Emotional Intelligence (EQ) at Work: ‘How I Work’ EP45 with Ryan O’Keeffe

ryan okeeffe headshot and blog cover


In this episode, Josh Becerra sits down with Ryan O’Keeffe, a champion for transformation and emotional intelligence coach. Ryan is the co-founder of Jago, the world’s only B Corp personal brand agency that focuses on emotional intelligence and supports CEOs, founders, and their teams in developing themselves as authentic leaders.

How I Work, Episode 45 with Ryan O’Keeffe

Ryan sheds light on the role and importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace and its impact on trust, performance, and relationships. He stresses the significance of consistency, authenticity, and self-awareness in building a strong personal brand. As the marketing landscape evolves with the emergence of AI, Ryan encourages individuals to embrace their unique strengths, expand their capabilities, and remain focused on human-centric qualities that set them apart. Plus:

  • Understanding the connection between emotional intelligence (EQ) and performance
  • The role of EQ in personal and company branding
  • Understanding Yourself: Playing to strengths and stretching boundaries

To learn more about Ryan O’Keeffe and Jago work, visit their website: https://wearejago.com/

More Episodes

Explore more content from leaders in the SaaS marketing community on our podcast. Or visit our blog to find more digital marketing tips and ideas.

Want to learn more about Augurian? Listen to our core values or reach out to speak with an Augur today about your marketing strategy and digital advertising performance.

Transcription: How I Work, Episode 45 (Ryan O’Keeffe, Jago)

Josh Becerra:

Hi everybody, this is Josh Becerra from Augurian. Thanks for being here on this episode of How I Work. I’m super excited to introduce Ryan O’Keefe, who’s joining me today. Ryan is a champion for transformation and a people promoter, emotional intelligence coach. Jago is the world’s only B Corp personal brand agency specializing in emotional intelligence, supporting CEOs, founders, and their teams to develop themselves and become authentic leaders. Thanks for being here, Ryan.

Ryan O’Keeffe:

Yeah, thanks for having me, Josh. Really excited to be with you today.


Awesome. So, you know, I love your story as a co-founder, Ryan. Can you just tell listeners a little bit about your background, where your passion for helping people build their personal brands kind of came from?

Ryan O’Keeffe:

Yeah, I’ll try and give you the short version, Josh. Basically, I came from a fairly underprivileged background. And so I learned very early on how to navigate, yeah, troublesome times, should we say, but I went to a middle-class school. So I was observing people from different backgrounds for as long as I can remember. And also understanding the differences, those different types of people have the different challenges they have.

And what I realized is we all face challenges, no matter what class or background we come from, we all suffer at some point and predominantly it’s fear, fear of being our true selves. And so I developed an ability to interact with many different people. I landed a job in sales for the UK’s largest sales organization at the time, which was Yellow Pages.

And I went from the bottom selling ads for 79 quid on the phone, tele-sales, and I ended up looking after the largest multi-million pound portfolio in that business. And someone once asked me, how have you done that? No one else has done that. And so, you know, through my mumbled answers, they were like, wow, you’ve not once mentioned money. It was all about building trust with other people. And so since then, I’ve gone deep on the subject of emotional intelligence because that’s the thing that’s really saved my life. It’s helped me become successful, both personally and professionally. And I see my role as the people’s promoter to help other people increase their consciousness and awareness around their own emotional intelligence and how that can affect their wellbeing and performance.


Absolutely love that the key to success wasn’t about money. It was about trust relationship building you know, I’m a big believer in relationships and kind of just relational leadership in general, so anyway, I think it’s a great story and you’ve obviously been really successful. So why don’t you talk a little bit about the connections that you have made between emotional intelligence and trust and performance and well-being? Like what connects those things?

Ryan O’Keeffe:

Wow, it’s a big question. I think the connecting point is, you know, when, say for instance, you’re in a sales environment and your job is to sell, but the truth is before any sales are done, there’s a relationship.

And that relationship is built on a conversation and that conversation usually is built on storytelling. So having the ability to firstly understand your own emotions and how that could impact your actions and how those actions can impact your interactions with other people. So it’s the ability to be very aware of your own state at any point in time and actually furthermore understanding how that can impact your interactions with other people. So let me give you an example.

