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ATD Blog

EQ and Decision-Making Are Vital TD Capabilities

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Judging from its name, the capability Emotional Intelligence and Decision-Making—one of the 23 capabilities in the Talent Development Capability Model—might appear to embrace a pair of distinct skillsets that could be considered separately.

But that would be a mistake, claims Lou Russell, director of learning at Moser Consulting’s Russell Martin & Associates. The two are connected and represent “a combination of things that people already know how to do but need context to apply to real work,” she says.

That is the practical way TD professionals instinctively recognize and apply many separate competencies included within ATD’s new model, Russell believes. She says that while it’s important and useful to categorize the broad range of competencies, it makes little sense to consider them in isolation.

“Nobody works like that. All learners combine different competencies together all the time. Integration happens almost effortlessly. It’s a giant combo,” she explains.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) and the ability to make good decisions are paramount to professional success. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, assess, and regulate your own emotions; correctly interpret the verbal and nonverbal behaviors of others; and adjust your behavior in relation to others. Emotional intelligence is a key strength in building rapport. Decision-making requires you to determine the need and importance of making a decision, identify choices, gather information about choices, and take action on the appropriate choice.

A TD professional with capability in this area would need knowledge of the:

  • theories of emotional intelligence
  • techniques and approaches to learn and demonstrate resilience (for example, meditation, mindfulness, and perspective-taking)
  • decision-making models (for example, consensus-based, democratic, and autocratic).

An effective TD professional would need skills in:

  • assessing and managing one’s own emotional state
  • identifying personal biases that influence one’s own cognition and behavior
  • observing and interpreting the verbal and nonverbal behavior of individuals and groups
  • adjusting their behavior in response to or anticipation of changes in others’ behavior, attitudes, and thoughts
  • using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

Think of the combination of these capabilities in the context of facilitating a course to a group of learners. The EI capability will help the facilitator “read the room” and discern engagement. Decision-making capability enables the facilitator to pivot on approach or content to quickly address issues.

What TD professionals seek are insights regarding how each competency could help them personally and professionally, Russell advises. “What are some helpful nuggets that can be reused in their work?”


For ATD’s EI and Decision-Making capability, Russell finds especially useful the provision on the multiple intelligence theory proposed by developmental psychologist Howard Gardner in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences differentiates human intelligence into eight specific “modalities” rather than views intelligence as dominated by a single general ability. They are bodily kinesthetic (physical movement), interpersonal (others), verbal-linguistic (discussion), logical-mathematical (problem solving), naturalistic (environment/culture), intrapersonal (collaboration), visual-spatial (pictures/beauty), and musical (listening).

“It’s useful for TD professionals to consider the multiple intelligences and how they can employ as many as possible to benefit learners,” says Russell. “In our ATD project management workshop, we use flipcharts and sticky notes to build scope diagrams. This jump-starts learning by ‘serving’ all eight of the multiple intelligences to drive long-term retention. It’s fun, so the learning sticks.”

About the Author

Paul Harris is a freelance writer in Alexandria, Virginia.

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