How Emotional Dexterity Drives Personal and Organisational Growth

May 5, 2024

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Have you ever made yourself wrong for being too emotional or sensitive at work? 


Maybe you’ve had a difficult conversation, faced a micro-aggression or frozen on the spot…


In your mind you want to let things go but physically you find yourself unable to release the residual emotions that are there?


Emotional dexterity is the capacity to effectively recognise, understand and manage a wider range of emotions both within yourself and in others.


If you’re feeling disconnected from your emotions or your body, or perhaps you’re stuck in your head overthinking or in analysis paralysis, or even if you simply identify with being quite a sensitive person then emotional dexterity is a really important skill for you.


The skill of emotional dexterity is a complex one that encompasses empathy, emotional intelligence and the capability to maintain composure and make thoughtful decisions amidst challenging circumstances.


In this week’s episode of The Aligned Achiever Podcast, I’m sharing all about emotional dexterity and why it’s important for you, as an individual to develop and why I encourage organisations to foster environments where emotional intelligence and psychological safety are a given. I also share how you can start to build emotional dexterity to reap the benefits.

In this Episode We Explore:

  • What emotional dexterity is and how it will allow you to navigate relationships with grace
  • 5 key reasons that emotional intelligence is important for you as an individual
  • How emotional dexterity and psychological safety in the workplace is beneficial to organisations
  • 4 practical steps for you to start building your emotional dexterity


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Hello, and welcome to the aligned achiever podcast. I’m your host, Siobhan Barnes. And thank you so much for tuning in to today’s episode.

Now, full disclosure, the inspiration for today’s episode is really off the bag of a bit of a personal evolution that I’ve been going through. And if you’ve been listening to the podcast for some time, I have been dropping a few hints about some changes and sharing a little bit of a behind the scenes, and how I am really focusing on my one on one work, and also actually going into the corporate space. So at the moment, I’m currently working with a very well known brand, here in Hong Kong as a coach facilitating a new leadership program that they’re launching in Asia.

And this evolution has really got me evaluating what’s at the heart of my body of work, and what I really care about. And I think that’s something that we all go through as we navigate changes, whether that’s based on market conditions, personal growth or circumstances, I really believe that we always evolve and grow in our careers.

I’ve realised three things.

Number one, I am very passionate about supporting individuals to really own their craft their passion and find their own version of aligned achievement. And typically, I work with women, but interestingly, more recently have been working with some male clients, which I find really, really interesting.

And for one of my clients, when we were speaking on a get unstuck call, they asked me a really great question, which is, how is this work different for men as it is compared to women, and I actually said, You know what, at the end of the day, the work is still the same, the pathway is still the same. It’s really about coming back to the truth of who you are through the six core elements that I spoke about in last week’s podcast episode, Episode 106, where I spoke about how to unveil your career sweetspot by mastering the art of passion and practicality. So if you didn’t listen to that one, make sure you go back and have a listen. But I said that some of the nuances and the challenges and some of the mindset, stuff that comes up for us can be a little bit different and a bit nuanced for men. But anyway, that that’s, that’s more to share in another podcast episode, that’s one of the realizations I have.

The second realisation I’ve had is that there’s only so much change that can happen at an individual level. And unfortunately, so many of my clients have been navigating really toxic workplace cultures. And my heart breaks for my clients, because some of the stories I hear, the challenges that they’re coming up against, like, there’s so much that somebody can do on an individual level.

And so there’s a part of me that is really passionate about re-humanising the workplace, and being part of genuine culture change, and whatever way that I can. And as I’ve been pondering this next evolution and thinking about how to express this and communicate this, so you’re getting the first dibs behind the scenes scoop on that.

The common through line is really my desire and supporting individuals and organizations with more authenticity, compassion, empathy, and connection. And there’s a reason why that’s important for both individuals and organizations, which is what I’m going to talk about today, right.

I’m going to talk about why emotional dexterity is really important, and how it can drive not just your personal growth, but also organisational growth, as well.

