There is an interconnectedness to every organization, an undeniable link between each and every person that begins at the top of the food chain. A leader can define a company’s mindset and culture, which is why their every word, thought or action carries considerable weight.
Because of that, a leader of superior emotional intelligence can propel a company to new heights, while one lacking that characteristic can severely hinder its efforts.
So just what is emotional intelligence (or EQ, short for emotional intelligence quotient)? It is the ability to use one’s emotions to their best advantage, as opposed to allowing them to become a stumbling block. Those with a high EQ are self-aware, self-motivated, empathetic and socially skilled, not to mention self-regulating, meaning that they are firmly in control of their emotions at all times, revealing their feelings only when it is in their best interests.
The importance of EQ was first brought to light in author Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence. In it, he summarized the findings of psychologists John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey, who concluded that our emotional abilities are just as wide-ranging as our intellectual skills. Those who possess a high EQ, they noted, were able to monitor their feelings and those of others, and use them to inform their actions. A correlation has been found between emotional intelligence and job performance and satisfaction, and multinational corporations have taken note: 60% prescreen potential employees for that characteristic, aware that EQ can impact communications, collaboration, problem-solving, customer service, marketing and human resources.
But again, it all starts at the top. An emotionally intelligent leader encourages creativity and risk-taking and is unthreatened by opinions that run counter to their own. Such a leader can become an agent for change, forever cognizant of how such alterations might be handled by others within the organization and capable of planning accordingly.
That’s the environment I try to create in my own company. I want to make sure every viewpoint is considered. I want ideas to be kept in mind, even if they are dismissed, because oftentimes implementing something is a matter of timing, not merit. I want risks to be taken. I want everybody to learn from their failures. And ultimately, I want our staff to have the best possible resources at its disposal. Here are some of the keys to our approach:
When I wake up each morning, I write down five priorities that enable me to focus on what I need to do to improve my business, and that governs my approach to that particular day. And while in my brainstorming sessions with staff we likely reject five out of every six ideas that are introduced, we constantly revisit those we’ve shelved or nixed, knowing that while some might be unacceptable, others might have just been introduced before their time.
I honestly believe you can learn more from the things you don’t implement than those you do. Decisions around what to greenlight frequently take into account what we know will not work, which is the ultimate yin/yang proposition: The negative shapes the positive. A case in point is that the products we develop always hinge on our stakeholders’ needs. In other words, a process of elimination helps to define our product or service.
I long ago learned the value in venturing outside the four walls of my office and visiting with staff and residents. That’s how you truly come to understand day-to-day operations — what is working and what is not. That’s how you truly connect with everybody in every department. We stage weekly and monthly visits to our facilities — the former are short check-ins that are census-centered, while the latter are longer (i.e., four hours or more) sit-downs to discuss operational topics. It is from such meetings that we are able to create niche programs.
When I started in business, I would hire family and friends to fill management positions, but I quickly learned that I needed to have different perspectives and viewpoints. In particular, I needed someone capable of challenging my beliefs on any given topic. In time I made the adjustment, underscoring my long-held belief that you have to embrace your failures and turn them into learning opportunities. Another (more recent) example: I underestimated the importance of online branding, so we made the necessary adjustments in that realm. I have also discovered along the way that you can learn a great deal from your competitors and that indeed you must. Failing to respect or appreciate them will more than likely lead to failure, period.
EQ is crucial to the success of a leader and, by extension, an organization. It can be expressed in many ways, and extend down many avenues. But its impact is undeniable.
This article was originally published on Forbes on 9/6/2019.