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How much should you consider the feelings and opinion of others before making decisions?

There’s no easy answer to this question. Taking the time to see a potential decision through the eyes of others can help ensure the success of that decision. On the other hand, real leaders must often make tough choices, regardless of how the majority feels.

[The following is an adapted excerpt of my upcoming book, EQ, Applied: The Real-World Approach to Emotional Intelligence.]

Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to identify emotions (in both themselves and others), to recognize the powerful effects of those emotions, and to use that information to inform and guide behavior.

Notice that inherent to this definition is the ability to use one’s knowledge about emotion. Thus, emotional intelligence involves not only understanding how emotions work in a given situation, but the ability to manage a situation to attain a desired result.

Put simply, emotional intelligence is the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.

But how does emotional intelligence help you manage relationships, especially when you need to make tough decisions?

The Key Ingredient

Let’s say you’ve taken over a company, department or team that’s been headed in the wrong direction for some time.

For this scenario, bringing in your own team isn’t an option. So, how do you start instituting change in a way that gets your team behind you?

All relationships require a certain key ingredient to be successful. This single factor makes all the difference in managing change effectively…or not.

What’s the key ingredient?


Think about it: If you truly trust your leader, aren’t you motivated to do just about anything he or she asks? In the same vein, a truly effective leader learns to trust his or her team.

Which leads to the next question: How do you gain trust of a new team?

Humans all share certain emotional needs. For example, people generally crave sincere acknowledgement and praise. Recognizing that, good leaders first focus on the positive (and potential) in his or her team.

Additionally, it’s helpful when a leader gets to know “the old way” of doing things before introducing new methods or styles. That’s because people are often emotionally attached to their way of doing things, regardless of how “right” or “wrong” they are.

Learning from your team helps you get to know their world, demonstrates you value their experience, and helps you identify each individual team member’s strengths, weaknesses, and style of communication.

By getting to know your team, their challenges, and their way of working, not only will you begin to see things from their perspective…

You’ll begin to earn their trust. In time, they’ll be much more willing to hear your ideas–and more motivated to get behind them.

Of course, your job is to turn things around. To do that, you’ll actually have to make changes. Your team also must be able to take constructive criticism–it’s the only way they’ll grow.

But you must gain their trust, first.

Because once they’re confident that you’ve got their backs, they’ll be ready to go the distance.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on