A really crude, simple example. If you’re going into a sales meeting and you’ve just had an argument with your partner, your natural default position at that point could be feeling quite angry or sad or frustrated. And if you don’t recognize that before you step into that sales meeting, you’re gonna take that emotion into that meeting with you, which will impact your ability to build trust. Why? Because you’re gonna take that emotion and that will affect and impact the interactions that you have. When you tap into the ability of emotional intelligence, you’re able to regulate that emotion. So we call it the gap.

There’s a small window between stimulus and action. And so if we can think about ourselves and say, actually, this emotion is going to impact me right now, what can I do to get back on it and turn up in the right way to that sales meeting? I can say, I know I’m feeling angry but I need to feel in a good position right now. I know I’m gonna solve that argument later. We usually do. It’s never nothing big. So let me just get into the zone. And that then really sets you up to have more healthier interactions with more people, which ultimately determines the outcome of that relationship. And that is all about building trust.

The other thing with emotional intelligence is it creates consistency. And consistency of behavior is something that people want when it comes to being trustworthy. We’ve all got a friend or an acquaintance that you never know which one of them is going to turn up right? Is it going to be the moody one, the sad one, the happy one and it’s very difficult and even with brands right if brands talk and speak and communicate very differently then that can be really jarring and


Oh yeah.

Ryan O’Keeffe:

that can impact the level of trust you have with your audience. So consistency of behaviour is critical in order to build trust with the people that you’re speaking with and engaging with.


Yeah. And I think that, you know, as humans, as we’ve evolved over time, we’ve kind of got this really finely tuned ability to understand where another person’s at when we’re in that interaction with them. Like something’s off with this person today. Like they’re not, they don’t have a positive vibe going. Like you can feel that. So, yeah, being able to understand, okay, I can’t walk into this sales presentation exuding this kind of negative vibe. I gotta turn it on. I gotta switch my mindset and make sure that I’m uh you know exuding a good vibe if I want this to go well. Because I do think that as humans we kind of innately like are connected in that way. We kind of can perceive when something’s going a little bit off with another person. Don’t you think?

Ryan O’Keeffe:

100% Josh, you know, a lot of people are picking up on the non-verbals. – So how you walk into a sales meeting, you know, people can read how credible and believable you are by the way you deliver, right? And sometimes I’ve had off days where I’ve walked out of meetings, you know, more in my junior sales career where I was thinking, I really didn’t represent myself well there. I know that I didn’t give a good reflection of who Ryan really is. And so yeah, if you can understand what your best version looks like and be consistent around holding that, then you’re gonna have a much better chance of being successful with interacting with other people, not just in a sales meeting, but in all interactions, whether that’s at home with your family, whether that’s with your team, if you run a marketing company and you’re trying to lead a team of various different characters and personality types, turning up consistently is something that will get you respect and trust. And that doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree with you or you have to be agreeable or you have to show up differently, but it’s being known for something. And that’s when you know you’ve got a good personal brand, by the way, when other people have a certain feeling that’s common amongst many people about you.

So it’s what people think about you when you’re, yeah.


Right. Well, let’s transition. Yeah, let’s transition a little bit more to talk about now, like personal branding, because I think you’re kind of talking about some of the concepts around kind of consistency around how is it that you show up? Right. And so can you speak to like then how that lives? Like this idea of EQ, emotional intelligence lives in someone’s personal brand.

Ryan O’Keeffe:

Yeah, look, if you haven’t got EQ, then you could end up being a Jekyll and Hyde. And no one wants to be that Jekyll and Hyde. I actually wrote a Forbes article on this. Why EQ is critical for building a solid personal brand is because of the inconsistency of behavior that I alluded to earlier. And by the way, if the listeners out there at the moment haven’t actively built their personal brand, you’ve still got one, whether you like it or not.

You’ve got a personal brand within your business. You’ve got a personal brand with your friends and acquaintances. You just haven’t scaled it yet, but you’ve got a personal brand and reputation, whether you like it or not right now. And so it’s understanding how to impact that consciously. And what EQ does, it gives you the tools to manage your behavior, everyday behavior.

Not to be someone else, not to try and augment who you really are, but actually stay true to yourself and say, actually, who is this? Is this just an emotion throwing me off guard? And therefore, if it is, that could damage your reputation and your personal brand and then impact the effectiveness of it. But if you’ve got EQ, it allows you to invest in that consistency of your behaviour. And therefore result in a credible, likeable personal brand.


