One of the greatest skills successful leaders can cultivate is emotional intelligence (EI). EI builds strong, lasting, influential relationships with team members and customers. And the good news is that EI is a learnable skill. Unlike the intelligence quotient (IQ), EQ increases if a person actively works on it.
Research shows business leaders who have high emotional intelligence (EQ) are more apt for entrepreneurial success and innovation. TalentSmart, a top provider in emotional intelligence services found “emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.” The company also found EQ is also directly tied to how much money people earn. Those with higher levels of emotional intelligence make almost $30,000 dollars more per year.
At its core, building a successful business is about people. The better you care for your team and the more you understand them, the better leader you will become. “Emotional intelligence is critical in building and maintaining relationships and influencing others—key skills that help people throughout their career and wherever they sit in an organizational structure,” says Margaret Andrews, a veteran business consultant, in an article for Harvard Division of Continuing Education.
So, how do business leaders increase their emotional intelligence?
Check out the top 10 tips below:
Table of Contents
Mastering self-awareness helps business owners understand and communicate with their team properly through periods of growth and stress. Words and actions have power. All eyes and ears are especially on those serving in leadership roles. Therefore, lacking self-awareness often results in a disconnect between team members.
Additionally, self-awareness limits the amount of damage control needed with employees and customers. When entrepreneurs and executives are aware of the core problem they are trying to solve, they can adjust how they come across to make their team feel seen and heard.
Start by recognizing and addressing feelings as they occur. Ways to become more self-aware include: developing a mindfulness practice, learning breathing techniques, journaling, practicing meditation and performing daily self-evaluations.
Define Your Intentions
Learn to communicate tasks and objectives in a way that makes sense to others. Become aware of how tone and delivery might affect the way a person receives a message. Ultimately, the goal is creating unity from within the team, and efficiency around company objectives.
If employees fall behind or someone drops the ball, instead of reacting emotionally, take a step back. Before speaking to the individual, define the desired outcome. Next, approach the conversation from a solution-based standpoint instead of a critical standpoint.
Getting feedback from employees helps leaders become better at controlling certain negative behaviors. When addressing this aspect of increasing EI, be approachable. First, start with communicating why self-awareness matters to you.
Next, have one-on-one conversations with employees about the value of their opinion. Keep track of the conversations by taking notes. Then create a list of the traits people commonly cite as areas of improvement. This helps leaders become more aware of their behavior and what might cause triggering feelings.
Use Methods of Self-Regulation
When internally managing emotions and actions, control staying motivated and focused on company objectives. Qualities of doing this include: goal-setting, transparent communication, positively interacting with employees and regulating impulsive behaviors. Additionally, leaders practicing positive self-talk create a more upbeat guiding force within a business.
People can also practice “the six second pause” before responding to something that triggers negative behaviors and responses. In addition, journaling, practicing meditation, taking a workout break and listening to relaxing music are all ways for calming heightened emotions.
Create Incentives for Achievement
Externally motivating factors for self-management are “commissions, bonuses, perks, or promotions. People skilled in self-management are able to build stronger relationships and perform higher quality work,” says writer Krista Brubaker for BizLibrary. Business owners might look forward to a well-deserved vacation, while an executive leader receives a bonus for meeting quarterly goals.
Become More Empathetic
Increasing EQ means becoming more empathic and socially aware of others. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”
Essentially, empathy and social awareness require those in leadership roles to put themselves in their employees’ shoes. By doing this, deep connection and understanding occur. In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown describes empathy as, “simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of you’re not alone.”
Fortunately, empathy is a skill people can grow. Expanding understanding of others and hearing fresh perspectives is one way to increase empathy. This means getting outside of one’s social or hierarchical bubble at work. As a leader, build relationships with employees across the organizational structure. In other words, talk with them, ask them questions and listen.
These types of conversations expand a business owner’s or executive’s knowledge about their people and areas where they can be better. This educates decisions on building team culture and addresses issues such as lack of diversity within the workplace.
Become More Socially Involved
Another way to practice empathy is to become more involved in charitable work, helping out in the community, practicing gratitude and realizing privilege. Moreover, being socially aware requires interaction with others. The more socially engaged a person is, the more opportunities they have for learning and increasing empathy.
Daniel Goleman, one of the foundational psychologists of EI says relationship management includes: developing others, inspirational leadership, change catalyst, influence, conflict management, teamwork and collaboration. In essence, this means business leaders must create a positive impact on the lives of those around them.
Doing this might look like being someone who: inspires, pushes people to work harder, sees and communicates greatness, instigates change, resolves problems or guides the team toward goal accomplishment. In essence, relationship management drives positive outcomes and builds greater relationships in the workplace.
Develop a Healthy Work Culture
When increasing this aspect of emotional intelligence, make sure the workplace environment is one people feel safe, secure and comfortable being in. Toxic behaviors such as micromanagement and distrust stifle creativity, the exchange of ideas and team morale.
Organizational leaders are responsible for ensuring employees feel supported and taken care of, so check in regularly. Encouraging conversation, establishing and respecting boundaries and not taking disagreements revolving around business ideas personally can also help create a better workspace for people.
Emotions Can Be a Leader’s Greatest Advantage
The great thing about emotional intelligence?
The more a person works at it, the easier it becomes. “As you train your brain by repeatedly practicing new emotionally intelligent behaviors, your brain builds the pathways needed to make them into habits. Before long, you begin responding to your surroundings with emotional intelligence without even having to think about it,” says Entrepreneur.com contributor, Dr. Travis Bradberry.
Leaders interested in being better for the benefit of those around them are much more likely to build companies people love being a part of. In turn, this affects levels of productiveness and happiness, thus helping the organization thrive well into the future.
Interested in learning more about how to increase your EQ after reading this article?
Here’s a few more starting points: