Fast Company’s Drake Baer recently touched off a firestorm with his article Emotional Intelligence Predicts Job Success: Do You Have It? In the piece, which Baer had culled from a recent Huffington Post article on the subject, he identified six characteristics of emotionally intelligent people that make them more successful than others.
Curiosity, self-awareness, attention to others/details, the ability to say no, knowing your hot-button issues, and trusting intuition, were among the factors defining EQ.
Many commenters were not impressed:
- Bahamaville: “EQ…another senseless acronym from those who gave us “it is what it is, net-net, at the end of the day”, and other shallow gems.”
- Donder33: “They are good at manipulation, flattery, and generally get ahead because they are a good ‘beer buddy’ is what I read.”
- JT: “Bla..bla..bla. That’s the problem with this country, We want to sit around and try to psychoanalyze everyone rather than accepting the fact that we are all created equal and we each contribute in our own way. What I’ve found in my 35 years in the workplace is that high EQ people tend to be insensitive, arrogant and sometimes mean spirited. They typically can’t work within most organizational structures because they alienate those around them. Their attitude is that most people aren’t smart enough to know what the business needs are so they unilaterally try to cram their ideas down the throat of the organization until it chokes.”
If you consider yourself emotionally intelligent, the temptation to pick up a few stones and fling them at these individuals is hard to shake, but that’s only because most of us have been where they are at some point in our lives.
We’ve blamed our lack of success on other people. We’ve dismissed theory as hogwash because nothing seems to be working for us in the moment. We’ve let our workplace prejudices color our perceptions on why some people get ahead while we do not.
But successful people learn how to snap out of it and realize that maybe our own failures our actually our failures. Not all of them maybe, but eventually we let a few things that didn’t go our way keep us from improving upon our own shortcomings. That’s not to say any of us are highly successful people in the eyes of others. Just that we feel as if we are in our own lives because we do what we love, and we know where we’re weak. It comes from falling on our faces and realizing that we’ve fallen on our faces.
With that said, as an entrepreneur, you can learn a lot from opening your mind to the concept of emotional intelligence and tailoring it to your own experience. Let’s look at how each of Baer’s EQ identifications can be applied to the entrepreneur.
You’re Curious About New People.
Replace the word “people” with ideas. By using your curiosity to ask “What if?,” you can bring new innovations to old ideas and perhaps create the next big thing. Example: Rovio and Angry Birds. Before Angry Birds had ever found its way into the App Store, I was playing a similar game from Donut Games called Castle Smasher. Castle Smasher was a cool game, but it didn’t have the horsepower or the characters to make it a smash success. Rovio used a similar idea and asked, “What if we made it a slingshot and birds (instead of a catapult and rocks)?” A classic was born.
In other words, you know what you do poorly as much as what you do well. You don’t try to venture into areas of business you’re not prepared to deal with. Example: Countless times watching Shark Tank, we’ve seen hopeful entrepreneurs want to break in to retail when their ideas were more suited for licensing or online sales. Not surprisingly, the ones unwilling to budge on that walk away with no deal.
You Know How To Pay Attention.
Knowing where your efforts are bringing in the most results — that’s what paying attention is all about as an entrepreneur. Example: In Tim Ferriss’ bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek, the author cites the Pareto principle, which states 80 percent of your effects will come from 20 percent of your efforts typically. By paying attention to the details of your business, you know where that 20 percent of effort is going as well as the 80 percent you’re wasting. A bit more on Pareto and productivity here:
You Can Say No.
Inevitably in business, you’ll need to learn when to leave something on the table. Maybe it’s an overly troublesome client or a job offer at a company where the future is uncertain. This can be difficult to accomplish as a hungry entrepreneur starting out, but you’ll do better in the long run if you don’t get sidetracked by a bird-in-the-hand that you’re not prepared to hold on to.
You Know Precisely What’s Pissing You Off.
Not everything is going to go your way in business. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll get burned. Knowing why it happened is the first step in being able to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
You Trust Your Intuition.
Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California and head of the Brain and Creativity Institute, provides scientific research as to why you should trust your gut. Damasio indicated in a separate Fast Company piece that it’s gut feelings — “that rapid-fire conjuring of future emotional states — that help us tip our decision-making in one direction or other.”
“You don’t just remember facts, whether the outcome was good or bad, but you remember whether what we felt was good or bad,” he says. “That tandem of fact and associated emotion is critical: what we construct as wisdom over time is actually the result of cultivating that knowledge of how our emotions behaved and what we learn from them.”
In other words, if you have a gut feeling that a partnership or business decision is not in the best interests of your company, there’s a good reason for it. You’ve done enough emotional processing of the decision to know what your next step should be.
In case you missed Baer’s original EQ piece, here it is. It’s well worth a look.[Image via Neurocapability.files.wordpress.com]