And all of it comes back to essentially our emotions and our feelings. So much behavior change is mine based in cognitive, which I’m all on board for. Put a lot is also emotional. We are humans. At the end of the day, people show up in accordance with how they feel they behave in accordance with how they feel. And that’s what I really want to talk to that talk to you about today.

How do you build emotional dexterity to build your own personal merit mastery?

And why does that matter in an organizational context as well?

I’ll be honest, I am a little bit in my career, I’m always a bit. I have these moments where I’m like, why am I drawn to this like talking about emotions in the workplace? Really? Oh my gosh, that’s a really hard challenge and a really hard task. But there are amazing people doing great work in this area.

You probably already know about Brené Brown, the researcher who talks about shame, courage and vulnerability, but there’s also great work being done by people like Susan David, who is an award winning Harvard Medical School psychologist. She has been named one of the world’s most influential management thinkers. There’s books written on this right move Fast and fix things by Francis Frey and Ann Morris, where they talk about the 10 emotions that are undervalued in the workplace, plus so many more. All of this to say, emotions is where it’s at emotional dexterity is where it’s at building an emotional culture is where it’s at.

This podcast is for you this particular episode, if you are feeling disconnected from your emotions, or your body, and you’re stuck in your head overthinking and analysis paralysis, it’s for you, if you identify as sensitive and feel like you just feel too much.

And you’d like to turn the dial down, especially in this world where there’s a lot happening. It’s also for you if you want to build your resilience to handle stress. And equally, if you are in a position in your organization where you wish things were different. And if you are in a position where you can create the culture change. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

So first things first, though, what is emotional dexterity?

Let’s start by defining that first. Emotional dexterity goes beyond just emotional intelligence. I define it as the ability to navigate a wide range of emotions with finesse and agility, I define it as the capacity to effectively recognize, understand and manage a wide range of emotions, both within yourself and in others.

Emotional dexterity involves the ability to navigate through various emotional states with that agility, resilience and adaptability. It’s not about being perfect, being happy and grateful and toxically positive all the time, or never losing your mind, or your you know what I try not to swear on the podcast, because I know there might be kids around in the background, it’s about being able to ride the waves and not get stuck in our motions, you know, stuck on ruminating.

So let’s say for example, you start your day, and for your first meeting of the day, you’ve got back to backs. That person that you’re supposed to meet is late. And you know, that’s going to run into your next appointment. Naturally, you’re going to be stressed, you’re going to be annoyed, you’re going to be frustrated. And emotional dexterity in this context looks like allowing yourself to feel all the feels because of course you’re frustrated, of course, you’re annoyed, it looks like communicating with the person that your boundary is like I have a hard stop at such and such time. And I’m afraid that’s all the time I have. Or if it’s somebody who’s continually Tardy and late like having that conversation to say that’s not okay. And then letting that go.

So you can be present, focused on the task at hand and then move on, you know, like not holding on to that ruminating over it thinking about it continually being annoyed. As your day progresses. Individuals with high emotional dexterity, possess a really good sense of self awareness, and that allows them to regulate their emotions in different situations and respond appropriately to the emotions of others.

So it requires empathy, emotional intelligence, and the capacity and the capability to maintain composure and make thoughtful decisions even admits challenging circumstances, or frustrating people. When you have emotional dexterity, you can build stronger relationships get better at your communication and navigate complex social interactions with grace.

Why does this matter for you personally?

Why am I talking about emotional dexterity as a personal mastery skill for you? And how does it relate to your career and aligned achievement? Well, as Susan David, the lady I mentioned before, the award winning Harvard Medical School psychologist, she says this, the way we engage with our emotions, shapes, everything. It shapes our actions, our careers, our health, or well being or happiness, or leadership. We are more than just what we think we have feelings to.

