The impact of emotional intelligence (EI) on the workplace was first brought to our collective attention when author and psychologist Daniel Goleman wrote about it in 1995. Goleman described EI as an aptitude for effectively recognizing, managing, and expressing our emotions - and for helping others to do the same.
Fostering an emotionally intelligent work culture results in communication that benefits everyone - and that can lead to better business systems and growth. But while it may seem obvious that encouraging self-awareness and empathy is important, some entrepreneurs remain unaware of just how important it is.
Yes, knowledge, education, and practical experience all contribute to what we accomplish professionally. But Daniel Goleman found that, beyond a certain point, there’s little to no correlation between IQ and high levels of achievement. In fact, emotional intelligence is a stronger predictor of business success than diplomas or technical know-how.
Intelligent Business Relations
The higher your level of emotional intelligence, the higher the performance of your business is likely to be. Why? Because understanding what drives human emotion helps you make better decisions. Business owners who identify and manage how they feel during interactions with clients and suppliers for example, listen more actively and respond more appropriately. And that can pay dividends when it comes to:
- navigating negotiations or difficult conversations,
- promoting more successful outcomes, and
- establishing trust in business relationships
Equally if not more important however, is the fact that being smarter with feelings will help you to engage and motivate your personnel.
Your employees bring individual personalities and a unique set of beliefs and behaviors to the workplace, and every one of those traits influences how they interact and perform. Finding ways to capitalize on your employees’ strengths is one of the things that sets the emotionally intelligent leader apart.
US businesses lose some $450 to $500 billion dollars in productivity every year, thanks to low employee engagement. But EI-driven leadership reduces staff turnover, and plays a key role in supporting positive feelings of autonomy, competence, inclusion, and connectivity in employees. Who wouldn’t go the extra mile for someone they respect and admire - and who’s tuned into their personal needs?
Keeping it Real
Ideally, every decision you make and every interaction you face as a business owner should be based on an EI approach. While that’s not always realistic, it is a good litmus test for monitoring your words and actions in any given situation.
It’s normal for humans to experience doubts about whether their feelings are rational - and for them to be unsure of how to express those feelings constructively. This is especially true in North America, where we’re often taught to worship a positive mindset above all else. Without emotional authenticity however, it can be difficult to nurture progressive, professional relationships.
So does that give us an excuse to fly off the handle and berate everyone within hearing distance when things don’t go our way? Of course not. Not only will letting negative emotions fly cause others to become defensive, your message will inevitably be lost.
A big part of becoming more emotionally intelligent is learning how to express feelings honestly and accurately, but in such a way that encourages a collaborative response. And while this ability comes more easily to some than to others, EI is a skill that gets better with practice.
Here are a few basic pointers on becoming a more emotionally intelligent business owner:
- Developing self-awareness begins with identifying emotions - and learning to recognize physical clues like tension in the neck and shoulders can tell you it’s time to find the cause of your anger, worry, or frustration
- Emotional communication is a two-way street, and it’s just as important to encourage others to express themselves honestly, as it is to do so yourself - to show that you’re actively listening, try mirroring the body language of the person you’re talking to, or paraphrasing what they’ve just said
- Stick with questions and avoid statements during emotionally charged interactions: statements imply judgement, while asking questions makes it easier to avoid activating emotional triggers in others – it also helps them to feel autonomous, competent, included, and connected
- Following an emotional encounter or conflict, start the diffusion process by taking a short walk or concentrating on some other physical task before setting about gathering follow-up information to deal with the issue at hand – remember to keep things in perspective by asking yourself how important this event is likely to seem minutes, days, or months from now
Understanding your product, your customer, and how they fit together plays an integral role in the success of your company. But effectively managing the day-to-day relationships that keep your business humming will kick it to the next level.
When you work to expand your emotional wisdom, you not only enhance your knowledge and skills in other areas, you help to define your company’s personal brand. Higher EI means an improved ability to relate to various work styles and attitudes – and that means better decision-making, healthier communications, and greater productivity in the workplace.