Emotional intelligence for entrepreneurs
By Pauline Muindi | July 22nd 2020
Attaining success as an entrepreneur takes many different qualities and elements. One of the most overlooked qualities that determine success, whether in business or employment, is emotional intelligence.
Also known as emotional quotient (EQ), this is the kind of smarts that help you read situations and people correctly and respond appropriately. The term “emotional intelligence” was coined by Salovey and Mayer in 1990 and popularised by psychologist Dr Daniel Goleman in his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence. Goleman pointed out that emotional intelligence encompasses both personal competencies (such as self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation) and relationships with others (empathy and social skills).
Emotionally intelligent people are adept at putting themselves in other people’s shoes. This helps them in understanding other people’s perspectives, which helps them become better in solving problems. Thanks to the heightened self-awareness, they also have a keen understanding of their own emotions. This makes them better at controlling their emotions in difficult situations and communicating their needs to others.
Just like motor oil and regular maintenance are key in keeping a car running smoothly, emotional intelligence is the oil that facilitates interpersonal relationships. The correlation between EQ and success in business and leadership has gained interest in recent years. In his book, Goleman claims that 80 per cent of adult success comes from emotional intelligence.
There are different ways that a high EQ helps entrepreneurs attain success. Most prominently, EQ helps a business owner in forming stronger connections with employees, investors, and customers.
You will have a more dedicated team
In terms of employees, studies have shown that when they feel disconnected from their leader, they’re likely to feel valued – which makes them more productive. When you have a high EQ, your employees trust you enough to come to you with any problems or frustrations they’re facing instead of quitting their job. This way, you will have less employee turnover and a more dedicated team.
You will also be better equipped to make decisions when it comes to your employees. For example, when the team is underperforming, you will be better able to identify the root of the problem to resolve it as quickly as possible.
You will win at negotiations
An emotionally intelligent entrepreneur is a skilled negotiator, which gives them an advantage when dealing with investors. You will be less likely to show nervousness during the negotiation process, which wins investors confidence in your abilities.
Often, investors rely on their gut instinct when choosing an entrepreneur to invest in. This gut instinct has a lot to do with how you come across to people. If you’re emotionally smart, you will be able to show confidence, vulnerability, and business acumen that makes investors like you and most importantly, want to invest in your business.
Your customers will feel fulfilled
In business, success is determined by how well you’re able to satisfy your customer’s needs. To do so effectively, it helps when you can empathise with potential customers. Being able to read and understand your customers puts you at a better place when updating and improving your products and services to meet their needs. You will also be able to adjust your marketing strategy to effectively reach your audience.
While the hard data you get from market research is indisputably valuable, it is more effective when combined with personal insights. Sometimes the customer doesn’t know what they need until it is presented to them. Additionally, customers might be too nice or shy to give you straight answers on why they don’t like a certain product or service. It is at times like this that you need to rely on your emotional intelligence and personal interaction with customers to inform your decision.
CULTIVATING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Fortunately, unlike IQ, emotional intelligence is a skill that can be developed and improved over time. Bear in mind that there’s no magic formula to dramatically improve your emotional intelligence. But if emotional intelligence doesn’t come naturally to you, there are plenty of things you can do to improve over time. Here are some of them:
1. Keep a journal
Self-awareness is an integral part of emotional intelligence. Keeping a journal is a great way to cultivate your level of self-awareness. The journal should focus on your feeling regarding both social and work situations. Take not of the times you’ve regulated your feelings – such as talking yourself through a tough situation, considering what you want to say and the effect you desire before speaking, demonstrating patience when dealing with others, or being more adaptable. Note when you feel good or bad about yourself and pinpoint the reason why. In situations where you felt bad, how would you handle the situation differently?
2. Practice empathy
When you find yourself in a conflict, try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Envision how they’re perceiving the situation. This might be influenced by their life circumstances, your tone, and the relationship you’ve developed. Pause and realise that the situation might not be about you. It helps to ask questions. In most cases, people will open up and tell you why they’re behaving in a certain way if you just ask and listen.
3. Read fiction
A 2013 study found that reading literature improves “theory of mind” – the capacity to identify and understand others’ subjective states. This is linked to having more empathy for people whom you may not have any surface similarities with. Fiction immerses you in different characters, helping you see the world through their eyes. This helps you become a more empathetic person in real life as well.
4. Become an active listener
A crucial skill for emotionally intelligent people is active listening. Instead of listening to respond, an emotionally smart person listens to understand. This means that instead of just waiting for your turn to speak, you make effort to understand what the other person is saying so as to respond appropriately. An emotionally intelligent person also pays attention to nonverbal cues in conversation.
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