You always want your business to be viewed as an expert in its field, and as a resource of excellent, reliable information for others to look to for guidance. But it may surprise you to learn that many experts are saying that, while your industry knowledge is certainly valuable, a growing trend among businesses worldwide is that of increasing your Emotional Intelligence (EI). If you’re not exactly sure how to define EI, you’re not alone. Read on to learn what Emotional Intelligence is, how it applies to you, and how it can make or break a successful year for your business.
Defining Emotional Intelligence
Simply speaking, Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions, as well as the ability to recognize the emotions of others. You do not need to be a mind reader; rather, those with a high level of EI are able to better understand what they are feeling, why these emotions are currently playing out, and how they can manage the emotions for the best outcome.
Emotional Intelligence is broken up into five categories: Self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, motivation, and social skills. Each of these has information you need to increase your own EI abilities.
Why it matters:
Did you know that people who are more self-aware are less likely to give into sudden impulses? The ability to stop and consider your options is a crucial skill for any leader, especially one running a company in a large community. Knowing that you are making a difficult decision for the good of the company, rather than to satisfy your own emotional needs, will allow you to make better choices as a leader – and stand by those choices in the future.
Self-awareness also shows you where you thrive and where you struggle. Realizing your own limits allows you to either adapt and improve necessary skills, or find team members who excel in areas of your weakness so your business has experts for every part of the job.
Why it matters:
Have you ever been yelled at by a boss? It is a humiliating and ultimately unhelpful experience, as multiple studies show that employees are much more likely to change or improve their skills through calmer, less stressful means – like sitting down with the boss to talk about where they thrive, where there they struggle, and how they can manage both areas.
These calm, productive conversations are the result of self-regulation. Instead of losing your temper with an employee or vendor, look for ways to take a moment to relax and approach the situation rationally. Before you allow the stress of your daily tasks to overwhelm you to the point of being completely unproductive, find opportunities to delegate the tasks that do not absolutely have to fall to you. You’ll find that self-regulation goes a long way in improving your company’s culture, and with improving your relationships with team members.
Why it matters:
Empathy and self-regulation tend to go hand in hand. For instance, let’s say you have a chronically late employee, and you are getting frustrated with giving him constant reminders about his tardiness. You are self-aware and recognize that you are angry, and because you practice self-regulation, you do not march down the hall and fire the employee on the spot to assuage your feelings. This is where empathy comes into play – you sit down with your employee and listen to their explanation. You learn that they have had car trouble for several months, and have been unable to fix it for financial or other reasons, and it has caused them to be late to work each day.
Now, you have two options: You can argue that they have signed an agreement to come to work on time, and warn them that another infraction will be their last with your company. However, you also have a second option: You can listen to your employee without interruption, and then find a solution that works for everyone. Maybe another team member lives nearby and can offer a ride. Maybe someone in the community can assist this employee with their car repair. Looking for ways to meet the needs of all parties will go a long way in creating loyal team members who know they work for a business who cares about its people.
Why it matters:
We probably don’t need to explain why motivation is so vital to your business. Having the desire to do well and then using that desire to create and accomplish goals speaks for itself in the business world. But you may find that, while motivation is certainly something everyone needs, you notice it isn’t something that everyone has. That might even include yourself some days. So how do you increase your motivation?
Start small – take some time and remember what you hoped to achieve when you first started out. If you have reached the finish line on those goals, set some new goals! Work with your team to set a company-wide goal that everyone must participate in to achieve. You can work to increase sales, or even hold a contest to see who can hit the company gym the most times in a month to win a prize. Stay in touch with your team often to learn what motivates them and how you can help.
Why it matters:
One of the most desired skills among potential vendors are the so-called “soft skills.” Small things, like shaking hands when greeting someone, looking them in the eye during conversation, and practicing active listening have all taken a hit in the digital age. Creating digital relationships makes sense for those clients who you mainly connect with over email, but what about the clients who meet with you in person, or even the potential employees you interview? Having the appropriate social skills is critical for success in many areas of business.
Communication is a large part of improving your social skill set. When you create an open dialogue with your team, they are more likely to approach you with new ideas or bring up product concerns that they would otherwise keep to themselves. Create a culture where communication is celebrated, and watch as your employees begin to apply these skills to their own tasks.
If you’re worried that your EI is low, don’t be – all of these skills can be practiced and improved. Set a goal for yourself to work on at least one of these areas in 2020, and you will soon find that your Emotional Intelligence is growing almost as quickly as your business.