Swynnerton: Painting Light & Hope and Sylvia Pankhurst: Working Women . I am sure you will find them inspiring.

So, what do you speak out about? What will you speak out about?



Rachel is a business & educational psychologist. After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.

Positive Feedback – Praise More

“With no feedback, no coaching, there’s just no way to improve.”

Bill Gates

I have worked in businesses where there was no feedback and in others where feedback came only when things went wrong: they were run on confusion and fear. They were going nowhere fast and their people were neither happy nor successful. Yet the power of feedback to improve performance is demonstrable.

Researcher Ayelet Fishbach suggests that positive feedback increases people’s confidence, gives them belief that they can achieve their goals and encourages them to pursue them with more motivation. Even more, a positive feedback loop* can develop, whereby feedback leads to success in one’s goals, which, in turn, feeds satisfaction, leading to higher goal-setting and heightened motivation to achieve more – and so on. The reverse can occur, however, if a person receives only negative feedback.

But there is a potential feedback trap, as Carol Dweck explains fully in her recently updated book Mindset. Feedback should not be about praising a person’s innate intelligence or ability, as this does not foster self-belief; on the contrary, it can lead to complacency and aversion to risk-taking. Consequently, full potential is neither striven for nor achieved. It is, therefore, “curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not”. (Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and author). Positive feedback is essential to encourage those who are not succeeding and it can take the form of praising determination and/or appropriate procedure. In failure, this is a very encouraging and constructive form of feedback: praising effort and process leads to a lifelong love of learning, builds resilience and enables greater accomplishments in all areas.

This YouTube clip is a short and effective way to illustrate this positive praise approach –“growth mindset” – Carol Dweck – A Study on Praise and Mindsets.

With so much negativity surrounding us, looking for the positive and celebrating it will help us all be more motivated, more resilient and more productive. So let’s seek out every opportunity to see the good and praise it, in our students, in our staff and in our colleagues – wherever it occurs. Make it about energy, exertion, struggle, progression, development and method. And as a regular accompaniment thank you goes down well too.

Thank you.


*(Ellen Winner 1996).


Rachel is a business & educational psychologist. After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.

Willpower = Achievement?

One in four new year resolutions fail by January 8th.

Despite what we were told, it seems that willpower is not the golden bullet for getting things done we thought. According to research by Professor David Desteno, (professor of psychology at Northeastern University, USA) rather than driving us to achievement, willpower is actually quite toxic, it creates stress and has long-term negative health outcomes. Remember that child who deferred the gratification of eating one marshmallow now, by waiting patiently to be given two? She seems destined not only for higher long- term earnings, but also for a stress-related coronary!


What is the learning from this? Apparently the solution is not to live a life of complete hedonism, living for the moment with no thought for the future; instead it is to be social in our endeavours. This means working as and for a group or team, rather than for your own ends. Why so? It turns out that we are able to defer gratification and dig deep in our reserves much more easily and with much less stress when we do so with feelings of compassion for others and with pride. Doing something in and for the group is actually easier and more successful than following our individual goals. Working together has the natural pay-off of security, which for social beings like us humans, who rely on others for our survival, is a fundamental need. Doing things for others has a reward in and of itself, as well as driving us on.


Whoever your team is, make sure you plan together, and for the good of the whole; this way you will enjoy a much higher probability of success without the emotional grunt work required for solitary pursuits.



The Author

Fran McArthur is a coach, trainer, action learning facilitator and non-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives who lead organisations with a turnover of up to £10 million or less than 100 employees, and who wish to effect positive change, particularly in the environmental sector. She collaborates to help them achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach.

You can contact her at

enquiries@yibp.co.uk  or  07789520205


Combat Loneliness with Kindness

Loneliness is a very harmful condition and, unfortunately for all of us, it is on the increase. Here are some facts, established by researchers.

  • Loneliness In England blights the lives of 700,000 men and 1.1m women
  • It is reaching epidemic proportions among young people
  • It is a great affliction for older people
  • It is twice as deadly as obesity
  • It is as potent a cause of death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • Dementia, high blood pressure, alcoholism, accidents depression, paranoia, anxiety and suicide are all more prevalent amongst lonely people
  • The cost to employers is estimated at £2.5bn a year
  • At least 1 in 10 people attending family doctors say they are lonely
  • Loneliness increases risk of an early death by 26%
  • Britain is the loneliness capital of Europe

George Monbiot, the writer known for his environmental and political activism, calls this the “Age of Loneliness” and reminds us that early humans had to depend on each other for their very existence, whereas today we live more and more apart. He concludes that we are naturally social creatures and we cannot cope alone. (See the age of loneliness is killing us.)

