Emotional intelligence

Can You Succeed in Business Without Emotional Intelligence?

Those of us in business — either working in a company or as entrepreneurs — are aware that we need to be constantly learning new skills to stay competitive. We attend conferences, read books, take courses and belong to mastermind groups.

But it takes more than technical skills to succeed. It is a lack of emotional intelligence that can torpedo our grand plans.

As Daniel Goleman has written in several books and in a recent New York Times article, you also need emotional intelligence.  In brief, he describes emotional intelligence as having self-awareness and realistic self-confidence. You also need to have emotional insight, and understanding of your feelings.

High on his list is self-management, the ability to be resilient and recover quickly from upsets. You also need emotional balance and self-motivation: the ability to keep moving toward distant goals despite setbacks.

He also writes that you need to have empathy and be able to read other people’s feelings and to listen so you understand what other people are saying. Finally, you must have the ability to build relationships.

Where it Goes Wrong

Emotional intelligence is an ideal to strive for. But what if you work for a company that stifles creativity, sniffs at employee engagement and creates such a toxic work atmosphere that even the strongest of us can lose our emotional balance?

What if you’re an entrepreneur who is striving to make ends meet and then your largest client stiffs you by not paying your invoice? Or you discover that you’re in the wrong business after years of hard work? It takes a lot of self-awareness and resilience to overcome these obstacles.

I believe we all need to develop our own strategies to keep ourselves in emotional balance. For some it’s prayer or meditation. For others, it’s the company of loved ones. We live in very tough times.

We avert our eyes from the thousands of refugees who are fleeing their homelands for a better life. We want to help, but what can we do?

Companies no longer value their employees. We feel a lack of control and helpless to control our own destinies. Having strong emotional intelligence will help us to carry on. But how do we develop homeostatis — maintaining a condition of balance or equilibrium within our internal environment, even when faced with external changes?

Below is a slide presentation by Daniel Goleman that describes emotional intelligence in more detail. I hope it helps in your quest for emotional intelligence.

I’d very much like to hear from you about your strategies for building and maintaining emotional intelligence in your personal and business life. So please leave a comment below if you’d like to share what’s worked for you.

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  1. Gosh. I would have to say not. Without emotional intelligence to some degree we would always struggle with reaching our desired success. I have witnessed it both way in previous supervisors. The ones who demonstrated emotional intelligence gain much much more from their direct reports and were way easier to work for. Just my thoughts. 🙂

    • Agree, Susan. The article I quoted from by Daniel Goleman is devoted to why having emotional intelligence is essential to be a good leader. A former boss of mine, the CEO of the bank I worked for, said compassion was the most important trait of a leader. You could equate that with empathy, which Goleman lists as one the most essential traits of emotional intelligence.

  2. Jeannette, the statement “Self-management, the ability to be resilient and recover quickly from upsets” is so true. I’ve seen people who had a major setback in their busines, often through no fault of their own who give up to easily, instead of re-strategizing and moving forward. “Emotional balance and self-motivation: the ability to keep moving toward distant goals despite setbacks. – I also zeroed in on this statement, which I guess means this one point made a bigger impact on me than the others since they’re pretty well the same. Interesting.

    • Lenie — for some reason your comment just came in. It isn’t easy to keep going when you’ve had a setback. It can sap your confidence. That’s why I find having good friends so helpful because they are there to support me when I need it.

  3. I think we have now have confirmation that emotional intelligence is essential to success, both personally and professionally. There has been so much interesting things written about it in the last few years. I read recently that there is a push for colleges to lean more to emotional intelligence testing as part of entrance exams. This, they feel, will enable them to guide students into proper careers. I love the idea!

    • Jacquie — your comment just popped up. I hadn’t heard about what colleges are doing. College entrance exams are beyond stressful so whatever they can do to make the process easier on students is all for the best.

  4. It is funny reading about empathy, when there is a opinion out there, that to be successful you cannot have this. That it is such a coat throat world, you need to be vicious and deceptive, even to other businesses and even to your clients.
    I disagree, and agree with this article that empathy is the way to build relationships. I think that the point is what kind of relationship do you want. Do you want to be considered ruthless, or having empathy? I think we all would agree with the 2nd.
    Great post thanks for sharing.

    • William — I’ll take empathy over ruthless every day of the week. The question is what kind of person do I want to be be? No amount of success is worth “Killing” others for.

  5. So interesting! I wish we would focus more on EQ in school than IQ. I think it’s more important to getting along in life than what facts you know when you graduate. I definitely think people with more EQ have an easier time finding success, at least in working with others.

    • Meredith — I agree that people respond more to be others with EQ than IQ. You can be the smartest person in the room but if you can’t connect with your direct reports or other colleagues what good is it?

  6. What a great slide presentation, and I agree with your point about the importance of developing our own coping mechanisms. I worked for one of “those” companies that stifled their employees and it was the worst job of my life. But on the other side of that coin the experience effectively nudged me along to finally take the steps to go out on my own so it wasn’t all bad. 🙂

    • Marquita — Coming out at the other end of that experience for the better was the positive. But you paid a big price while you were living the worst job of your life.

  7. Emotional intelligence makes people more successful. But we also need to listen to others with an open self i.e. see the potential of that person and how they could contribute to something. Listening with an open mind i.e. not hear what we want to know or fear, emotional intelligence and an open self is the best case scenario regardless if we are talking about society, organisations or ourselves.

    • Catarina — listening is one of the core attributes of emotional intelligence, according to Daniel Goleman. It’s something I don’t do well enough, for sure. But I do wish the leaders around the world would listen more carefully and keep an open mind to all possibilities for peace in the world.

  8. Emotional intelligence takes years to build! As for me, I am often hesitant at connecting. When a relationship goes smoothly, great. But often one has to be creative to find common basis to continue discussions necessary for work. I noticed yesterday I expressed some sadness to a friend about a bright young man who is having a hard time finding a job. We both agreed he has a hard time with social connections.

    • Leora — sad about your young friend. He might taking a Dale Carnegie course helpful. He will learn how to be a better speaker and become more comfortable in front of an audience or an interviewer.

  9. EQ is definitely where it’s at Jeannette!

    Because it seems to indicate, a lot of people with really really high IQ’s still may not necessarily have what it really takes to be successful entrepreneurs!

    On the other hand, even if your not necessarily book smart, with the right mix of EQ qualities, you still may have exactly what it takes to succeed! I liked the slide presentation as well! Thanks for sharing this!

    • Mark — sorry for the delay in responding. You can have a really high IQ and be too neurotic to have emotional intelligence, too. In fact, sometimes I wonder if highly intelligent people have more problem with emotional issues than the rest of us regular folks.

  10. Empathy in business or in any aspect of life where one is overseeing another is so important and I couldn’t agree more. For me, a person who looks to me for completion of a task will get much more out of me if they do not confront or bark or demand.

  11. Hi Jeannette: I really think that emotional intelligence is essential in today’s world of communication that is driven by social media. If you don’t listen and react to the comments of your audience/readership, you cannot possibly thrive or survive in today’s world. It’s all about interaction and evolution. Thx for this great post!

    • Doreen — we live in such a fast-paced world that it’s difficult to maintain that balance and emotional intelligence. It’s easy to lose track of the needs of your audience among all the din.