When we set out to start a new project that involves other people, most of us will focus on the hard skills needed to get the job done.

Which makes sense, obviously.

You can’t build a technology startup if you don’t have the technical skills to begin with.

And you can’t start a cupcake bakery if you don’t know how to bake.

But focusing on the tangible ‘hard’ skills within yourself and within your team isn’t going to get you very far. That’s actually the easy part.

Sure, the machine will seem to have all its components but look closely and it may not be running smoothly in a year or two.

hen building anything that involves working with other people (protip: which is everything), emotional intelligence is what should be the main focus in your growth.

Emotional intelligence is the most crucial trait a person can have if they’re going to be successful in life.

Having the ability to see another persons point of view and to relate to their situation is what got us ahead in the evolutionary spectrum.

Relating to others allowed us to communicate effectively, reducing the risk of rubbing that person the wrong way.

But having the matured emotional intelligence to interact with other people on an empathetic level isn’t something a lot of people can do.

Most people in managerial and leadership positions struggle with this too.

hink about the brick layer and his skills.

Even though she has ‘brick’ in her job title, rarely does she focus on the brick itself.

Instead, her skill actually comes in managing the sloppy, messy cement while securing the brick in place among the other bricks.

Just as ones technical knowledge of the job is secured in your head, so too is the brick. The brick is the easy part, you don’t have to think how it works. It’s already made.

But getting the brick to sit well amongst the rest of the bricks takes the ongoing skill of spreading the cement each and every time and lining it up properly.

It takes an understanding of where the wall is, where the next brick will sit and deploying just the right amount of cement to make it all work harmoniously.

Still with me?

Well, the skill of human relations is just like working with cement.

It’s messy, it’s ill-formed and it doesn’t have a universal approach you can apply to all scenarios. Sometimes you can lay on too much and sometimes you don’t lay on enough at all.

You have to work with it in the moment and there’s only so much preparation you can do too.

You must be present and accept that sometimes you’ll get it wrong but you’re going to do it anyway.


Itcan seem frightening for those who want absolute assurance of how a project will go. And so they become the executors; the coders, the designers, the accountants, the editors.

But for the leaders and the managers, becoming comfortable with the *unsystematic* field of human relations requires a focus on empathy, presence and vulnerability among all else.

  • They become the buffer between other bricks, assuring smooth operation.
  • They serve as heat-shields and take the pressure from the upper-wall so that the bricks underneath can continue to work peacefully.
  • They ultimately hold it all together.

Without emotional intelligence, we will struggle to foster positive relations with others.

And without the people in organisation with emotional intelligence, the wall can only become a series of bricks stacked on top of each other.

And not only is that not sustainable, it’s an incredibly dull looking wall.


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