Why Does EQ Matter For Ops Leaders/Managers

Why Does EQ Matter For Ops Leaders/Managers

This session centred more around own experiences. Please respect all opinions as they are personal and they shouldn’t be invalidated. Hopefully they will resonate and be helpful.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

(abbreviated to EI going forth)

  • Understanding how your brain works and how emotions work
  • Recognise and understand your own and other people’s emotions better
  • Be aware of your reactions and how to manage them
  • Be aware of other’s reactions and how to respond to them

In which situations have you noticed a lack of EI?

Experience 1:

I come from an Eastern European background, I'm used to being more direct and demand things instead of asking. Working in a small tech start-up and being the only full time woman, it created a toughness. It was almost like I lost all my soft skills. There was a distinct feeling that I had to be harder.

Experience 2:

We hired a new person to our small team, everyone was responsible for themselves, there was no real manager for that person. They probably weren't used to the situation and getting negative feedback early on didn't help. You could see them becoming more and more unmotivated. It became really hard to work with them.

Experience 3:

A problem with our founders escalated very quickly due to a lack of EI. It meant that communication was harder than necessary and the conflict got out of hand. Looking back, looking at small day to day problems becoming bigger, you realise how important it is to tackle issues head on. By understanding people's motivations and how they react you can nip it in the bud, or at least avoid it from becoming irreparable.

Experience 4:

I've realised that when I'm "in the zone" I have a resting bitch face. I always get feedback about it from my colleagues asking me if everything is fine. I'm not in a bad mood or mad, but I understand that this is how it comes across, so I've learned to communicate that to my surroundings or I relocate and work from another area. Otherwise it impacts the team, people thinking they have to tiptoe around me.

The Problem is, as Ops you need to get shit done. There's not always time to consider others or your emotions.

What are your personal realisations about EI?

  • Ops is in a unique position in the business to be a bit nosey and see what other departments are doing. You need a higher EI because you* need to learn to work with all the different teams. It’s your business to get to know everyone. As Ops you need to have a claim in on-boarding people. Especially since we're the ones mopping up after everyone else.
  • As a head of Ops for about a year a realisation hit me that if I want to go onto the next level, I need to have good EI. People skills and people management play such an important role.
  • When you realise your own manager has a rather low EI, you adapt to it. You learn what to do and how to communicate to work around certain behaviour.
  • You adapt yourself to the person in front of you, you know you can shout at one person, but can’t with others.
  • Doing self management is incredibly hard, when a manager gives you feedback, it's difficult not to take it personally. However, it depends who it comes from too.
  • Managers with a lower EI or who can't communicate their feelings well can be confusing. It can seem like they don’t like you and it's only later down the line that you realise they did appreciate you, they just don't have the right way of showing it.

How to Improve you EI?

  • Be mindful of your language, don't use strong words all the time. Be soft spoken in general and more demanding when it counts.
  • Take a breath and set your priorities straight, understand when you need to amp up the pressure but that shouldn't be a permanent state.
  • Everything comes up when you’re in conflict with someone else. You understand like minded people, it gets more interesting when it’s someone that is your polar opposite. You need to start questioning how a person can trigger you.
  • Raise your self-awareness by asking for regular feedback from your manager and team members.
  • At the end of the day, ask yourself “how did the day go?”
  • Work on your reactive reflex, by meditating and controlled breathing. Do what you like, have good quality sleep, be mindulf of your nutrition, exercise and install good habits.
  • It’s all about active listening, don't interrupt. People only care about what they have to say. Ask open questions, observe body language, understand personality traits, they will all give a better indication of who the person is across from you.
  • Actively understand another person’s point of view. Imagine yourself in their shoes, why are they trying to communicate before reacting to it when you don't agree. A generation gap or very different background can be more challenging.
  • Sometimes, you have a bad day, but you don’t always realise how much it affects the others. If you are having one of those days, work from home or communicate that you’re having a bad day so people know not to take it personally.
  • Smile more, even if it's a forced smile. It releases endorphins and genuinely helps.

All this will result in understanding a person better, their strengths and weaknesses, what they enjoy and what they don't enjoy. When it comes to delegating a job, you know who to go to and know that it's the right job for the right person.

Some people have zero EQ but have read all the techniques and apply them right, it's only later on that you realise they were pretending and manipulative.


  • The Customer Support team and the Sales team didn't work well together, we raised awareness by seating our CS team facing the Sales team. When a call would come in, the Sales team could overhear the struggles and knew what was happening with our customers. They became more empathetic and changed some of the problematic behaviour.
  • As a women you are better known for your soft skills and relationships with others in the company. Delivering a certain message might be hard at times, especially if it's a more forceful opinion or difficult change. By creating a reputation of being good at your job, you create more credibility. However, for certain messages it may be better to go through a person you trust who is more senior and might have more traction in the company.
  • The worst question to ask and to put your team on edge is “Where are we at with this?” Instead say “We need this done, how can I help?” Use Boomerang to send yourself reminders and giving friendly check ins, “If you need me, let me know” a nice note with a little pressure, your team will appreciate how thoughtful you are and they will sense you're on top of things.
  • Constructive venting, take a neutral colleague and lay it on them, get it out of your system. You’ll feel better and can return to the situation with a better perspective.
  • We have a buzzer in the office to call people out when they don’t realise that their tone increases or that people are being rude, it raises awareness that something is not okay. It helps you voice when something isn’t appropriate, that way you don’t keep it inside and get mad about it. It also makes you have to deal with a situation in the moment, not brush it under the carpet or forget to address them.

Be kind with yourself

You can be selfish once in a while, don't beat yourself up over a reaction you may have had. Give yourself some slack, be kinder with yourself and mindful of how you can change it for next time, be pro-active instead.

Let’s wrap it up with this infographic.


Emotional intelligence moves you from an execution mindset to a leader mindset.