So years ago, early on in my journey, I stumbled across the work of Danielle Laporte. She is an author, and wrote a book called The Desire Map. And the premise behind the book is that at the heart of our goals, we are actually chasing a feeling not the goal itself. When I read her book years ago, it made total sense to me. When I reflect back on the major milestones that I made in my previous career in commercial and corporate real estate, even the biggest goals, I had the biggest real estate deals that I had been working on for years. They satisfied me for about one day, and then the very next day, it was nose to the grindstone again, and I was continually feeling like what I did was never enough. I wasn’t good enough.

And that really fueled my tendencies for overworking and burnout. And what I thought I wanted was the milestone that I put on my piece of paper or, you know, in my, you know, review with my manager, and I thought I needed to hit those milestones to be successful. And whilst I hit those milestones, I didn’t feel that my core desired feelings, what I actually wanted to feel, and what success really felt like for me was connection, growth, meaning and impact. And figuring out what work I could do to achieve those feelings was a total game changer for me. And it’s something that I work with my clients on in their pre work with me before we get started in our first session together.

So why does emotional agility matter? Here are five reasons why.

Number one, when you have emotional agility, you build self awareness for decision making and personal growth.

So in that example, that I mentioned, reading that book by Danielle Laporte, knowing the emotions that we most want to feel, ie, in my case, what I most wanted to feel to get to feel successful to get that aligned achievement. Well, we know what that is, it allows us to set the right goals, projects and tensions habits and make decisions that aligned to our unique values and desires, we are all different. So for some people, success means prestige, it means importance, it means significance, right.

And you can see that that same goal that might have been on mine, and that other person’s piece of paper would look the same. But the feeling behind it can be completely different. So your core desired feelings, what you really want to feel they’re like a guidepost when we’re caught in those moments of uncertainty, evolution and growth. So really interesting. Interestingly, I think my core desired feelings that I just mentioned, are still very much the same. And I just realised that I get to get feel those feelings when I’m doing the work that I do now, both with clients as individuals and in corporate.

Secondly, resilience in adversity.

When we are emotionally dexterous, we are more resilient in adversity. We all know that life and work can be stressful and hard. At the very best of times, we don’t live in a silo. And we need to deal with people. And our interactions happen, like so much is outside of our control, right, you’ve got budgets, you’ve got headcount, or lack of headcount, you’ve got the economy, your company structures, maybe your kids going through something, maybe they’re sick, and that throws a wrench in the works, or there’s an accident or an unforeseen event.

Having emotional dexterity allows you to surf the waves and handle whatever life throws your way. If you get thrown back off of the board, getting back on again, which in turn helps us to build point number three.

Which is adaptability and flexibility.

When you have resilience and emotional dexterity, you bounce back and you adapt quicker, you’re not attached to things and having to make sure things are a certain way. So you feel secure and safe. You roll with the punches and you trust that you have phenomenal coping skills and can shift and change if needed, knowing that at the end of the day, everything’s going to be okay.

The fourth thing that emotional dexterity helps us with is better relationships.

When you’re emotionally dexterous, you foster healthier and more meaningful relationships, you’re able to feel name and communicate them effectively and in turn, be better equipped to understand the and empathize with others. And this can lead to better conflict resolution and more satisfying personal interactions. quick one on that one, I am not the best at expressing my emotions and how I feel original dexterity. Whilst I feel really called to this work. I’m by no means an expert. I’m just really, really in it.

And this happened the other day with my husband had a bit of a communication mess up, I said that I could give him a lift and completely forgot that I was taking my son to his swimming class in the morning and I was going a different way. And I was going to the gym and there wouldn’t be enough time to drop him off. He was clearly frustrated because I had said yes, I was really frustrated because I was just feeling like a designated driver. But obviously I had made a mistake. And typically I would ruminate and think of all the reasons why he should be more grateful. I was giving him a lift close enough to work. But you know, at the end of the day, I admitted I made a mistake. I’m really sorry. And you know, hope you have a good day and he was able to respond with I understand that’s all fine. In the moment. I was annoyed. He was annoyed but we were able to let it go. And that’s the thing once you have those better relationships you can admit to being wrong admit to when you didn’t behave in the way you wanted. Then you do the repair right.