Yeah, I do feel like that’s kind of a mistake that I think people make. They go into this idea of, all right, I’m going to create my personal brand. And then they try to turn themselves into an influencer or like have this completely alter ego that shows up in social media that isn’t like who they are. And so you’re telling me a little bit more about maybe like for our listeners, you know, mistakes that you think people are making or, um, you know, what they need to do to kind of employ EQ in their day-to-day work.

Ryan O’Keeffe:

But I love that reflection, Josh. You’re so right. Many people make the mistake of trying to copy, copy what they think is gonna work for them. But the truth is, for most of us business owners, us normal business owners, we’re not influencers. We are business leaders running organizations. So we need to forget about the influencers because they make their money predominantly by doing their thing. But for us everyday folk who are running businesses, trying to grow our businesses, it’s about being really true to who we are. For me, the online experience of who you are and the offline experience of who you are should marry up. It should feel consistent.

Because there is a risk by showing one thing online and being another in real life. Let me give you real life examples. We’ve seen many people present themselves in a certain way through video content, but predominantly written content. And you could get a personality that’s writing certain things. They could be really divisive and really confrontational through their written content because they wanna try and get traction but when you meet that person face to face it can be really underwhelming. You know the two might be very very different and you’re like wow you feel very different to the way you show up online or on LinkedIn for example.

So you know that again that consistency is key and an EQ doesn’t doesn’t just impact our behaviors in the physical form, it can impact us in how we write content, how we respond to people’s comments. How do we respond to someone maybe confronting us slightly? And do we respond tap for tack or do we just take a step back and be more considerate about the way we respond? So yeah, I think consistency with how you show up online and offline is critical. And then the personal brand thing that just wraps around your leadership. That’s really for us, personal branding is not about being an influencer. We need to switch off to those people. We need to look at ourselves as a business leader and think of this in a way where it’s not about you being in the spotlight. And look at me, fame, fame, fame, or it’s not about being a celebrity. It’s about being the spotlight, you shining a light on all of the great things that are going on within your business and within the market and trying to add value that way. That’s what we see as leadership, as well as showing some of your character throughout that process.


You know, uh, I love that. And what it got me thinking about is, um, how you kind of also need to, when you’re thinking about, you know, okay, I’m going to start creating content. Uh, and I want it to be consistent with me and my personal brand is to also think about where your strengths are. So like, I’ll give you an example. Um, you know, I’m not the best writer. Like I am not gifted with words. Let’s just say, right.

But what I am really good at is having conversations and meeting people and doing this kind of thing more face to face. And it’s also something that I enjoy, right? Writing feels a little bit more like a chore. So when I sit down and I’m thinking about if I’ve got to write some kind of witty, creative, uh, interesting thought leadership, uh, and post it on LinkedIn. That’s a lot harder for me than to say, Hey, Ryan, let’s have a conversation, uh, and record it. Right.

So I do think that there’s something to maybe like when you think about what kind of personal brand and what type of content you should really marry that up with what you’re going to enjoy doing on a consistent basis, right? Don’t sign yourself up for writing an article every single day if you’re like not you don’t like to write, you know, but if you love making videos and meeting people like do that every day. Does that make sense? Have you seen that?

Ryan O’Keeffe:

I have. I think it’s, I think you should play to your strengths, especially when it comes to the format that you’re comfortable with. You know, we work with both introverts and extroverts.

Agency owners, a lot of them are introverted, very creative people. And so therefore, you know, writing actually suits them, you know, being a writer suits them, putting them in front of a camera, then that becomes more of a challenge. But yeah, I think starting off, I think you should really double down on your strengths, but as you move forward, I would encourage people to stretch themselves outside their comfort zone because having that mixed format of content is life changing. Being able to speak in front of the camera or speak on stage changes the whole game for any business owner. It really does. When I’ve seen our clients speak on stage, one, they generate massive amounts of business from it if it’s the right speaking opportunity. And two, they are really seen to be the authority in their space when they step up and speak on stage.

But it’s hard, I understand it’s hard. But when you know your stuff and you go deep on who you really are, it becomes easier because you get confidence from knowing this is truly what you’re there to talk about rather than trying to play someone else’s game.


I love that. That’s great advice. So when we prepared a little bit for this call, we were talking about the changing landscape and in the marketer’s world and the whole world. Everybody’s talking about AI and all these new tools. And so I’m curious, and I know that nobody’s an expert at this. Like it’s all very new and we’re all just kind of in research mode trying to figure out, how is this really gonna impact? But…

Do you have any thoughts on how EQ and personal branding is gonna look and change in the future when people can get, you’re talking about being true to yourself and consistency and if I have AI writing a bunch of content for me, how true is that, how true am I being to myself? So anyway, I know you’ve been looking at these tools, so just any thoughts at all about… You know?