As society changes, as we age and as our loved ones die, we can all expect to experience loneliness at some time. However, we can and must take steps to recover from it. One way to do this is to be kind to others. Kindness – the embodiment of empathy – is a way of reaching out and, in so doing, making contact with other people who may need help just as much as you do.
Here are some other practical steps to combat loneliness:

Talk about your feelings. Loneliness isn’t your fault and there are people there to offer support. Your GP is a good person to start with and there are phone lines such as SupportLine for children and young adults, or The Silver Line for folk aged 55 or over.
Do something new. Meet people and rejuvenate your curiosity for life by becoming proactive in a new interest. Men’s Shed, for example, is a great place for older men to meet and work on practical projects together.
Contribute. Identify a cause that interests you, find a group of like-minded people and volunteer. It could mean joining community gardening group, or setting up an initiative, like the Rural Coffee Caravan, or taking part in a telephone-based book group.
Phone a friend. Approach positively someone you’ve not seen for a while – chat and suggest meeting up ‘I was thinking of you and let’s grab coffee…’. You might find a warmer welcome than you expected.

One of my favourite psychologists, Guy Winch, talks movingly – and entertainingly – about loneliness in his TED presentation The Case for Emotional Hygiene . I recommend you check it out for inspiration and guidance.

I’m off to phone a friend or two – how about you?


Rachel is a business & educational psychologist.  After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation.  Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. 

Keep trotting on…

‘Life always begins with one step outside of the comfort zone’ Shannon L Alder

During my workshops, we talk a lot about stepping out of your comfort zone to enable learning and To Be The Best You Can Be and for those of us, particularly, who dare to coach, this process really ought to be ceaseless.  We need to get our fix of ‘new stuff’ by reading, observing, attending and participating in experiences of all kinds, learning and making notes so that we can review, reflect and modify our behaviour.  And although our ‘new stuff’ may be mostly cerebral, it is also worth challenging ourselves physically from time to time.  Physicality may be outside your comfort zone but it has a mental component as well: remember that the most successful athletes get to the top by using minds as well as their bodies.

Last week I found myself in a field in Yorkshire with three other people and a horse called Billy participating in a coaching session.  Heidi – horse lover and founder of Glint – has developed coaching based around interaction with horses, a fun, effective and proven alternative to traditional coaching, therapy and learning.  Being so up close and personal with a horse is certainly outside my comfort zone, but the reward I experienced made it worthwhile.  All the participants agreed that there was no hiding your feelings from Billy – he picked up all our emotions instinctively and used them to gauge us and react accordingly.  It was a wonderfully rich learning experience.

As  I am sure many of you know, it takes bravery to step out of your comfort zone; it can be risky and failure might be part of the process.  But when change becomes a habit it becomes part of your identity – and indeed, part of your workplace team’s identity.  A culture of change and learning is an exciting place to be.

So when did you last step out of your comfort zone?

And a couple of relevant TED talks to check out – Caroline Paul encouraging girls in particular to partake in risky play To Raise Girls Encourage Adventure.  And Richard St John’s top talk Success is a Continuous Journey.


Rachel is a business & educational psychologist.  After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation.  Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. 

Pay It Forward

‘Those best parts of life: little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love’ William Wordsworth

One of my favourite films is Pay It Forward (2000), in which the teacher sets eleven year old Trevor the task of devising a way to make the world a better place.  He comes up with the idea of helping others and encouraging them to do likewise in turn, thereby paying kindness forward. The unexpected bonus was that the giver of kindness gets to feel good as well.

I too have found that by choosing to help others – even in very small ways – a by-product of happiness is generated for me.  This was evident when, as was one of many in the Big Sister mentoring programme supporting teenage girls (some of you reading this were involved – and some still are) we were surprised by how much we gained from it too. Each one of the brilliant volunteers got involved for altruistic reasons – the wanting to give back – but it felt like magic was at play.

Bren Bataclan in his TED talk Kindness Can Truly Be Paid Forward speaks about the life changing impact – turning around his life from one of redundancy to one of permanent fulfilment – created by a simple act of generosity: he gave away his paintings, bringing happiness and hope to many, including himself.

An Australian outfit the wakeupproject has created some kindness cards to act as prompts to remind you to help others regularly – buy someone a coffee, leave some flowers on a colleague’s desk – all done anonymously, while leaving a card to ask them to do the same for someone else.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a world of givers where this is the norm?

Are you a giver or a taker is the question Adam Grant explores in a TED talk. He promotes the idea that ‘the most meaningful way to succeed is to help others succeed’ and includes a test you can take to see whether you are a giver or a taker.

