Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

Posted on 19/03/2013 by Phil Hall


In the car driving to work this morning my wife Kirsty asked me what I understood by the term ‘Emotional Intelligence’. My first answer was, it’s a gut feeling, the ability to read emotions in others to assess their answers or their intentions and then I began to mull it over.

Now you can look this up on the web and get chapter and verse, and below* is one of the definitions from Wikipedia, but for my part the way I have come to it and learned to use it, is the result of experience, empirical observation, intuition and a touch of cultural atavism.

Going to sea at sixteen I learned very quickly to read people especially when ashore in some very dodgy places. Of course there were cultural variations but human nature is principally driven by very basic instincts, and violence and sex are ubiquitous. You learn very quickly to learn the signs by watching the behaviour of others. In the red light areas it was advisable to watch the reaction of the ‘ladies’ in the bars, they were always the first to spot a deteriorating situation.

Later in life I owned and operated pubs, clubs and bars in the UK the West Indies and the South of France.  This meant dealing with the broadest cross-section of the public and engaging daily with human beings at their best and at their worst. Through those days, it was I believe my gut instincts that helped me to survive, and prosper.

At the time I was too busy making a living to analyse what I was doing and merely flying by the seat of my pants. However, subsequently working as an analyst for a management consultancy and latterly running our own recruitment business for twenty five years, it began to dawn on me how much I had learned and absorbed about human nature. This was mostly through osmosis, the patterns overlaid, the half remembered incident, the experience half forgotten.

As a consequence and over many years interviewing hundreds of candidates I have learned to trust my gut reaction, to follow my intuition, if you like, to listen with my emotional intelligence.

So what?, you may ask – haven’t we all?  Actually, no.  I have come to realise that among my friends, colleagues and business acquaintances there are very few people who have ‘it’ or even begin to recognise ‘it’. Sure we all have a gut instinct and some of us, to a greater or lesser extent, have intuition but how many are prepared to trust it, to commit on it? How many of us actually assess our own emotional responses or prejudices when making a decision?

They say you can learn how to use your emotional intelligence and may be you can, but if your experience of life has been limited and parochial then you’re behind the eight ball.

‘Sussing’ out candidates or the truth their CVs has come over the years and with a certain amount of diligence and persistence but time and time again it has been my intuition that has identified the inconsistency; it has been the ‘trifle light as air’ that has triggered the alarm.  I have to admit that proper interviewing also requires time, which often seems difficult to justify. It’s a sad fact but recruitment is not given the attention it deserves and all too frequently delegated – at least initially – to the wrong people. This, as we have seen all too often, has proved to be a costly mistake.

Our job is to minimise such mistakes, take the hassle out the process, and present you with the best carefully selected candidates so that you can make the final decision.


Kirsty Craig Associates 25 year in recruitment, Retained & Contingency Assignments, Non Execs.

HR Support, HR Outsourcing, Performance & Development, HR management & advice, Organisational change

* Wikipedia – Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman[17] focuses on EI as a wide array of competencies and skills that drive leadership performance. Goleman’s model outlines four main EI constructs:

Self-awareness – the ability to read one’s emotions and recognize their impact while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
Self-management – involves controlling one’s emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
Social awareness – the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks.
Relationship management – the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflict.
Goleman includes a set of emotional competencies within each construct of EI. Emotional competencies are not innate talents, but rather learned capabilities that must be worked on and can be developed to achieve outstanding performance. Goleman posits that individuals are born with a general emotional intelligence that determines their potential for learning emotional competencies.[18] Goleman’s model of EI has been criticized in the research literature as mere “pop psychology” (Mayer, Roberts, & Barsade, 2008).