And in turn that improves your mental health which is number five.

Mental health isn’t just a mental game. When you acknowledge and accept your emotions, you can prevent and build up stress and anxiety and engage in healthy coping mechanisms. And you’re better able to seek support when it’s needed. So often when we’re stuck, we feel like we have to figure it out on our own, and we don’t seek support.

So when you can embrace vulnerability, and learn from setbacks, and build your emotional dexterity, you unlock new levels of personal growth, you become more empathetic, you’re a better communicator, you become a better problem solver. And that really paves the way for fulfillment and success in all areas of life. It can be really hard to be emotionally nimble and dexterous, when you’re tired. And when you’re stressed out, which is really, really difficult, right? It’s, it’s easier to snap when you haven’t slept, and you’re burning the candle at both ends, right? Like your patience for us is just so much shorter. And so there are other ways that you can look at this.

So I wanted to give another plug to Magic Mind. They are the sponsors for today’s episode. And, you know, I have been taking this drink now for a number of months. And the reason why I have been is that I’ve been trying to find a way to really support myself in having the energy levels to be able to practice emotional dexterity, to be able to show up better with my clients just to be able present mom and just, you know, be on my game and on my ball, like on the ball with what I need to get done.

And so it’s quickly become a really important aid that keeps me energized throughout the day, it’s really important that I stay sharp and focused, I need to be present and able to be listening when I’m listening to my clients and be really nuanced. Like it’s really, really important. And magic mind is the drink that I need for my mind to feel better like and I noticed that I do feel better. In the mornings, I’ve got more energy, I’m happier throughout the day. And it’s made of all natural ingredients sourced from the best suppliers that magic mind could find. For all the moms out there. There’s no sugar, it’s not free. It’s vegan, keto, Paleo friendly, all of that good stuff. And it actually helps you reduce your caffeine intake, your coffee intake, which I know a lot of people love their coffee. But sometimes it can be nice to switch it out with ingredients like matcha, and lion’s mane.

So you’ve got the beautiful combination of adaptogens nootropics, and some natural caffeine, which just allows like a nice gentle release to keep your energy levels going throughout the day. So whilst they’re sponsoring the podcast episode, I wouldn’t be talking about it if I didn’t believe it. So I’m happy to share it here and encourage you to give it a try. If you find that, okay, emotional dexterity, that’s a really hard thing for me to practice because I’m just on the edge and I don’t have any energy, I don’t have a capacity, try out magic mind, see how it goes, see if it gives you that energy boost to help you with emotional dexterity as a second step. You know, it’s one of the few companies with 100% money back guarantee no questions are. So there’s really, really no risk. And what I love about them is that if you don’t like it, they’ll refund you in three to four hours. So if you’d like to give it a try, you can check it out over at That’s spelled S I O B H A N with a discount code SIOBHAN20. So that’s all caps S I O B H A N two zero. And you’ll get 56% off your subscription for the next 10 days with my code. And if I were you, I would get the 30 pack. So you’re sorted for a month, give it a good try the best value and see how you go.

So once you’ve got your energy sorted, then you’ll be able to work on your emotional dexterity and you know, be able to understand that you’re going to have all of those incredible benefits, right? The self awareness for decision making and personal growth, resilience and adversity, adaptability and flexibility, better relationships and improved mental health.

Let’s bring this now into an organisational context.

Because like I said, like there’s only so much individuals can do. Sometimes we got to change the workplace culture, otherwise people are going to leave. Ultimately, when an individual has emotional dexterity, they can bring their best selves to work, which is going to drive engagement and performance. But when corporate workplace culture doesn’t allow people to bring their whole selves to work, and they’re continually having to build themselves back up, there’s a problem toxic workplace culture is real. So when I wanted to speak to the seven core reasons why we want to begin to prioritise emotional intelligence within the workplace and foster a culture of psychological safety. So this is particularly for you if you’re making a case within your organisation to change things up. Or maybe you’re in a position of influence and impact And you realize that the culture needs to shift and change to support people in their mental health, feeling their sense of belonging and you know, to bring their whole selves to work. So here are the reasons why we want to do that.

