How to Weave Emotional Intelligence Into the Fabric of Your Business
There’s growing research that proves the value of emotional intelligence (EI) in business. I see many people with great hearts who buy into the importance of emotional intelligence —but you’d never know it from the way they operate their businesses.
Emotional intelligence becomes powerful when leaders integrate it into their organization’s identity. It can’t be an afterthought, laid on top of the business like a cheap print stamped on fabric; it must be woven into the very threads of your organization. Here are five steps to weave emotional intelligence into the fabric of your business.
Include emotional intelligence in your company’s values
Defining and focusing what your business values are is kind of like branding. When I work with companies developing their brand strategies, people want their brands to be everything. But it’s important to focus your brand so you can speak to your core audience. Values are like that. If there’s not a lot of focus to them, it’s hard to represent those values well and consistently.
To define your business values, you may need to start by defining your personal values. Both should be in alignment, especially if you’re the company’s founder.
Start by putting down a list of values on paper. “Accomplishment, achievement, adventure, affection, affiliation, ambition, authority, autonomy”—I could rattle off hundreds. Put down as many as speak to you. Then hone them down to 50, to 10, and finally to four or five core values.
Then ask yourself, “How does emotional intelligence flow from these values or inform a context of these values?” What is the connection between emotional intelligence and your values?
Suppose love is your value. What are the tools you use to love, and is emotional intelligence one of them? It’s important to see the connection, value that connection and be able to verbalize it.
If the connection between emotional intelligence and your values is not as strong as you thought, but you believe emotional intelligence is important for your business, then you need to refine your list of values further.
Include emotional intelligence in your strategic planning
When you look at strategic planning, especially if you’re using the balanced scorecard approach, you have to think about how you can justify emotional intelligence capabilities as supporting performance as it pertains to your strategic imperatives for the year.
If one of your strategic imperatives is increasing revenue by 20%, and you’re a sales-driven organization, the question is, how might emotional intelligence improve salespeople’s relationship with customers or sales managers’ relationships with their reps? And how might that affect financial KPIs? Including emotional intelligence in strategic planning requires moving from qualification to quantification.
Consider using a bilateral management model like 2 Visions
In the typical strategic planning model, you justify emotional intelligence through its potential contribution to financial performance. But a bilateral management model, such as 2 Visions, can make EI even more effective.
In a bilateral management model, the purpose of a business is twofold: economic value creation, and value creation in our relationships and interactions. That’s a huge shift—one that changes the very fabric of the business.
In the 2 Visions model, you imagine both your economic vision for the business (“We’re going to be the biggest sock company in the world”) and also a vision for your people that has nothing to do with revenues at all. This vision is all about the people in your company—not customers or outside stakeholders. When you focus on growing the health of relationships within the business, the personal transformation of the people on your team will flow into their relationships with customers and outside stakeholders.
When economic and emotional intelligence goals are mixed together, it’s hard to figure out what change made an impact. The 2 Visions model enables you to more clearly see the “people part” of what you’re trying to accomplish with emotional intelligence, and ensures that if profit drops, your commitment to emotional intelligence doesn’t fall by the wayside. It’s a compelling, modern approach to thinking about how to be, not just what to do.
Set incentives for the executive team to example
Exampling emotional intelligence within the executive team is the best way to start. To do that, it’s important to set incentives around your emotional intelligence initiatives. Even if those initiatives are not financially driven, money can still be a sharp indicator of your commitment, and financial incentives show executives how much you value emotional intelligence. If you say you want to double profit and double the EI of your people, but bonuses are tied solely to profit, you’re not demonstrating integrity of focus.
Open up a feedback loop
Day-to-day implementation of emotional intelligence requires a feedback loop going from the executives all the way down to the person who just got hired and back. Without feedback, there’s no opportunity to learn how to tweak your emotional intelligence initiative, how to pivot, how to communicate next steps. Then a year into your emotional intelligence initiative you find that nothing happened; people feel it wasn’t impactful, and it’s too late to fix it.
If feedback shows the emotional intelligence initiative isn’t working, ask questions: “How did we apply it? Did we switch our approach up? How did we use this with different people at different levels? What can we do differently?”
The 2 Visions model helps with feedback, because it ties your strategic planning to your weekly meeting cadence, enabling you to keep abreast of both your economic drivers and your human drivers.
Emotional intelligence is the thread that can run through and enhance all aspects of your organization. Be agile as a team, reacting to what’s working and what’s not, and slowly, gradually, you’ll find emotional intelligence becomes woven into the fabric of your business—with beautiful results.