Make a conscious effort to have conversations with people from completely different backgrounds to yours. A big part of developing EQ is stepping outside of our bubbles.
As a part of our series about Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mariela De La Mora.
Mariela De La Mora is a Life Coach and certified EQ Leadership Coach who helps women of color become powerhouse leaders of purpose-driven brands. Her mission is to help women of color break glass ceilings by healing the generational trauma and cultural conditioning holding them back from becoming the leader they can be.
She was named one of the ‘Top 10 Leadership Coaches’ by Yahoo! Finance and has coached 6- and 7-figure CEOs and even leaders in the United Nations. She is also a single parent and the first in her family to break pretty much every conventional norm.
Mariela previously spent 16 years in Marketing while leading teams internationally. As a first-generation Mexican American, she was often the only woman of color in senior leadership and had to break past systemic and mindset barriers to do it.
She now helps women bridge that gap through trauma-informed life coaching and emotional intelligence development, so they can fully step into their power and lead with intention.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I’m the eldest daughter of Mexican immigrants, and I very much played into the desire to achieve and be the golden child of the family. I spent my entire twenties checking everything off the ‘grocery checklist of life’: graduated from college, got my masters’ degree, the six-figure marketing job, the marriage, the house…
But when I turned 30, I realized that I had built an entire life based on what I thought was expected of me, and I was extremely unhappy. So I began the process of throwing out the script, starting over, and discovering who I am through reparenting myself. It’s been a perpetual process of rebirth and discovery ever since!
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
My previous 16 years in Marketing is ultimately what inspired me to become a Life and Leadership Coach. I climbed the corporate ladder, often as one of the youngest and only woman of color, and when I eventually started to lead my own teams, it brought up a lot of things to the surface: my confidence issues, struggles with assertiveness, using my voice, and really just showing up and stepping into my power.
And so, in the process of learning to grow and lead a team, and also in becoming a parent, I also had to face my own limiting beliefs and understand where these mindset issues came from in order to change them.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I absolutely attribute some of my success to my own Life Coach, Desiree Kaye. Things really began to shift for me when we worked together. She helped me learn how to reparent myself, and to essentially reprogram all of the beliefs that had caused me to shrink myself. With her help, I’ve discovered who I really am and stepped into my power.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Part of my leadership journey was growing a startup, a socially conscious dating app called Neqtr. Our mission was to help people “find love while saving the world”. While Neqtr was a success on paper and we got a lot of press, we waited too long to focus on monetizing it.
Although we pitched to VC, and people loved the app and our mission, we never got funded and eventually had to scrap it. But Neqtr taught me more about entrepreneurship and leadership than any experience ever, and I would not take it back for anything!
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
They say that you are the product of the five people you spend the most time with. It is important that you surround yourself with people who represent who you want to become, and who will support you in that journey.
So my advice to young people is: your surroundings matter, and what you consume matters. Surround yourself with people who represent your future, not your past.
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
In 2016, I read a book called ‘Living Dangerously’ by Osho. It is a book all about the ego, and how it will trick us and tell us all kinds of stories about how we will live our lives. Living Dangerously is all about awakening, and how once you’re awake, you have full responsibility for your life and you cannot go back to the ego.
This book resonated with me so much because, unknown to me at the time, I was about to go through my own ‘dark night of the soul’, which some people describe as a life pain that feels equivalent to death and rebirth. Had I not read Living Dangerously, I wouldn’t have begun my awakening process and I don’t even know how I would’ve handled that life event.
I believe that we are given the information that we need before we realized we need it, so I’m very grateful that I came across this book when I did.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” — Otto Rank. It resonates with me because, in my awakening and healing journey, I discovered that I am quite literally the creator of my own life. My thoughts create my reality. It caused me to prioritize my healing, making consciousness a daily practice, being more mindful of my thoughts.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I will soon be launching my first group coaching program — The Reclaim Collective — for daughters and granddaughters of immigrants (and anyone who connects with this background). First Gen face similar effects from intergenerational trauma and strained family relationships, and TRC helps them reclaim their identities, their voices, their intuition, and their power.
I created this program based on my own healing journey and working with daughters of immigrants for the last 18 months, unpacking their cultural conditioning, and uncovering what was really holding them back from being the empowered leaders they wanted to be.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority about Emotional Intelligence?
I am a certified EQ Coach, and I have coached CEOs and women in the United Nations on emotional intelligence. But what makes me an authority isn’t the certification itself, but how I apply it.
