Thoughts on Starting the New Year ... with Emotional Intelligence

I find the Christmas Holiday a fascinating time of year from a business and management perspective.

A whole host of companies basically shut down (I bet their fiscal year doesn’t end 12/31). Many in professional services look at the year-end as a time to catch up, clean up, clean out and organize. It is a time for planning and preparing for a new year, a fresh chance at improving, and resolving old problems once and for all.

It is a time for reflection. Whether reflecting on the spiritual nature of the holiday or reflecting on all that has happened in the past year and how to make next year better.

Tis the season of good intentions – the whole New Year’s Resolution theme.

But consider this: Have you ever known any adult to start the year with the intent of not doing something to improve themselves? “I hope to be a lot less productive this year?” Anyone with that mindset would easily be considered unmotivated, uninspired and probably depressed.

I believe the aspiration to improve is inherently human, to want something better. The inspiration to improve may come from many sources – a TV show; a book; a hero you’ve met, read about, listened to, etc. However, the discipline to improve comes primarily from within. Coaching and mentoring may help facilitate the improvement, but only when there is first a commitment, an acceptance, of the discipline required to achieve improvement.

A recently published collection of Harvard Business Review’s Ten Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence features a June 1996 paper written by Daniel Goleman, one of the foremost researchers on Emotional Intelligence (EI), titled “What Makes a Leader?” Goleman’s premise is that EI can be learned, but not by reading a book. Physiologically, analytical learning takes place in the neocortex region of the brain. If you want to learn a new software program, get a book, study it and learn a new skill. That takes place in the neocortex. 

Goleman cites research that indicates that EI is governed mostly by the limbic system of the brain, which controls feelings, impulses and drives. The limbic system learns through motivation, extended practice and feedback. Importantly, EI can be learned; it is not a genetic predisposition.

Goleman also posits that success is 80% dependent on EQ (one’s level of Emotional Intelligence) and 20% dependent on IQ. So, EQ has a huge impact on our success and it can be learned through motivation, extended practice and feedback.

When we think about those with whom we interact at home or at work, on a daily basis, what effect do we have on their inspiration to improve? The second highest need on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is self-esteem, confidence and respect by others. The highest is self-actualization, characterized by morality, creativity, problem solving and achieving one’s full potential.

Do we treat others with respect and enhance their self-esteem, thereby enabling them to attain the highest level of needs and achieve their full potential?

Everything we can do organizationally, be it a family, a company, or a community, to improve our individual EQ will produce inspiration to improve, since EI by its nature demonstrates respect and builds confidence and self-esteem in those on the receiving end.

By improving our own EQ through practice and feedback, we can help others achieve their full potential. Seek feedback always. Look for ways to practice better listening habits, more constructive responses, and show your own humility and vulnerability as a human. If each of us is able to help others achieve their full potential, think of how much better things would be.

Here’s to full potential in 2016! Thanks for reading.


"Treat people as if they were what they should be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


"Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm ... As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others."

Audrey Hepburn


"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem."

Theodore Rubin