I'm a big fan of the 'f word' in business...and I always get a little concerned when my clients have an aversion to it. After all, it's just another word in our rich English language, isn't it? Use it often enough and it becomes a habit, you're no longer embarrassed about saying it and find that your business conversations become more liberally peppered with it.

Of course, you may shock colleagues and staff when you first start to use it regularly, but in my experience people do get used to hearing you utter the 'f word', and even begin using it in their own business conversations. The business world would indeed be a better place if we all just used the 'f word' more....feelings are so important (you didn't think I meant the other 'f word' did you? ...really?)

Research has shown over and over again that what differentiates great leaders from the rest of the pack is their ability to be emotionally intelligent, to translate that intelligence into action and to lead their teams and their businesses in both an emotional and a rational context. Yet so many business leaders I speak to aren't aware of the benefits of developing emotional intelligence, or what it really looks like. Emotional intelligence is not about tea and sympathy...it's a key skill set which can drive your business from good to great. It's about understanding how people 'feel' about your business, staff and customers alike. Some of the biggest and most successful businesses on the planet today understand very well the link between feelings and emotions and bottom line profits. Think of the passion of Apple fans camping out overnight to be first in line to buy a new product. We advertise our products to customers in ways which evoke an emotional reaction, yet so often forget that emotional intelligence applies to our business in its entirety, not just our customer base.

In broad terms emotional intelligence (or EQ) is made up of five key components, each of which has specific hallmarks:

  • Self awareness
  • Self regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skill

If you think about some of the great inspirational leaders and managers you've known, many of the reasons you admire them so much will fall into one of these categories. Perhaps they had great self confidence, acted with integrity and were trustworthy, had a strong achievement drive and were able to maintain their optimism or were fantastic team builders and relationship managers. All of these are hallmarks of emotionally intelligent leaders.

Of course, intellect and rationality are important too, but to make the right business decisions emotional intelligence has to feature, otherwise you're making 'half brained' judgements and you'll potentially get half the results you otherwise might.

The great news is that EQ is a skill set, and as such it can be developed. Putting some work into developing your own emotional intelligence, and that of your teams, is an investment in your business...in its profitability, its ability to compete and its potential for growth. It's also an investment in yourself as a leader, in your skills and competencies, your confidence levels and your continuing professional development. If the word 'feelings' isn't part of your business vocabulary, then perhaps it should be. If you want to be a truly great leader....get emotional!

Article by Alison Guthrie of Ipse Paro Ltd.

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