Very few things get me as agitated as trying to enjoy french fries with the small, rationed ketchup portions dispensed in those ridiculous packets. Even the little cups of ketchup are insufficient to the task. What self-respecting onion ring can even get in that cup? After all…it’s America. You ought to be able to have all the ketchup you want.

Several years ago, we were having a lovely dinner at Skinny J’s restaurant in Paragould, Arkansas. Our server, a young lady (let’s say) named Michele, was doing a fantastic job caring for us as we dined on gourmet hamburgers and a perfectly prepared batch of french fries.

As is our custom, we practice our emotional intelligence at restaurants, a skill made popular in the 2000s by Daniel Goleman and that focuses on our self-awareness, self-management, social awareness (reading others and the room), and relationship management. Eating out (or getting a morning coffee or checking out at the grocery store or…) is but one of four practice fields we often discuss and are perfect to develop social awareness and manage relationships.

In Michele’s case, she was doing a really nice job, so we made the effort to call her by her name and to acknowledge how she was dividing her attention among the tables she was caring for.

Then…the ketchup was served. A handful of those carefully rationed portions of the condiment I required, complete with the anticipated mess of torn packets all over the dinner table and that little drab of ketchup that never seems to successfully make it into the pile I create for the perfect french fry-dipping experience.

We called Michele over and quietly asked her if it were possible for us to have more ketchup. She leaned in, and in a hushed voice shared that, “I could get in trouble for this, but for you guys, I’ll bring the whole bottle.” Victory. The spoils of successfully practiced emotional intelligence on that practice field.

Emotional intelligence, we would argue, is “that skill” your best employees demonstrate, on top of their technical acumen. According to Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, it “accounts for 58% of performance in all types of jobs and is the strong driver for leadership and personal excellence.” Again, the most popular model posits four domains:

  • Self-Awareness – knowing ourselves as we truly are
  • Self-Management – using self-awareness to choose what we say and do
  • Social Awareness – looking outward to learn about and appreciate others
  • Relationship Management – using your self- and social awareness to successfully manage interactions

That employee who can’t look another in the eye – poor social awareness. Your best business developer – excellent relationship management. Your most positive teammate, regardless of the day and circumstances – strong self-management. You get the picture, and when you get right down to it, I’ll bet your team’s true superstars are also those with the strongest emotional intelligence.

Fast forward two years. My colleagues and I found ourselves back in Arkansas and again sat down for a meal at Skinny J’s. To my great satisfaction, I saw two, full, ketchup bottles neatly displayed with the other condiments on our table.

You never know where the product of your emotional intelligence might lead, and in this case, it meant all the ketchup you can eat at a food establishment in northeastern Arkansas. You’re welcome America.

Do you want “all the ketchup your bank can eat” in your organization? Explore emotional intelligence and build that skill across your team. Want some help? We’re really good at this and hope you’ll give us a call.


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