As an entrepreneur, you have the ambition and confidence to start your own business because you’ve mastered a particular skill. You offer great graphic design, or know the ins-and-outs of online marketing like it’s second nature. Perhaps you’re in a trade where you’re on top of all the most current tech aids and applications.
While knowing your subject matter—your IQ—is the natural foundation for starting your business, it’s not enough to manage and grow it successfully. That’s where your EQ comes in. You need EQ just as much to reach your business potential.
If you can harness the emotional awareness of yourself and others, you can lead and inspire people.
EQ, or emotional intelligence, is the ability to manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It comprises the softer, personable skills: communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem-solving, conflict resolution.
While IQ, your intelligence quotient or score on a test, covers off the technical, teachable, hard skills you need to do your job, EQ is the ability to influence people, to help you win clients and keep them. EQ is what makes you a more strategic and agile thinker.
It’s not enough to be able to collect data and manipulate it, for example. You’ve got to be able to analyze and interpret it, and present it to your audience with authority. If you can harness the emotional awareness of yourself and others, you can lead and inspire people.
Our understanding of what makes people great leaders and successful at what they do, has changed remarkably.
In the past, the focus was mastering your trade and getting that certification. What mattered was where you went to school for the very best training, and where you interned. Being surrounded by the best and brightest made you one of the best and brightest, and leadership in your field was an automatic graduation.
But now, our understanding of leaders has expanded to recognize EQ, the host of softer skills and personal qualities. We value a leader’s passion and commitment, their mental agility in how they create a vision that others can buy into, how they manage, motivate and inspire people. They are wonderfully adept at managing their own and others’ emotions.
CEOs don’t just hole up in corner offices organizing and monitoring productivity. There’s more of a focus on communicating with employees and stakeholders, participating in social and team-building events, and hosting Q&As at company town halls.
Consider Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder and self-made billionaire. He was a high-school dropout with dyslexia. He has created thousands of jobs for people around the world, and is known for his collaborative and democratic leadership style. He says his secret weapon in business is to always listen to what other people have to say, at any level in his organization. And he’s never without his notebook to make notes of conversations and jot down his own ideas as soon as they come to him (a habit he started to manage his dyslexia and help him remember things.)
Great leaders speak with authority, but they also listen well, which is one of the hallmarks of EQ.
Great leaders speak with authority, but they also listen well, which is one of the hallmarks of EQ. The term emotional intelligence is a relatively recent addition to our business vernacular, coined in 1990 in a research paper by two psychologists, John D. Myer of UNH and Peter Salovey of Yale. Almost a decade later, Rutgers psychologist and author Daniel Goleman linked the term solidly to business leadership, in one of the Harvard Business Review’s most long-lived articles, “What Makes a Leader.”
Goleman writes, “Although a certain degree of analytical and technical skill is a minimum requirement for success, studies indicate that emotional intelligence may be the key attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers from those who are merely adequate.” Goleman’s extensive research of 200 global companies in the early 1990s found direct ties between emotional intelligence and measureable business results.
Perhaps most important on the EQ realm is that we value people who are genuine and honest—people we want to believe in and trust. When it comes down to it, price may be a sticking point, but people want to do business with people they like and feel comfortable with. Wouldn’t you?
All this may sound like a tall order for a solopreneur just starting out or facing stiff competition in the marketplace. You’re worried about meeting deadlines and paying your bills. The last thing that may be on your to-do list is working to improve your EQ face-to-face or Skype approach with a demanding or difficult client.
But that’s exactly what you need to do: The EQ ability to persuade, negotiate and resolve conflicts is crucial to managing your business. You need to have the skill to develop mutually beneficial relationships, and negotiate win-win solutions. First you have to bring your client on board with your solution, and then you can focus on delivering.
With automation increasing at a faster pace than ever before, we can build technology to take care of a lot of the actual “doing” of our jobs. Smarter machines may have some people anxious about employment, no matter the colour of their collar. But automation also raises the value of tasks that can be done only by humans. That’s an ever-changing scope, as computers and artificial intelligence are able to do many forms of routine manual labour and are now able to perform routine cognitive tasks, too.
You need to have EQ to develop mutually beneficial relationships, and negotiate win-win solutions.
The notable shift here is that EQ, not IQ, will become the real difference maker for the future. EQ (and its sister, creativity) will be the hallmark of good leadership that can’t be automated.
Communication demands high EQ. Roughly 90% of communication is non-verbal. We’re so often focused on the facts that we forget the feelings. EQ is intuitive, and opens your mind to understanding what others are feeling not only from their words, but from their body language and other clues. You’ll “read” people better, which leads to better relationships and networking.
How do you deliver, or even exceed, your customers’ expectations? You know your customers. You need to understand what really matters to people, and what they really want. That’s where EQ skills shine. EQ allows you to tune in to what others are experiencing emotionally. This recognition and understanding is what informs your thinking and influences how well you connect with others. These skills are acquired through practice, through effort, and through paying attention.
When challenges come up and you start to feel angry or overwhelmed, EQ kicks in to help you stay calm. You can look at the problem or situation, stay emotionally grounded and find a solution. High EQ helps you manage your emotions so that you are more likely to react constructively, even when a client or competitor is pushing your buttons.
When you start really listening to what people are struggling with, their challenges and problems, you can be caring and sympathetic. Put yourself in their shoes and let them know you’re hearing what they’re saying. EQ is a powerful way to put yourself in someone’s else’s shoes, understand them, and actually use what they’re feeling to move past conflict and upset.
Decisions are made on the basis of how we feel about the facts we’ve uncovered. You want to persuade your clients to feel positive and confident about your solution. Let them know their concerns are valid, and how your solution addresses those concerns.
When you get a handle on your EQ, you’ll have a better idea of what makes you happy about your work. Do you feel a rush when your client says what a great job you’ve done or what genuine and thoughtful counsel you’ve provided? That sense of positive feedback is like a reward for your passion and dedication.
The good news is, like any skill, soft skills can be learned. Here are some ways to improve EQ:
Think about building processes within your organization to connect with individuals and have a feedback loop. You want to get a “read” on how people are feeling about the project, the office vibe, potential performance incentives. This could be anything from emailed surveys to a quick coffee and chat session or brainstorming over cocktails at an after-hours event. If you’re a solopreneur, you want to reach out to clients for feedback with customer-satisfaction surveys, for example, or frequent “touching-base” emails to keep you top-of-mind with your client.
Take training on DISC or Myers-Briggs so that you learn to understand those who are motivated by different things than you are. Even situations and environments can bring out different personality traits.
Socializing in person, by Skype, by social media is a good way to build a culture, and also to cement relationships. Good business depends on good relationships, and they are not going to happen if you operate as a silo.
Connecting with people you admire or who demonstrate a skill you’d like to develop can be a huge motivator. Compliment that person on a particular skill you’ve seen them put into practice and an example of where you saw it happen, and ask them if they’d be willing to share ideas on how you can hone that same skill? Maybe a coffee may turn into a mentor relationship. Another avenue is to join a business group or professional community organization to meet successful leaders and entrepreneurs and see where it takes you. Bonus, you build your network to promote who you are and what you do.