The overlooked power of emotional intelligence

Once community associate Shannon Spang realized her hidden superpower, her confidence and creativity flourished

WeWork’s community team members are the soul of the We community. The Heart of We highlights how their hard work and passion improves the daily lives of WeWork members across the globe.

In high school and college, academics were never Shannon Spang’s strength. Spang’s mother had always been a straight-A student herself, and she couldn’t understand why her daughter wasn’t the same. The measure of success her mother was accustomed to was good marks, and Spang, 23, says she began to internalize those feelings about herself—“that I wasn’t good enough.”

That is, until one day, when her mother encountered something that shifted her perspective. “My mom found an article that talked about how students like me would one day run the world,” recalls Spang. Both she and her mother had overlooked the massive strength Spang had always possessed: social intelligence.  

Today, as a community associate at WeWork One Seaport Square in Boston, Spang’s people smarts have proven themselves of great value to the members in her building. A cofounder of Solvd, Carl-Philip Majgaard, was so impressed by Spang’s authenticity and demeanor that he sent an unsolicited letter about her to WeWork headquarters. In it, he praised her “aptitude, attention to detail, and superior hospitality.” The future Majgaard sees for Spang matches that foretold by the article her mother found. He wrote, “at some point in her career, Shannon will join the ranks of the elite in her industry.”

For now, Spang has used her role at WeWork to help her build on her strengths. “Being the first person anyone sees when they walk into the building has shown me that you can create a great office environment right from the initial impression,” says Spang. She has come to value her own patience, helpfulness, and warmth as a category of intelligence, too.  

Spang says being at WeWork also allows her to develop the creative side of herself that she had long neglected in pursuit of better grades. “Our WeWork offices are so beautiful, I felt inspired to add more color to the building,” she says. So she turned her building’s announcements and communications into masterpieces on the campus blackboard that everyone notices. “At my old company, I’d get yelled at even for doodling in my notebook,” she says.

Spang says being at WeWork also allows her to develop the creative side of herself that she had long neglected in pursuit of better grades.

Because they don’t register on a GPA scale, social skills and their value to a company are easily overlooked by employers. Spang is proving their worth, one blank slate at a time. We spoke with Spang about her best art pieces, her future, and who she’d love to learn from.

Her favorite campus blackboard artwork: Last week the Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup finals. “I grew up around hockey,” says Spang, a big Bruins fan. “I have three male cousins and wherever they went, I went.” This meant a lot of time around the sport, Spang says, because they were always at the hockey rink. To show her support for her favorite team, she created a good luck drawing for Game 7 of the series. (Sadly, they lost.)

What inspires her: Spang says she comes from a big, close-knit New England family. “I feel lucky to have all four of my grandparents still with me, and they were very proud when I was the first grandkid to graduate college,” she says. As the oldest of her generation on both sides of the family, she loves setting a positive example for her younger cousins. “It’s inspiring for me to be their role model.”

Member who influenced her most: “Peekay Than [a staff accountant for Noble Supply and Logistics] is a constant reminder of how much positivity can make a difference in someone’s day,” says Spang. “He not only wrote my team a letter to thank us for our work, he has also written thank-you letters to the cleaning staff, too.” Than reminds Spang how important gratitude is, and how much it means to people to thank them for what they do.

Who she would love to have dinner with: “This is a toss-up for me right now,” says Spang, because recently she has felt inspired by both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Spang admires how both powerful women have made strides toward equality for all. “They hold themselves to high standards and are amazing examples to young women everywhere,” she says, noting that they have proven that women can do whatever they put their minds to. Spang closes by saying she “would love to learn a thing or two from these ladies.”

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