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Your management team’s emotional intelligence level can make or break your ability to build a thriving business. Emotional intelligence, a.k.a. “EQ,” is someone’s ability to understand and harness the power of emotion to build strong relationships, foster trust, mitigate conflict, and more. Teams with a high EQ enjoy higher productivity, better morale, and improved employee retention. On the other hand, teams with a low EQ can suffer from poor work ethic, high turnover rates, and low motivation.

In today’s post we’ll explore emotional intelligence and why it’s important to your business’ success. We’ll also provide strategies you can leverage to improve your EQ. You’ll learn:

  • What is emotional intelligence?
  • Why is emotional intelligence important in the workplace?
  • Strategies to improve your emotional intelligence

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your emotions and the emotions of others. In his book, Working With Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman outlines five categories of emotional intelligence including:

  • Self-awareness: understanding one’s own strengths and weaknesses, recognizing the impact of one’s actions on others, and receiving constructive criticism well.
  • Self-regulation: expressing one’s feelings with restraint and control.
  • Motivation: driven by one’s own ambition, resilience, and optimism.
  • Empathy: having the compassion and understanding to connect with others on an emotional level.
  • People skills: the ability to build rapport and trust with others.

Research on emotional intelligence by Harvard Business Review more broadly segments EQ into the areas of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Within each of these areas are several skills which allow for exceptional leadership in business. The graphic below overviews each of these areas and the competencies that fall within them.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important (in General)

People with strong emotional intelligence are better able to regulate their own emotions and navigate the emotional responses of others. They reap many benefits including:

  • Recognizing and understanding their own emotional reactions
  • Managing, controlling, and adapting their own moods, reactions, and responses
  • Leveraging their emotions to motivate themselves, take action, commit, and work towards goals
  • Identifying the feelings of others, understanding their emotions, and using this information to relate to others more effectively
  • Building strong relationships, relating to others in social situations, leading, negotiating conflict, and working as part of a team

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important in the Workplace?

Emotional Intelligence plays a crucial role in business leaders’ ability to effectively manage and grow their business. Workplaces are, by nature, relationship-driven environments. They are places with a wide range of personalities, interests, and communication styles. Having a good EQ can help business owners better manage their workforce. Leaders with strong EQ reap many benefits including:

  • Being able to provide genuine feedback to employees
  • Fostering trust with employees and customers
  • Resolving conflict between team members
  • Setting realistic expectations and standards for your team
  • Constantly improving your management style

Research by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) found that lack of emotional intelligence is a leading cause of failure in executive positions. It identified three main reasons for failure: difficulty handling change, ineffective teamwork, and poor interpersonal relations. Additional research by Egon Zehnder International found that EQ was stronger at predicting executive success than IQ or job experience.

More generally speaking, research by The Carnegie Institute of Technology found that only 15% of financial success is attributed to technical skills. 85% of a typical person’s executive success is attributed to EQ skills such as the ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Research by TalentSmart found that 90% of top-performers have good emotional intelligence.

In business, trust is key. Building trust with employees and customers is important for business leaders. In fact, research by Daniel Kahneman found that people would rather do business with someone they trust, even if it means paying a higher cost. High EQ is critical to building genuine relationships founded on trust and mutual understanding.

On the flip side, poor emotional intelligence can lead to a toxic work environment. Bad EQ in the workplace can be seen in bullying, harassment, turnover, and demotivated staff. It can manifest as insensitivity, arrogance, aggression, and volatility. Whereas a leadership team with high EQ can build a flexible environment, low emotional intelligence can lead to detrimental inflexibility and rigidity. In order to build a good company culture, emotional intelligence is crucial.

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence

At its core, emotional intelligence is effective communication between the emotional and rational parts of the brain. Unlike IQ, which remains relatively constant throughout your lifetime, EQ is something you can actively work on and improve. Some ways to improve emotional intelligence include:

  • Observe your feelings: as business leaders, work is extremely demanding. It’s easy to become so over-worked that you suppress or ignore your emotions entirely. It’s important to recognize that ignoring your feelings can cause these emotions to become stronger and less controlled over time. Rather than getting caught up in the day-to-day, when you’re having an emotional reaction to a situation, take a minute to recognize and address your feelings. Intentionally taking time to recognize and address your feelings can help build up your emotional intelligence over time.
  • Respond instead of react: recognize the difference between responding and reacting. Reacting is a knee-jerk response driven by emotions. Responding is a conscious, intentional process driven by understanding your feelings and deciding how to behave.
  • Be humble and keep things in perspective: having realistic expectations of yourself and others is a key part of EQ. If you think you’re better than others, you won’t be able to intentionally recognize and work on your own faults. You may also set unrealistic expectations for others, leading to disappointment. Instead, remain humble while recognizing your own unique set of strengths.

As you intentionally integrate these strategies into the way you think, your brain will begin to build new pathways and thought processes. Over time, your brain will adjust to use new EQ-driven strategies in your day-to-day work. Improving your EQ takes effort but is critical for anyone in a leadership position.

Key Take-Aways

In today’s post we explored what emotional intelligence is, why it’s important, and how to improve it. Here are some key take-aways:

  • Emotional intelligence is made up of several components including self-awareness, motivation, and social skills
  • Emotional intelligence provides many benefits including stronger relationships, better control over feelings, and improved ability to resolve conflicts
  • In the workplace, EQ is a stronger indicator of business success than IQ or technical skills
  • Unlike IQ, EQ can be actively worked on and improved over time
  • There are several strategies you can use to better leverage EQ-driven thought processes
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