Number one is enhanced employee engagement.

And we know engagement is a really difficult thing. Number one to measure accurately, but on the whole number two, you know, you know, when people are not engaged, so organizations with emotionally agile cultures, foster environments where employees feel valued, supported and empowered, when employees are encouraged to acknowledge and express their emotions in a constructive manner. They are more engaged and committed to their work. This leads to higher productivity, lower turnover rates, and a more positive workplace culture overall.

I was recently working with a client on this and she was sharing an experience of how, you know, she’s not. She’s not unused to hard work. And she was sharing an example of how when she was working in an organization where the leadership were there with her, they said they had her back, they wanted to know how she was feeling. If she needed to take a mental health day that that was fine. She was able to put in the hours because she was engaged, and she was happy to show up and do extra. But when it’s in a situation where the organization’s always double checking you and micromanaging then it’s like I’m gonna switch off so employee engagement is really important.

Number two, when you allow and create emotional, agile cultures, then there’s improved communication and collaboration, because people feel they’re able to be more open and have honest communication.

When employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, their concerns and ideas, it leads to better collaboration and teamwork. And then all that energy wasted on He Said, She Said, how to cover your bum. That all kind of goes out the window. When you can foster a culture of psychological safety where individuals can speak up without the fear of judgment or repercussion. Organisations can harness the collective intelligence and creativity of their teams.

Which brings me on to point number three, which is effective conflict resolution.

So conflict is inevitable in any organization, but particularly the bigger you get right. But emotional dexterity equips employees and leaders with the skills to navigate conflicts constructively rather than avoiding or escalating conflicts, emotionally dexterous individuals can address them head on seeking understanding and resolution. Right. This is the vulnerability piece that Brené Brown talks about and the courage. When you’re able to have these open conversations, it leads to stronger relationships, increased trust and a more cohesive and resilient organizational culture.

Then we have number four, the adaptability to change.

So we all know that the business environment is changing. We know that AI is changing the game in so many different industries. Adaptability is essential for organizational survival. So an emotionally agile organization is better equipped to navigate change and uncertainty. And by fostering a growth mindset and encouraging flexibility, organisations can adapt their strategies and processes to meet the changing market demands and stay ahead of the competition.

Then we have point number five innovation and creativity.

Emotional dexterity in the workplace is closely linked to innovation and creativity. When employees feel empowered to take risks and experiment with new ideas, innovation flourishes. Emotionally agile organizations create a culture that celebrates failure as a learning opportunity and encourages experimentation and creativity. This creates a culture of innovation where new ideas are valued and embraced. And recent research from Wharton Management Professor Michael Parke indicates that expressing emotions in the workplace really does result in enhanced ability to solve problems and generate ideas and I’ll pop a link to that research over at the show notes over at Siobhan

All right, the final two pieces about why emotional dexterity matters within an organisation is that it enhances leadership effectiveness.

When you have leadership effectiveness, that’s when it’s easier for an organization to succeed. It’s the Hallmark when a leader has this emotional dexterity, emotionally dexterous leaders, they’re empathetic, they’re adaptable. They’re able to inspire and motivate others and they lead by example, demonstrating vulnerability and authenticity, and that fosters trust and respect among employees. When company cultures prioritise the emotional intelligence and resilience of its people. Leaders can create a positive organisational culture that drives performance and growth.

And finally, you get better customer relationships, right?

When you have a emotionally agile organisation that not only prioritises internal relations, but also excels and building strong relationships with customers and clients. That’s when you can feel growth, understanding and empathizing with the emotional needs of customers, allows organisations to deliver exceptional customer experience foster loyalty and differentiate organisations in the marketplace.

So in a nutshell, emotional dexterity, it’s really critical for organisations that are seeking to thrive in today’s you know, really dynamic and competitive business environment.

