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The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence

If you are looking for a practical guide that not only explains what emotional intelligence is but also how to develop it in yourself, your teams, and your company, this book is it.

Emotional intelligence is often talked about and even understood, as knowing yourself well enough to respond to your team and surroundings sensitively, as opposed to reacting without empathy and unintentionally causing friction. However, as this book so deftly explains, there is much more to emotional intelligence than simple empathy and self-awareness. Fully faceted emotional intelligence starts with you, extends to those around you, and moves on to provide the ‘why’ of situations. It is this well rounded, holistic emotional intelligence that will be in high demand in the future of work. While technology may be able to replace some functions, understanding human emotion, responding intuitively rather than reacting, and collaborating with a range of different personalities is the key to innovation, growth, and motivation. These are inherently human traits. These skills aren’t exactly new, but they are becoming more critical as the world changes, and our workplaces change with it.

This book is full of useful examples, simple lessons, questions to guide you on your way, and a bunch of internet resources that will support your learning. It tells you what to do to build your emotional quotient (EQ), what NOT to do, and shows you how to do it.


Broken into three parts, beginning with decision making, The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence explains the neuroscience behind EQ. In doing so, it gives you the tools necessary to circumvent the natural tendency to delegate decisions to your limbic brain and instead use your prefrontal cortex to respond creatively and innovatively to problems. Simply pausing can stop our limbic system and its fight/flight reaction from taking over when presented with challenging situations. By creating some distance between the perceived threat and our reaction, we allow ourselves the space needed to create an emotionally intelligent response.

Responses firmly rooted in well-rounded emotional intelligence allow for better decisions, help us see threats as opportunities, and create an environment that helps our teams to reach their goals.

Emotion, empathy, and compassion are only the beginning of EQ. EQ certainly begins with the heart, but it needs to move onto the high functioning area of our brain – the creative prefrontal cortex, not the ancient limbic system – and be backed with the courage to pause, ask questions, and admit we don’t always know the answers. This enables us to reach out to our community when needed, allay our fears, and engage in problem-solving activities effectively.


After being told to pause and take our time, the author concedes that pausing for too long can sometimes be just as detrimental to a company’s future as acting rashly. Part two of the book moves into agility and how emotional intelligence can be leveraged to enhance our ability to pivot and act nimbly when required.

Recognizing that we live in Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) times, with a barrage of information that can push us into high alert, emotional intelligence becomes ever more necessary to enable us to move beyond recurring problems and towards our goals.

Practicing recognition and labeling of emotion will help us become less attached to them and allow us to respond to disruptions in the workplace, rather than reacting. In responding, we can create a growth mindset that allows us to learn from our failures, reduce our fear of failure and thus innovate towards success.

Agility, as it relates to emotional intelligence, allows leaders to monitor their emotions as well as those of the people around them. This recognition can then be used to guide thinking and make better decisions. It can also be used to help us let go of strategies that no longer serve us, drop unhelpful perspectives, and can behaviors, ideas, and skills that aren’t taking us closer to our goals.

Self-regulation is at the core of emotionally intelligent agility, and it allows us to build environments in the workplace that support the emotional intelligence of our teams too. Helpfully, the book includes a mental agility course you can use to train your mind and build your EQ. Tips for planning your day to enhance emotional intelligence are also provided.

The framework for managing the fight/flight response of our limbic brain is laid out in clear and simple detail – prioritize the use of your prefrontal cortex by making time for high-level thinking at the start of the day. Decide what needs to be decided, sequence activities and decisions to work with your natural energy levels and expenditure, and finally, surround yourself with people who will tell it like it is rather than how they think you want to hear it.


With this firm foundation in hand, we move on to relationships, the final part of the book where all the prior learning comes together in an exciting and motivational way. Understanding what the author calls our ‘derailers’ is the first part. Derailers are behaviors that move us away from our goals; understanding them can help us to rise above our flawed vi