So are you a giver or taker?



Rachel is a business & educational psychologist.  After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation.  Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. 

Building Resilient Teams

Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity – VUCA – is an acronym that was adopted by the military back in the 1990s to describe certain conflict situations. However, when I came across it recently, I thought how well it could apply to the lives of many ordinary working people who navigate such conditions daily.

Whether 2017 is more VUCA than other times is questionable but, in the education and business sectors in which I work, leaders perceive that their situations are becoming ever more demanding.   The ones that survive – or thrive, even – are the ones that support, trust and make their teams feel safe despite the ‘scary stuff’ around them.  They retain their best people and attract great new people to join them. The key to their success is that they practice resilience in the face of adversity and are able to inspire that same quality in their teams.  They build resilient teams.

How do they do it? Three resilience-building strategies that I have seen work very well are:

  • Well-being. Check in on yourself and others to ensure that you get enough sleep and exercise. Also, encourage healthy eating: a fruit bowl is a small presence in the room but a BIG sign of intention.
  • Mindfulness. Slow down and take notice of responses; pause long enough to consider alternative actions; steer away from automatic pilot mode. Calmness in thinking and decision-making sets the tone.
  • Sociability. Work with people who share the same values as you and that you enjoy spending time with. Be sure to schedule in down time to play and have fun together.

One of my favourite psychologists, Simon Sinek, talks about great leaders being like great parents – ones  that make you feel safe  – allowing their team to try new things, fail, get support, try again and succeed in the end. Check out his TED talk on the subject.

In addition, Daniel Kahnemann’s bestseller Thinking Fast and Slow is a serious and very powerful proposition: it will change the way you think!


Rachel is a business & educational psychologist. After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.

What Is Action Learning?

Action Learning Sets are one of those concepts that we think we know about, but when we really think about it we are often a bit vague – this in turn suggests that the benefits are also poorly understood. It was with this in mind that I recently ran an Action Learning Set for a mixed group as a demonstration of the value in creating new and deeper thinking among the set members.


The room had its fair share of sceptics, added to which we were in a false situation, in that we effectively had an audience, which does little to engender the safe, trusted space needed for truly creative thinking; but not to be defeated we pressed ahead.

The set was made up of eight volunteers – in my opinion the maximum number for an effective set – facilitated by myself and observed by a further dozen or so people. We sat in a circle with all members able to make eye contact with one another. After agreeing which member of the group would ‘present’ their issue, we listened carefully as the Presenter laid out the facts of their situation as they saw it and the various factors affecting or preventing him from moving forward. Members of the set listened intently and in silence, after around 5 minutes the scene was set and I, the Facilitator, invited any clarification questions, this completed, we went into open questions.


A critical aspect of Action Learning is that it is not advice giving – all questions are open and are in no way ‘leading’. Participants come with a sense of curiosity and an understanding that the right solution is the one the Presenter works out for themselves. As a new group, it was no surprise that they found it difficult to resist giving the benefit of their extensive experience and several times we had to pause and reframe questions to be truly open. Well-timed and short questions usually have the greatest impact, as was the case with this group – we watched the presenter’s facial expressions in response to “and what else?” – the question drew him up short and then he went first into deep thought before a real light bulb moment.


Of-course, Action Learning is not just about thinking things through, the clue is in the name – it’s about taking action. From our short session of thoughtful, open questioning our presenter went away with a number of very practical actions on which he will report back to the group. His reaction – “totally immersive, a powerful way to become unstuck”.


This is a learning experience not just for the Presenter, but also for the whole group. And the naysayers? Everyone declared themselves on-board, with the exception of two, who declared themselves scientists only interested in facts!

For the 90% plus the BENEFITS OF ACTION LEARNING include: –

  • Actionable outcomesHow to grow business
  • Long lasting problem solving competency
  • Enhanced creativity & curiosity
  • New questioning & listening skills
  • Increased resilience/ability to deal with stress
  • Improved leadership
  • Team building
  • Heightened emotional intelligence



If you would like to experience the benefits for yourself, we will, (subject to demand), be running two FREE ACTION LEARNING SETS in Manchester during July and September 2017. If you would like to be involved please drop us a line at enquiries@yibp.co.uk for a chance to be included – first come, first served – good luck.


The full PROCESS, (not all of which is covered above), is made up of a number of steps:

  1. Arriving Round
  2. Bidding
  3. Presenting
  4. Questions
  5. Action
  6. Reflection
  7. Process Review


About the Author: Fran McArthur is an  ILM accredited action learning facilitator, business coach, trainer and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of up to £10m/100 employees and who wish to effect positive change. She collaborates with them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach