As a convert to the idea of emotional intelligence; based on the realisation that I messed up a good few things because I didn’t get it, I now find that I have to exercise it the most when I meet people who are resistant to the concept.
Unfortunately this mostly seems to be with the owners of smaller businesses who tend to regard it, if they’ve heard of it, as a frivolous, big corporate buzz phrase. In larger organisations there does not appear to be any issue with it, as the management chain is much longer and the ability to develop and maintain professional relationships is formalised in job descriptions, annual appraisals and all of the processes that mark out large corporate cultures.
The irony is it is the owners of smaller businesses who could derive greater benefit from knowledge and understanding and the use of EI. People issues show up far more quickly and with greater significance in smaller operations than larger ones. There is no hiding place in a smaller business and no capacity to cope with someone who isn’t performing and the costs of dealing with employee issues are more significant in a smaller business as is the challenge of recruiting good people in the first place.
Rather than try and explain why this is the case I am going to try and explain EI in purely practical terms.
Being a business owner is like being the pilot of a boat. If you are a sole trader or one man band then the speed at which your boat goes is purely down to you and your comfort level. If you want to be the proverbial barge meandering along the canal that’s fine but if you want to be the speedboat on the Cote d ‘Azure that’s also fine. The issues arise when you start to take on employees.
Employees are like water skiers attached to the back of your business boat. If you aren’t going fast enough they can’t get the momentum to get out of the water and if you are going too fast they can’t hold on and stay with you.
Emotional Intelligence is simply the ability to look over your shoulder and to understand what is going on in the wake you leave behind you.
Are your team all up on their skis like a well drilled formation display team? Or are they all over the place? Some up and enjoying the ride whilst the rest are struggling to stay on their feet.
As the business owner the questions you have to ask yourself:
Do you have the ability to drive the boat at the speed needed to keep the team up?
Does your team have the ability to stay upright as you drive the boat faster and create ever more wake behind you for them to navigate?
Do you have the ability to attract the right talent for the team you want behind you?
The answers to these questions lie in the understanding of emotional intelligence and the acceptance of it as a practical approach to management with a solid ROI and not some soft pink and fluffy approach to keeping people happy at your expense as the business owner.
The author is hosting a one day workshop on emotional intelligence and business leadership:
The 5 Keys To Becoming A Powerful Leader And Transforming Your Business at the 02 Business centre on Tottenham Ct Rd London. Thursday 13th February.