5 Ways Business Leaders Can Improve Their Emotional Intelligence

Published on February 19, 2022

Get your head out of that spreadsheet! As business leaders we are often focused on numbers, spreadsheets, financials, and the like. As a business leader myself, I understand the importance of all of those things. However, it’s also important that we don’t forget the human beings behind all those numbers. Business is ultimately all about relationships, which requires Emotional Intelligence (EQ). 

In my experience, focusing on EQ is a great way to stay grounded in the people we work and do business with. EQ can be interpreted in a number of ways, but to me it means sharpening my ability to understand and manage emotions in ways that achieve better communication, relieve stress, and diffuse emotionally charged conflicts. In this way, I’m able to empathize with others and build relationships that make employees and customers feel valued and heard as individuals. For business leaders and managers, better EQ skills align with better management practices and better employee engagement. Below I have outlined five ways to hone your EQ, and how to be successful in doing so.

Practice Self-Management 

As someone who is driven by success, it is vital to differentiate self-management and self-discipline. Self-discipline is planning ahead for what you will accomplish, or pushing yourself to the next level, it’s thought out and planned. Self-management is different. It comes into play when the going gets tough, and situations become emotionally challenging. Self-management is recognizing why you feel a certain way, and creating personal strategies to best manage impulsive behaviors that may follow. Adaptation is key.

Focus on Self Awareness and Social Awareness 

Successfully managing emotions is all about introspection and empathy. Start by asking yourself these three questions. What strengths and weaknesses do you have that may translate to emotions? What things do you get insecure about? How does this reflect in social settings? These are questions that we should all be asking ourselves, and the answers can lead us to a higher level of self-awareness. As your self-awareness increases, so will your ability to be socially aware. As a CEO, social awareness is extremely important to ensuring that I am making my employees feel comfortable, keeping morale high, and understanding different power dynamics. Business leaders are best positioned to do this when they approach their social setting from a state of self-awareness, while also thinking empathetically about those around them.

Be Approachable

Are you a good listener? Always remember that even when you are not speaking, you are still giving off a message to your employees and customers. Being aware of how you show your non-verbal communication is important. When in meetings or company events, be sure to check your body language. Looking engaged, smiling, and making eye contact are crucial. In addition, make sure you are not strictly business with those you engage with all the time. It is ok to be more relatable and have some fun with those around you. Personally, one of my favorite ways to build relationships is using humor, when it is appropriate, to relieve stress. This makes others feel comfortable around you and leaves a door open for further communication by making you more approachable.

Reframe Conflicts 

Many of us try to avoid conflict, but the truth is conflict is inevitable. Using conflict as an opportunity to get closer to someone through a deeper conversation is exercising a high EQ. Looking at a situation from someone else’s perspective can help both parties learn to understand each other, as well as result in healthy debate. Turning a conflict into a positive outcome helps gain the respect of others, and serves to strengthen working relationships.

Practice Gratitude.

Feeling grateful for a person or opportunity? Tell someone. Expressing gratitude lowers stress, strengthens relationships, and is one of the easiest ways to express your feelings. A simple gesture of appreciation is a great way to put your EQ into practice. This is one of the main reasons why I created Thnks, to help people act on their EQ by enabling them to express gratitude quickly, easily, and frequently. Showing appreciation is reflective as well as introspective,  forcing you to really consider the person you’re thankful for and what would make them smile – it’s great exercise for your EQ. In the business world, emotional intelligence often gets overlooked, but it is a key part of overall intelligence and personal wellbeing. Practicing these five things above can help you build better relationships, contribute to your personal and professional growth, relieve stress, and make you more self aware. 

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Brendan Kamm is Co-Founder and CEO of Thnks, a digital gratitude platform that empowers business professionals to build better relationships by sharing personalized gestures of appreciation in a thoughtful, efficient way. Brendan is responsible for all day-to-day operations, including Thnks’ strategic vision, while advancing the platform’s tech capabilities and partner integrations. A media and technology veteran who spent more than 17 years focused on sales, Brendan was frustrated with the lack of gratitude he saw in business and how relationships were suffering as a result. He knew there had to be a better, more scalable, way to help people show appreciation and establish stronger connections using the incredible technological tools that are available to us today.

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