I noticed during my certification program that there wasn’t any emphasis on ‘why’ people are the way they are. I have found that it’s very difficult to change what you don’t understand, particularly when helping marginalized people and BIPOC.
What’s unique about my approach is that I blend emotional intelligence with unpacking generational trauma and cultural conditioning, to address and shift their mindset at the root.
For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?
EQ is the ability to perceive, manage, and regulate emotions. The brain processes emotional data and logical data at the same time. Therefore, what you know is only as valuable and effective as your level of EQ. It includes how you express yourself, how you solve problems, how you manage stress, and how you relate to others.
How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?
Unlike IQ (our ‘normal’ indicator for intelligence), which tapers off in our early 20s and stays the same throughout our lives, EQ can actually be developed well into our 60s, if we actively work on it. In short, IQ is what you know, but EQ is how effectively you apply it.
Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?
When I work with my clients, I ask them to describe the best boss they’ve ever had, or their best friend, and what qualities they have. They usually come up with characteristics like empathy, understanding, listening, flexibility… nothing that is actually to do with what or how much they know. All of their qualities relate to good EQ.
EQ is important because it is related to 58% of performance, and is most closely related to effective leadership. The World Economic Forum named EQ one of the most valuable skills of this upcoming decade. Technology may have mimicked AI (which is IQ), but EQ is uniquely human.
Would you feel comfortable sharing a story or anecdote about how Emotional Intelligence has helped you in your life? We would love to hear about it.
As a WOC, understanding others’ perceptions is a matter of survival. Whenever we walk into a room, we’re acutely aware of who is in it because we come from marginalized backgrounds. We are very effective chameleons, and this is emotional intelligence.
For instance, in my last role as Director of Marketing, I was able to build a marketing department from the ground up despite being an outsider in every sense. I was the only American, the only WOC in senior leadership, of a different generation and much different mindset. But that didn’t stop me from creating success and building strong relationships.
Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?
EQ can help you at work by allowing you to have more productive conversations and build stronger relationships. For instance, active listening and effective collaboration require EQ skills such as: empathy, self-awareness, self-expression, flexibility, problem-solving, and stress management.
Building up your EQ skills is equivalent to filling up your leadership tool belt. Not every job will require every tool, but once you have them, you can decide what each situation calls for.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?
EQ builds self-awareness. It will call upon you to challenge your assumptions, to check yourself, to actively listen, to know when to be flexible, to not allow stress to cloud your judgment, and to effectively work with someone, rather than against them. EQ helps you build stronger relationships across the board, whether at work or in your personal life.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?
Because EQ is about managing our emotions and making them work for us, the connection to stronger mental health is undeniable. Developing our EQ makes us more self-aware, so we’re better able to be attuned to what we need, decipher reality vs. false stories we tell ourselves, and become better able to manage stress and pressure from daily life.
Ok. Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you recommend five things that anyone can do to develop a greater degree of Emotional Intelligence? Please share a story or example for each.
- Make a conscious effort to have conversations with people from completely different backgrounds to yours. A big part of developing EQ is stepping outside of our bubbles.
- Practice self-awareness. How well do you understand your motivations and reactions? Simply checking in and asking yourself ‘why?’ goes a long way.
- Practice active listening with the goal of understanding. Reflect back until the person says you’ve understood them.
- Observe your own emotional reactions and triggers, especially under stress. What’s the common thread?
- Practice assertiveness by having a conversation you’ve been avoiding. Listen to understand first, then express yourself.
Do you think our educational system can do a better job at cultivating Emotional Intelligence? What specific recommendations would you make for schools to help students cultivate Emotional Intelligence?
I think schools can help students build EQ by actively nurturing their individuality and creativity. I also see a need to encourage kids to solve the conflict in a healthy manner, rather than shaming them for having conflict. After all, conflict is unavoidable!
I also think it’s important to encourage critical thinking and problem solving rather than compliance, which is essentially empowering them to problem solve vs. just following directions. The Reggio Emilia approach is a great example of this methodology, but I think there are many ways we can get there.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am already inspiring it! That movement is to help children of immigrants to become purposeful leaders through self-development and healing work.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would love to have a mimosa brunch with Rachel Rodgers! She’s a wife, a mother of four, a woman of color, and a powerhouse 7-figure business owner who is helping other women of color build generational wealth. As a single mother woman of color, I’m massively inspired by her success and her mission.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The best place to hang out with me online is @mariela.delamora on Instagram or learn more about me on my website www.marieladelamora.com
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.