How emotional intelligence can make all the difference in procurement


What could be the single biggest skill that a procurement professional needs in his or her working life?

The difference between a successful career and a less satisfactory one could be down to emotional intelligence.

The so-called soft skill of understanding your own and other people’s emotions and having an ability to handle relationships empathetically and carefully is a game changing ability brought to global attention by psychologist Daniel Goleman in the early 90s.

A knowledge of the numbers, a skill with spreadsheets or logistical brilliance may take us so far but the evidence seems to suggest that a lack of emotional intelligence will still see more emotionally attuned people overtake us in the workplace and in their dealings with suppliers and business partners.

When looking at those in leadership and employee development roles, researchers have tested emotional intelligence alongside other workplace skills to find that levels of emotional intelligence were the strongest predictor of performance. Research carried out with Johnson & Johnson found that people in their mid-careers with strong leadership potential were performing far more strongly in emotional intelligence competencies than their less promising peers.

The five components of emotional intelligence are self awareness, self management, empathy, relationship management and communication. Here’s a look at each and some tips on how we can become stronger in all areas:

Know yourself

Recognising our own emotions, strengths and weaknesses can help us to understand the impact we may have on other people, provides a base for us to work from and gives us confidence in our abilities.

Being aware of how we behave or react emotionally in any given situation is important, because even when we don’t express an emotion outright, there’s every chance the people around us will still have picked up on something or may have misunderstood a reaction.

Some questions to consider are how quickly you can recover when you get upset or stressed and how good you are at adapting to changing realities.

Keep calm

Self regulation is a key skill. This enables us to manage our emotions and adapt our response to ensure the team keeps moving and things stay on track. Team leaders and managers will affect the behaviour and reaction of the people around them by their emotional response to any situation.

Ways to stay calm include taking a positive tack in a difficult situation by thinking about what is going right rather than what is going wrong and focussing on the here and now, rather than trying to anticipate what might happen next. If times are challenging it could be worth cutting down on caffeine, getting into a good sleep routine or at work, turning off your mobile phone so that you can focus on the issue in hand.


The more we put ourselves in other people’s shoes and understand what concerns them, the easier it is to bring teams together and find optimum outcomes to most situations.

Learning to relate better to other people starts by taking an interest, asking questions (and listening to the answers) and by challenging ourselves to speak to different people who may have an alternative outlook.

Reading a good novel could make all the difference too. Studies have shown that reading fiction where we uncover stories about other people’s inner lives is linked to higher empathy.

At work one way to improve empathy could be through shadowing people in their roles and experiencing their daily routine, so team members see each other’s working days from their perspectives.


Based on a combination of what we say, our body language and our tone of voice, communication is integral to emotional intelligence. A lack of it can often cause confusion and frustration, so ensuring we’re improving our skills in this area, whatever other issues we may have on our plates, matters.

Ways of ensuring good communication include giving clear information to people and then asking for their feedback, accepting that they may not always agree. Be specific, so if you need something by a certain day, say so, rather than giving a general ‘by the end of the week’ answer. If you say you’re going to do something, stick to it or at least keep everyone informed if you cannot.

Face to face communications has decreased since the arrival of email, but making the time to sit down with people and speak to them regularly will facilitate better relationships.

When speaking with other people, focus on your shared goals and listen to their opinions on what is being discussed. Think about how your tone of voice and non-verbal cues might be impacting on the people around you.

Manage relationships

If you want to move everyone forwards together then constructive, strong relationships are essential. This means spending time with colleagues, talking about matters other than work and regularly asking how they’re doing and what’s going on in their world. However many other things you have on your plate, finding the time to relate to and understand the people around you will ultimately benefit your performance and theirs.

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