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Something wasn't adding up, and Luis Moreno had to know why.

On one hand, many companies were enjoying strong growth. On the other, he was reading studies reporting disengaged, less productive and more stressed employees, mostly attributed to the hard-driving leaders chasing those impressive financial results.

"It was fascinating," Moreno said. "How can a company support and continue to promote leaders who have no support from the bottom? Some companies knew how those leaders made people feel, but they figured they're bringing in the numbers, so we just have to look the other way."

Doing that is more difficult post-pandemic, Moreno said, after many began working at home, reflecting on what was important in their lives and possibly deciding to participate in the Great Resignation or "quiet quitting" trend.

Moreno, who has an MBA from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and is an adjunct professor there, has conducted training sessions in emotional intelligence and human-centered leadership for nearly a decade. He does so in person and remotely for big corporations — like those he worked at for 20 years — as well as universities, government entities and law enforcement agencies in this country and others.

Here are some insights into developing emotional intelligence and why it might boost your performance and your workplace's culture from Moreno and other experts on the topic.

Study emotions

Emotional intelligence, Moreno told an audience at Twin Cities Startup Week this past September, is the capacity to be aware of your emotions and those of others, to regulate your emotions and leverage empathy to have effective social relationships.

"In the course of your day, this week, this month and in the course of your life, your body will experience emotions," Moreno said. "Depending on how you manage these emotions, that's going to be the difference between being successful and not being successful."

Benefits of developing and practicing emotional intelligence, Moreno said, include seeing the positive potential in people, situations and events, understanding others' perspectives and recognizing how your feelings affect you and your performance.

Emotional intelligence also can help you cultivate flexibility to handle change, balance multiple demands and adapt to new situations with ideas. It can help in guiding your attention, and the attention of others on your team, in knowing when to focus inward on yourself or outward on others or the world for a broader view, Moreno said.

It also can help in "keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check and maintaining your effectiveness as a leader under stressful and/or even hostile conditions," Moreno said.

Along with emotional intelligence, Moreno also emphasized the importance of developing empathy: being aware of, sensitive to and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another without having those fully communicated to you. Emotional empathy helps you understand how somebody feels while cognitive empathy helps you understand a person's thinking. Empathic concern helps you act to help someone based on what that person's feeling or thinking.

"The opposite of empathy is cruelty," Moreno said. "Empathic concern is when you have pleasure to reduce the pain that somebody may feel."

Do some self-reflection

Hard skills alone aren't enough to help people succeed at work or in life. Leaders recognized that early on at Twin Cities Rise, a nonprofit workforce training program for underrepresented individuals that Steve Rothschild, a former top executive at General Mills, founded in 1993.

That's why emotional intelligence training has equal emphasis with 21st-century career skills training at Rise, said Jacquelyn Carpenter, the organization's vice president of workforce development.

"When we're building those skills up, we're creating a better human being, because you can be the best version of yourself," Carpenter said. "When you show up in life as the best version of yourself, you'll also show up at work as the best version of yourself."

The Empowerment Institute at Rise bases its training on the four competencies that psychologist and author Daniel Goleman identified in his theory of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, other awareness and relationship management.

"When you're showing up at work with strength and empowerment and really strong emotional intelligence, we're building that better work culture," Carpenter said. "We're helping to create and foster that sense of belonging, that interconnectedness needed for strong teams, that ability to lean on one another but achieve with one another."

Rise participants experienced a nearly 23% improvement in their emotional intelligence scores from 2000-22, according an analysis by Six Seconds, an emotional intelligence research and teaching nonprofit.

Rise now offers emotional intelligence training to organizations in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota through its Personal Empowerment program, Carpenter said. Quarterly workshops cover evolving through change, mindfulness, leadership development and empowered belief systems, which focus on "mutual respect and honoring and helping to accelerate diversity, equity and inclusion."

"It seems to be the missing link of successful employment," Carpenter said of emotional intelligence. "It's one of the most powerful ways we can invest in our workforce."

Integrate feeling into decision-making

Erick Mas, assistant professor of marketing at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, said Moreno's training is significant because "he's putting in the really difficult work of teaching leaders to recognize their emotions, rely on emotions more, to recognize emotions in others."

Mas and his co-researchers focus on emotional ability or ability-based emotional intelligence. That's the ability to reason about and apply emotional information to achieve a desired outcome. It explains, according to their research, how well people recognize, interpret, understand and regulate emotions in themselves and others.

"Developing emotional intelligence is really valuable to organizations," Mas said. "It can absolutely be very useful to business leaders. If you're talking about emotional ability, it can absolutely improve business transactions, the way we engage and work with others. [It's] a way that we can help employees be more holistic decisionmakers."

Emotional intelligence is not enough if an empathetic mission is not in place. Emotionally intelligent people can have selfish goals, Mas said.

"This is not to say there should be no sales or revenue objectives," Mas said. "But rather, there needs to be some space to bring in the human objectives, the socially responsible objectives, into the mission of an organization."

Research has found human-centered leadership can bring long-term benefits. Companies seen as socially responsible, from big brands like Patagonia to a neighborhood coffee shop, can earn customers' trust and their business.

"A 'do no harm' approach can foster more loyalty, more trust and, at the end of the day, bottom line, more sales, more revenue," Mas said.

Seek training

The city of St. Paul is offering Moreno's emotional intelligence training to all of its 3,000 employees, said Abigail Gadea, the city's deputy director of human resources.

Emotional intelligence is a skill that aligns with the city administration's values of equity, resilience and innovation, Gadea said. The city is also offering a version of Moreno's training to supervisors and managers to learn about cultivating emotional intelligence in themselves and modeling that to their teams.

"We are invested in hiring and developing a workforce that is centered on the needs of the people," Gadea said. "Emotional intelligence is a key step in terms of awareness, in terms of empathy, in taking care of ourselves, how we manage conflict and how we cultivate professional relationships in a meaningful way. All of that can lead to a more efficient organization and a more efficient way to serve the public."

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His email is