AI and how this might impact your work.

Ryan O’Keeffe:

Yeah, I mean, look, it’s already impacting our work. It’s impacting our work in a positive way, actually. We’re using chat to search for information for us, to gather some of that research stuff that we would usually use a human being for. So I think it’s already impacting us. Where the challenges are with AI, when it comes to personal brand and storytelling, is it misses the personal anecdotes.

It can write great content, it can write structured content, technical content, but obviously it’s going to find it difficult to write your own personal stories for you if it doesn’t live that life that you’re living. And so therefore, I think that’s the opportunity for people building their personal brand.


Right, exactly.

Ryan O’Keeffe:

Their personal brand, i.e. right content. Eventually people will start to see through the stuff that lacks that personality. But also that’s not to say that AI is not going to be able to learn emotion. And I had this conversation earlier around, you know, will AI learn emotion? I think it already does, but it’s probably quite one-dimensional, you know, with emotional intelligence, it’s very dynamic and reactive. And so, you know, I can train AI to be empathetic, but you know, being empathetic, sad, joyous, happy, all in one, you know, one scenario or one conversation, I don’t think it’s there yet, but you know, who knows it might be there in the future.

But what I think AI has done right now is it’s really scared people that are doing functional things and I think the value in soft skills, especially stuff like emotional intelligence when it comes to humans and behavior, mainly in sales and marketing and relationship building, I think are gonna be more valuable than ever. So yeah, what we do I think is becoming more valuable when we invest in EQ. The other thing Josh is, you know. AI can write better than some people writing their own content at the moment, because some people writing content sound like robots. So it’s going to sharpen them up anyway. And for those who lack EQ, it’s going to sharpen them up if they understand a little bit more about how to speak emotionally. So I think, you know, if you’re at either end of the scale, then you’ve got to sharpen up your abilities in business full stop.

Josh (21:08.542)

Yeah. What’s got me curious thinking about AI in this conversation we’re having today is, you know, we started with like, okay, you need to be able to kind of self-regulate and understand the emotions that you’re feeling and then change, you know, your mindset so that you can like show up in the very best way. So thinking about how robots might actually be able to learn that. So I get what you’re saying where like they you could teach some robot empathy, but to be angry, but having them understand that I am, I’m feeling angry and I should moderate my behavior and move it towards empathy is going to be, I don’t know, that’s going to be really a moment when we start seeing that kind of stuff.

Ryan O’Keeffe (22:03.603)

It is, and it’s already happening, like facial expressions picking up on subtle cues with facial expressions. I think the new MetaQuest,, I can’t remember what the name was for it, but I think what it does is it can show your face in the metaverse and show those emotions as well, because it’s showing senses. So if that’s starting to learn how emotions look physically, then yeah, it’s an interesting space, but there are more than just five or six emotions. And typically when we program things, we’re thinking about the emotions that our children might think, which is happy, sad, joyous, angry, but actually there’s over 3,000 different emotions. And that’s one of the keys to emotional intelligence is understanding how to extend your descriptions of emotions because quite often we only label them based on what emotions we know. And that’s the problem because we’re not always feeling frustrated. There are layers to those emotions, but when you expand your vocabulary on those emotions, you’re able to label them appropriately and then act. So it guides your thinking and behavior going forward.


I love that. Yeah. Ryan, this has been an amazing conversation. I really appreciate your time. I do know that you have been featured in a number of books. Why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about those two books and then we’ll wrap it up here.

Ryan O’Keeffe:

Sure. So the first one is for all of the agency owners that might be listening. It’s a book called Agency Nomics. It’s about helping you scale your business beyond the first 5 million. And we are featured under the personal branding section. It’s a really good practical guide on how to scale your agency. And the second book is B2B social selling strategy. So for those that are trying to sell more using social media, you know, actually there’s a feature section in there for personal branding that we collaborated on. So take a look at those. You can, the authors for that was Julia Atherton. And this is my friends Spencer Gallagher and Peter Hall who run Agency Nomics and both can be found on Amazon or other bookstores.


Well, Ryan, I really appreciate your time. This has been a fascinating conversation, and that’s going to do it for this episode of How I Work. Thanks so much.

Ryan O’Keeffe:

Thanks, Josh.

Explore Our Latest Digital Marketing Tips