So when we can foster a culture of emotional intelligence, adaptability and collaboration, organizations can really unlock the full potential of their employees drive innovation and creativity and achieve sustainable growth and success. And so it really matters to invest in emotional intelligence, training, emotional dexterity, and develop initiatives that equip employees at all levels with the skills needed to navigate the complexities of the human interactions that are a part of work and part of life with grace and effectiveness.

So after listening to all this, you might be like, okay, sure, I see what you mean, I get that emotional dexterity is important.

Where do I start?

How do I do this, there are a few things that you can do to get started.

And the first is just beginning to be more aware of your own emotions by developing self awareness, begin to notice how you feel in different situations and begin to notice the specific emotions that you’re experiencing. Journaling can be a really helpful tool for reflecting on your emotions and understanding your underlying causes behind them. And so often we live from the neck up and so actually starting to notice that, hey, rather than asking, What do I think about this, asking, How do I feel about this, you begin to build your language and vocabulary around it.

On that piece, expanding your emotional vector vocabulary can be really helpful. So starting to be more nuanced, and be specific about your emotions can really help. And it can help you gain clarity about your feelings, and then communicate them effectively to others. If you want to check out a resource to figure out these emotions that you’re feeling, I’ll pop a link to it in the show notes. The current app has an emotion swell, and I’ll pop it over in the show notes at siobhan.

The other way you can begin to build your emotional dexterity is to practice mindfulness. There’s a reason why that movement has taken up space in the mental health space. Because when you do things like meditation or breath work or mindful walking, it helps you to stay present in the moment and not just observe your thoughts, but also your emotions without judgment. So think about how you might build a mindfulness practice, maybe go along to a breath work class, I went to one yesterday, I went to a lovely mixer event last night in Hong Kong. And it was really great to talk about these topics. But you know, start to practice mindfulness.

And the last thing I’ll say is, you know, begin to challenge those emotional patterns that you notice. So if you’ll find that you’re getting triggered by a certain person or a certain situation, ask yourself what’s happening, and begin to think about how you might respond in a more constructive way.

And look, if you need support around this, it’s perfectly okay. Sometimes we can’t see what’s right in front of us, and we need some support. And if you would like my support, then come and book a complimentary one on one, Get Unstuck Call with me to see if I’m the right fit, and you’re the right person that I can support to get unstuck and to begin to build this emotional dexterity.

And if you’d like to do that, again, you can come on over to the show notes, I’ll pop a link there for you to book in your call with me.

So those are just some strategies that you can use to begin to gradually strengthen your emotional dexterity, and allow it to support you to create greater resilience, empathy and authenticity in your interactions with others.

So that’s a wrap for today.

We’ve covered quite a bit today we’ve spoken about emotionally dexterity what it is, why it matters for you personally, and how it helps organizations. And finally, where to begin to develop your own emotional dexterity.

If you have any questions or you want to dive deeper on this, feel free to get in touch with me over at LinkedIn, on Instagram. If you’re on the email newsletter list, hit reply and I would love to hear what what are you taking away from this topic and What does emotional dexterity mean to you, we’d love to continue that conversation.

And just know that emotional dexterity is one of those things that we’re not taught at school. And my hope and intention is that you’ll take this away, take this on board and know that your emotions are valid.

The final thing I’ll leave you with is that there are many emotions that are not, quote unquote acceptable to feel. For women, it’s typically anger, frustration or expecting things. For men, it can be showing sadness or weakness. And I just want you to know that the human experience is not about just feeling one end of the spectrum. It’s really about building capacity to feel it all and know that you know what, that’s part of the human experience. That’s part of why we’re here to feel all of the emotions. And so I know it can be really hard sometimes and really difficult, particularly when you’re feeling stuck.

But I want you to know that you can’t get stuck in emotion. There are ways to flow through them. And that’s something that I’m really passionate about as an embodiment coach and facilitator and so if you need support, please, please reach out. You know where to find me.

Thank you so much for tuning in.

And please remember before you go that you are here for a reason beyond merely hustling, grinding and merely surviving, you matter.

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