Emotional Intelligence for Medical Practice Management & Success

For quite a while, businesses have stressed the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ). More recently, healthcare has also begun to recognize its crucial role in patient-centered care. Indeed, providers’ EQ may be just as important as IQ in healing patients. Emotional intelligence is also an essential trait among staffers who work directly with patients.


People with high EQs are self-aware, curious, and not afraid to challenge themselves to learn and grow—all traits that contribute financially to a practice.

Staff with high EQ recognize and acknowledge their own emotions and take responsibility for their emotional wake. Emotionally intelligent people are empathetic, listen well, and can work well with a range of personalities. They understand that when we deal with people, we’re not only dealing with the rational, frontal lobe in their brains, but also with the older, impulse-driven parts of the brain. People with high EQs know how to work equally well with intense emotions as they do with logic thoughts.

Individuals with high EQs set the best cultural standards in any business organization.

People can develop their emotional intelligence over time, but only if they work at it and only if they want to work at it. It’s a lifelong pursuit—a pursuit some people forgo.

“EQ can be developed, improved, fixed and worked on both in individuals and medical practices,” says Brian Ingles, PMP, who led a session about emotional intelligence at the American Academy of Professional Coders Conference in May 2017. “And doing so can create very healthy and happy work environments for both employees and patients.”

Interviewing for EQ

You can’t judge a person’s EQ from their resume, but you can use interview questions to get a sense of a person’s EQ and their commitment to developing it.

Here are some ideas for interview questions and follow-up questions from Tom Gimbel, founder & CEO of LaSalle Network:

  1. Ask candidates to tell you about a time they failed.

Emotionally intelligent people “are forthright and willing to share how they messed up,” writes Gimbel in a recent blog post for The Wall Street Journal. They work well in teams because they can admit when they’ve failed and learned from their mistakes.

  1. Ask follow-up questions that prompt candidates to reflect on lessons they’ve learned and how they’ve changed their behaviors.

“People with EQ reflect on every situation and consider the impact it had on everyone involved,” Gimbel notes. “Whether it’s an hour later or during their commute home, they reply something that happened during the day in their head and think through how it could have gone differently.” This reflection improves their performance and career growth over time.

  1. Ask candidates to describe a time when they led others.


People with high EQ relate to all kinds of personalities, says Gimbel. Because they make people feel understood and appreciated, they are natural leaders and enjoy the challenges of leadership more than folks with lower EQs.

  1. Ask questions that elaborate on the ‘hows’ behind the ‘whats.’

People with high EQ think about the processes that led to results, how people felt, and what factors helped a group reach collective goals, Gimbel notes.

  1. If the candidate has any experience as a supervisor, ask how they resolved a personnel issue. If they’ve been in a customer service role, ask them to tell you how they handled a difficult customer.

Self-aware people with high EQs “have the ability to remove any personal preference when helping co-workers through an argument or dealing with the hostile client,” Gimbel concludes.

Developing Your Practice’s EQ

Hiring a new staff member with high EQ won’t accomplish anything if the practice environment they’re entering lacks EQ of its own. In the sharply-defined hierarchy of a medical practice, warns Ingles, “those with higher authority or status tend to show less EQ than those below them; i.e., physicians or high-ranking administrators who have been through many years of training and education treating a nurse or another staff member like they are beneath them.”

The result of this attitude of superiority is a staff that either becomes too dependent on its leader or checks out entirely. “In a healthy emotional culture,” says Ingles, “relationships are not treated unequally due to title, experience, or level.” An authoritarian management style only leads to staff resentment, which in turn leads to underperformance and bad results for the practice.

In a high EQ environment, staff members refuse to be bullied. Instead of arguing or being combative with their boss, they “work to mutually come up with solutions and to enhance awareness of how not solving the problem will impact them and the practice negatively,” says Ingles. An emotionally intelligent practice culture simply won’t let such a negative atmosphere continue.

If you want to put your practice in the best position to thrive in today’s patient-centered, value-based market, then do not underestimate the power of emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent employees contribute to a financially healthy practice.