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Be the Manager People Want to Work For

Use emotional intelligence to transform your leadership style

Back Article Sep 13, 2022 By Betsaida LeBron

This story is part of our September 2022 print issue. To subscribe, click here.

Imagine if people applied to join your company not just for the paycheck, not merely for the benefits package or the industry connections, but instead because they wanted to work for you, their ideal manager.

What is it that would attract them to you? Your approachability? Your agility in the face of change? Your calm demeanor under pressure? All of it! Managers play a critical role in shaping workplace culture, and you can be that manager by developing your emotional intelligence and connecting with your authentic self.

Using her background in stand-up comedy and mental health advocacy, Betsaida LeBron teaches others how to have more fun, build emotional intelligence and overcome obstacles.

Gone are the days when managers focused solely on the numbers and on sucking every last ounce of productivity out of their employees. Values and tolerance for that approach have shifted among the workforce and many people will not stand for that kind of treatment at work. Sure, poor managers may meet productivity goals with the begrudged support of the team. But over time, the approach becomes a liability to the health of an organization. It can affect your bottom line, given the cost of staff turnover and the time and resources needed to train new employees, not to mention the reality of exiting employees going to work for your competitors, potentially taking clients and important relationships with them. 

Workplace consulting and global research firm Gallup estimates that the cost of poor management in the U.S. is between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion per year. Ignore the impacts of bad management at your own risk, but there are ways to avoid these costly situations. Here’s how you do it. 

Emotional intelligence 

Often referred to as “emotional quotient” or EQ, emotional intelligence is the way that you combine your thinking with your feelings in order to make quality decisions and build authentic relationships. The ability to effectively understand and manage emotions is essential to success in the modern workplace. That’s because almost every workplace encounters conflict that can leave employees feeling stressed. How do you deal with it? 

As a manager, your reactions can either mitigate or escalate a tense situation. EQ lets us recognize and manage our own emotions, recognize and manage the emotions of others, motivate ourselves, and maintain healthy relationships. It’s not easy to remain calm when everyone around you is in reaction mode or stressed, but emotionally intelligent managers handle these situations with ease and grace.

Here are some ways to incorporate EQ into your workday: 

Check in 

Do an emotional check-in with yourself. Take five minutes at the beginning and end of your day to consider how you are feeling. At the beginning: What do you aspire to do? How do you want to show up? And at the end: Did your feelings affect your behavior? What will you do differently tomorrow?

Identify your emotions

When we can name our emotions, it gives us a better chance of managing them effectively. We can communicate how we’re feeling more easily to others, and we can start to look for patterns in our behavior that might be linked to our feelings. Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions is a helpful tool in identifying and labeling what you’re feeling. The wheel shows eight core human emotions (joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, anticipation) and how these emotions intensify (towards the center), become milder (outer edges), or even combine (between spokes) to produce any emotional state.

Be aware of the emotions of others

Leaders need to be able to read people’s emotions and understand how they are feeling in order to be successful. If a leader does not understand how his or her team is feeling, it will be difficult to lead them effectively. A leader recognizing a team member is feeling apprehension can ease concerns by asking clarifying questions and providing clarity on expectations and next steps.


Authenticity at work means being honest about your thoughts, feelings and experiences. It means being genuine in your interactions with others. It means being who you are, not who you think you should be. It means being human.

Being authentic at work can be challenging as a manager, especially if you feel like you have to put on an emotional mask to be an effective leader. A common leadership instinct is to protect the team by not sharing emotions, especially negative ones. Omitting your true feelings is a form of what psychologists call “emotional dishonesty” and over time it can erode trust. Here are some ways to practice connecting to your authentic self:  

Be more honest with yourself and others

This means being open about your emotions. If you’re having a tough day, own it. Remind your team that it’s okay to be upset or frustrated. Start sharing ways that you work through emotions (by understanding, interpreting, and responding to that emotion). 

Don’t give your team the opportunity to misread your emotional cues

Most people are not great mind readers; this is also true of your team. Being open with your team about how you’re feeling gives them the opportunity to understand you better, build trust, and not make the wrong assumption.

The best managers are emotionally intelligent and authentic. When you have a deep understanding of yourself and others, you can use this knowledge to create a positive work culture where employees are more engaged, productive and excited to work for you.

Betsaida LeBron is the Sacramento-based founder of ImprovEQ, a training and consulting company that helps organizations bring joy and humanity to work. Reach her at Betsaida@improvEQ.org

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