Strengthening Your Professional Relationships: The Power of Social and Emotional Intelligence

Leadership is about relationships. It’s about getting to know your people and inspiring them to maximize their full potential. For the last 25 years, research on social and emotional intelligence has mapped out the link between self-awareness, emotional regulation, relationship building and important performance-related outcomes. Much of this research indicates that people who build solid, long-term professional relationships are more likely to have a positive impact on the people around them. They tend to achieve better collective work-related performance outcomes.

At Bandelli & Associates, we believe social and emotional intelligence are critical drivers for leadership effectiveness. Leaders that cultivate a deeper understanding of their personal strengths, understand the talents and capabilities of others, and are able to regulate their moods and emotions tend to build the best teams and organizations.

The key to building positive and meaningful relationships in the workplace is concerted focus and effort around four key competencies. These competencies are outlined below:

  1. Establishing Rapport: The process of building sustainable relationships of mutual trust, harmony, and interpersonal understanding. Rapport is often viewed as a starting point for developing trust and influence with others by using empathy and respect to create an environment of mutual understanding. Our research indicates that there are eight components to establishing rapport: a) similarity – the degree to which two individuals share cultural norms and values, environmental influences, experiences, personality, attitudes, and expectations; b) inclusion/involvement – the degree to which both people want to get to know one another and develop a relationship; c) affection/liking – the degree to which both parties like and respect one another; d) control/dominance – the degree to which both individuals share control and neither seeks to dominate the conversation or interaction; e) self-perception – the view one holds about his/her self-concept, based on physical, social, and psychological perceptions; f) other-perception – the manner in which each employee perceives the other person; g) verbal interactions – the words used during communication between two individuals; and h) nonverbal interactions – the use of signals such as physical appearance, dress, eye contact, voice, touch, posture, and proximity of the two parties.
  2. Understanding Differences: The ability to develop a favorable reception and opinion towards other people or situations that are different from one’s culture, background, and experiences. Research indicates that those skilled at understanding differences (e.g., age, ethnicity, gender, race, physical abilities, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, educational background, values, and interests) of other people possess higher levels of social skill and are more effective communicators and leaders. Research in the field of I-O psychology related to understanding differences focuses on the area of diversity. Diversity is often categorized into three separate frameworks: a) resource-based perspectives – viewing diversity as a valuable resource adding to overall levels of job performance and organizational functioning; b) social identity theories – focusing on how individuals develop their self-concept based on membership in certain groups; and c) contingency theories – examining environmental and social factors as they interact with individual differences to impact organizational performance. The resource-based perspectives indicate that higher levels of job performance, impact, and leadership effectiveness are achieved through a diverse workforce. Additionally, organizations with a diverse workforce receive more internal and external benefits than those that do not promote the value of workplace diversity.
  3. Developing Trust: The willingness of an individual to be open to the actions of another party based on the expectations that the other party will perform a particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control that other party. The concept of trust has played an important role in early conceptualizations of organizational functioning and continues to have an affect on many disciplines (e.g., sociology, psychology, economics, political science, history, and philosophy). Developing trust involves the intention of taking a risk or exposing oneself to the actions and behaviors of another individual. It is allowing oneself to be vulnerable in a situation based on the positive expectations of another’s intentions. Additionally, the development of trust has been emerging as a critical component of interpersonal relationships in social networks and work contexts.
  4. Cultivating Influence: The use of non-coercive influence to direct and coordinate the activities and actions of others in order to accomplish organizational objectives. Cultivating influence is about a leader’s ability to communicate a well devised vision of the future, build trust among colleagues, and take effective action to accomplish organizational objectives. It is about influencing without authority and inspiring people to perform above and beyond stated expectations. Over the years, leadership researchers have explored this construct from various angles. It has been linked to path-goal theory, leader-member exchange, transactional and transformational leadership, and charismatic leadership. Cultivating influence draws from the theory, research, and empirical results from each of these areas.

In order to assess our model of social and emotional intelligence, Bandelli & Associates have designed and developed a situational-judgment test assessment tool that gives leaders a deeper understanding of where they stand on each of the four preceding competencies. The assessment inventory is completed on-line, and can be completed in 35-40 minutes. Feedback and coaching can be provided after completing the assessment.

For more information on how to strengthen your leadership effectiveness through developing your social and emotional intelligence, contact Bandelli & Associates at

Leadership Matters. Without It, People Fail.