The Daily Gamecock

Energy executive gives communication lecture

Ginny Mackin, Duke Energy's chief communications officer discusses emotional intelligence

 It's discussed the decisions surrounding investments, nuclear power and energy infrastructure that drive the company's long-term plans and play into broader discussions of the nation's energy future.

And then there's Ginny Mackin, Duke Energy's senior vice president and chief communications officer, whose job requires perhaps even more nuance than her technically minded colleagues and certainly more tact.

Her task? Manage the message and communications of a Fortune 500 company with millions of customers in an evolving industry and be ready to react when crisis hits.

It's an intense position — one she was selected for only after a similarly intense 11 rounds of interviews — but Mackin is guided by what she describes as her "secret weapon," emotional intelligence, or EQ for short.
Emotional intelligence, Mackin said, is the ability to forge relationships, read a room and connect and empathize with others.

"There are so many people going for what you want, in the way of jobs, that you've really got to make yourself stand out," she told a full School of Law Auditorium Thursday evening. "[EQ] will be probably the No. 1 thing that will determine your success."

Strong emotional intelligence, Mackin argued, is crucial to effective communication.

"Communication is usually dictated by the level of EQ that we have," she said.
"The reason why is that when we are communicating with our antennas up and reading the room and understanding what motivates us and others, we tend to meet people where they are, and when you meet people where they are, you communicate a lot better."

EQ largely correlates with effective communication, Mackin said, because connecting and empathizing with those you encounter puts you on their level.

"When you're a good communicator, one the best skills you can have is empathy, because you're getting in everyone else's head and what you're doing is understanding where they are and how to get them to where they need to be," she said.

Examples of emotional intelligence — both good and bad — are quite common throughout daily life, Mackin said.

Consider the plight of former USC quarterback Stephen Garcia.

Football coaches and their staffs are heavy on emotional intelligence — they have to relate to their players and use their understanding to inspire them toward success on the field — but they largely depend on their quarterback to relay that EQ.

But here, Mackin argued, is where Garcia went wrong.

"When he made those mistakes, I think his EQ was pretty low," she said, "because he wasn't really understanding the impact he was having on others ... What I know is that coach (Steve) Spurrier's EQ was really strong, because he had to make the tough decisions and he had to go through the conflict."

And that's a lesson Mackin argued applies to students off the field as well.

"Wisdom is what people really look for," she said. "You have to be able to execute; you do have to know how to write. You're learning all that stuff here, but you have to be able to inspire, to motivate, to get in people's heads, to read the room. I promise you it's the thing that will launch your career."