Emotional Intelligence & Being Human: What’s your story?

“I grew up in social housing and was the first person in my family to go to university. That’s why I’m so passionate about making a difference for the people we serve”.

“Wow, so did I! I was also the first person in my family to break out and go to uni! That’s why I do this as well!”

“Same! I was the first person in my family to go to uni too. My parents sacrificed so much for me.”

That was how the conversation went between an Executive Leadership team peer group at a recent Emotional Intelligence 360⁰ workshop I recently chaired.

These executives had known and/or worked with each other for between 7 ½ and 20+ years, yet none of them knew these things about each other – what each of their human stories were about what drives each of them and why they do what they do.

The connection and team bonding that happened in that genuine, authentic human conversation was quite extraordinary. Goosebumps followed (including me!). Tears were shed (including me!). Oxytocin and dopamine flowed freely – without a puppy or cute kitten in sight! And it cost nothing* – other than the courage to open up and share a personal, human story.

The impact of those leaders opening up and sharing stories about being human grew exponentially from that initial spark. They went on to share the strengths genuinely and generously they saw in each other (with demonstrated examples of the behaviours in the workplace) – all with smiles on their faces.

And even more importantly, the team were able to share with each person what was some pretty challenging feedback on workplace behaviours (also with examples) and mutually respectfully agree ways forward to change those behaviours – again with smiles on their faces (yes, friendly smiles, not assassins’ smiles!).

All because they felt they understood each other better and were all on the same side as humans.

The team have since fed back to their respective coaches that they feel each person now has the others’ backs. That they look after each other better. That they support each other more – in work; in wellbeing; in coping with overwhelm; in coping with difficult people; in having the tough conversations that often need to be had, and more.

They now have much more open communication and a better common understanding. Long-standing silos are breaking down.

And it all started when one executive leader (not the one we expected, btw!) was courageous enough to take the risk and start the conversation – to open up and share a truly human story that was hidden deep within them. Something that they had never understood or felt the need to share; or had the courage or opportunity to share previously.

Opening up, sharing a personal story, and letting out that humanness sparked a deep team transformation.

We’re all busy. The busier we get, the more task focused we get. In meetings, especially virtual meetings it’s so often all about getting stuff done and moving on as fast as possible to the next meeting. Being a human leader is something that is talked about, but rarely demonstrated well as a behaviour in the workplace.

So what’s your story? How might you share that with your team? Even one person in your team?

*There was a cost of running the workshop which was part of a broader Emotional Intelligence (EQ) development program – see picture. But my point is it needn’t cost anything in the grand scheme of things. You could spark something like this at your next meeting for no dollar cost!

The Emotional Intelligence Development program consists of:

  • Group induction
  • ECR360 EQ assessment for each individual (initial assessment and at the end of the program)
  • Coach/Coachee Matching using our unique, pioneering Coach/Coachee Matching Matrix™
  • 12 hours of Executive Coaching for each leader
  • 3 x ½-day Team workshops (beginning, middle, end)
  • Optional ½-day gamified smart-phone-app-based team development program

If you and your Leadership team are interested in exploring our practical Emotional Intelligence Development program for Leaders, get in touch.


Another article on being human and demonstrating humility is something I explored in an article last year about King Charles and my Dad.