Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
When it comes to being a successful entrepreneur, founder or business owner, emotional intelligence isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, if you want to thrive in these roles, emotional intelligence could be one of the most important factors to focus on.
What is emotional intelligence?
Okay, I know what you’re thinking – “what is emotional intelligence, anyway?” To put it simply, psychologists describe it as the ability to recognize, control and evaluate different emotions in yourself and others. Some say it’s an innate characteristic that you’re born with, while others believe it’s something you can learn and hone over time.
There are a variety of tests you can take to see where you stand in terms of emotional intelligence, but it basically comes down to how adept you are at the following:
Perceiving emotions: In order to process and leverage emotions, you have to first be able to identify them in yourself and others. This involves clear thinking and the recognition of both verbal and non-verbal cues.
Reasoning with emotions: Not everything is black and white. You must be able to reason with emotion (while still being in control of your emotions).
Understanding emotions: It’s not enough to recognize an emotion, you must be able to understand emotions, how they impact decisions and how they positively or negatively impact the business.
Managing emotions: Finally, you have to manage emotions. Regulating and responding are two of the most important factors in this entire equation.
Related: 5 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence Is the Future of Work
As an entrepreneur, having high emotional intelligence allows you to be a better manager and leader. Not only does it impact how you handle yourself, but it also helps you relate to employees, business partners and even clients in a much greater capacity.
When I think of business leaders with high emotional intelligence, I think of folks like Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments. He gained recognition after raising all minimum salaries to $70,000 back in 2015 (while also lowering his own wage from $1.1 million to $70,000. He also has a generous working policy that reads, “If you get your work done, that’s all that matters.” Each of these decisions is heavily rooted in high emotional intelligence. Price knows what his people want/need, and he filters his management style through it. You can do the same.
Here are four specific ways emotional intelligence makes you a better entrepreneur:
Self-awareness is vital to everything you do as an entrepreneur. It shapes how you spend your time and resources. It also helps you become clear on where your biggest weaknesses are, so that you can hire people who complement you and your particular set of skills.
2. Building relationships
People with high levels of emotional intelligence find it easy to build relationships and forge solid connections within their industries. And since we often say “your network is your net worth,” this gives you an obvious advantage. The key is to spend your time and energy wisely. When it comes to networking, quality of connections is much more important than quantity. Remember this (and don’t overextend yourself).
Communication isn’t always right what you say. In many cases, how you say it is equally important. And when you possess high emotional intelligence, you learn how to say things in ways that get people to move and take action.
In his book, #AskGaryVee, entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk spends a lot of time discussing the importance of emotional intelligence. Specifically, he has this to say: “If I could sell a formula made up of gratitude, empathy, and self-awareness it would be my billion-dollar coconut water idea.”
You can have a great idea, but if you lack emotional intelligence, it’ll never pan out as well as it could have. Likewise, you can have an average idea and turn it into a seven, eight or nine-figure business when you layer it with copious amounts of emotional intelligence. It’s that important.
Related: Use These 7 Emotional Intelligence Tips to Be a Better Leader
As an entrepreneur, having emotional intelligence is like a secret power. Not every entrepreneur has a high emotional intelligence, but the ones who do, tend to be more successful. As you work on becoming a more well-rounded entrepreneur, founder or business leader, proactively work on strengthening your intelligence in this area. It’ll greatly benefit you and everyone around you.