3 Ways to Use Emotional Intelligence (EI) to Break Down Silos

3 Ways to Use Emotional Intelligence (EI) to Break Down Silos


When I go into an organization to work with leaders and teams, I often hear how the organization’s silos are getting in the way of business success.

I hear people blaming other departments for everything from taking credit where credit is definitely not due, to stalling projects and never taking ownership for accountabilities.

Funny how our minds work – in order for there to be an “us” – a team or department or organization – there always needs to be a “them”, the other guys. It’s amazing to me how unhelpful the human mind can be if it’s untrained and managed.

Emotional Intelligence is all about managing our mind and emotions – our internal experiences – so that we have more choice in our day-to-day lives.  Daniel Goleman’s work is a great place to start to learn about the 5 Hallmarks of Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Balanced Motivation (Intrinsic and Extrinsic), Empathy and (Exceptional) Social Skills.

So, what does EI have to offer when it comes to breaking down silos? Here are 3 ways it can help:

1. Change the dynamic of your interactions by practicing self-regulation. Work on managing your emotions when working with other teams to override the habit of blaming. Give others the benefit of the doubt.  Assume they have good intentions (we all tend to do the opposite at times!) and notice how it changes both how you feel, and the outcomes you get when working with others.

2. Get and keep stalled projects moving by working to understand the other guys’ motivations. Ask questions to understand their position and interests. Why isn’t that deadline going to work for their team? Why does your request for shared resources impact their other work so negatively? Understanding the real story instead of making up your own is a key factor in reducing silos and influencing productive outcomes.

3. Build strong relationships by practicing empathy. Slow down for a few minutes to listen to, and care about, what others are saying. Put yourself in their shoes by taking the time to understand what’s going on for them and factor that into things like decision-making, scheduling, and division of responsibility among teams. Practicing empathy creates alliance and shared outcomes – the anti-silo! Check out how Google is finding compassion (empathy) has a positive impact on the bottom line. If Google is doing it, and making the connection to improving business results – you can do it too.

Authentic leadership is a keystone of Emotional and Social Intelligence and it’s important to note that showing interest in others’ motivations and working to understand where they are coming from requires a true and genuine curiosity about the other person. If your interest isn’t real, your outcomes are likely to be short-term.

And here’s a nice bonus: you’re very likely to find these 3 practices bring a little more ease and positivity into your own workday.


Tana Heminsley headshot business succession planningTana Heminsley is a Mentor and Executive Coach at ViRTUS, specializing in emotional intelligence, authentic leadership, strategic planning, change management, leadership development, and executive coaching.



Tana Heminsley
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