How to Build Emotional Intelligence for Professional Growth

Male entrepreneur sitting against blue wall, high emotional intelligence

You might not expect to talk about emotional intelligence in relation to business, but it’s a topic I really do feel it’s worth talking about if you’re someone currently navigating the entrepreneurial journey.

So, what is emotional intelligence (EI)? In the most basic sense, it’s all about recognizing, understanding and managing not just your own emotions, but also those of others. In other words, it’s about being aware of and able to regulate your own emotions in various situations, as well as being empathetic towards others.

And as an entrepreneur, developing this skill is going to serve you well as you face new challenges, conflicts and decisions.

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The Pillars of Emotional Intelligence for Entrepreneurs

Emotional intelligence encompasses skills such as self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, empathy and relationship management. This means that by developing your emotional intelligence, you can expect to have better capacity for communication, conflict resolution and leadership abilities.

And all of these are going to contribute to your professional growth. In fact, research by the University of Haifa found that high emotional intelligence can reduce job burnout by as much as 36%. As a life coach whose philosophy is about taking a holistic approach to life and business – in other words, prioritising your personal life reflects in the success of your professional life – this is really going to work to your advantage in achieving balance. 

It’s no coincidence then that 90% of high performers at work also happen to possess high emotional intelligence, according to TalentSmart.

Let’s take a deeper look at the foundations of emotional intelligence.

  • Self-awareness – Picture this: you’re facing a high-stakes business decision and time is ticking. Do you truly know what fires you up and what you’d rather avoid? Entrepreneurs with high emotional intelligence do. They’ve got a handle on their strengths, weaknesses and everything in-between. And, armed with this self-awareness, they make better decisions with confidence and manage their limitations effectively.
  • Self-regulation – As an entrepreneur, you’re constantly navigating various challenges, setbacks and uncertainties. One minute you’re riding high on success and the next, you’re teetering on a cliff-edge. Individuals with strong emotional intelligence can successfully regulate their emotions, stay calm under pressure, and maintain focus and composure even in the most stressful situations. They’re able to calmly make rational decisions, even when the heat is on.
  • Social awareness – In business, it’s crucial to build strong relationships – whether that’s with clients, partners, employees or peers. Entrepreneurs with high emotional intelligence are masters of empathy, with a natural ability to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. This means they can better anticipate others’ needs, helping them communicate and collaborate effectively.
  • Relationship management – There are certain entrepreneurs who just seem to have a magic touch when it comes to people. These are the people who seem to be natural at smoothing over conflicts, motivating teams and somehow managing to turn their toughest clients into total advocates. This is because they’re able to create inclusive and supportive work environments that foster teamwork, innovation and loyalty – all thanks to what’s likely a very high level of emotional intelligence.
  • Adaptability – Let’s face it – the only constant in business is change. Markets shift, trends come and go, and what worked yesterday might not cut it tomorrow. Yet entrepreneurs with high emotional intelligence are able to thrive regardless. They’re able to be flexible, open-minded and resilience in the face of change, meaning they’re always ready to pivot when the time calls for it.
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How to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence

So, how can you develop your own emotional intelligence?

  1. Start with self-awareness

We want to start first with self-awareness. This means taking a journey inward and getting to know the real you. Whether it’s through journalling and meditation as I’ve talked about previously or long walks in nature for quiet reflection, carve out some time to really connect with your innermost thoughts and feelings. This sense of heightened awareness can help you better understand yourself and your reactions.

How do you react in certain situations? Are there situations that make you uncomfortable? Where are you most confident? Really get to understand your own emotions and where they come from. 

If this all feels a bit alien to you, having the support of a coach to guide you through it can make the world of difference and help you on your journey to better emotional intelligence.

  1. Embrace feedback as fuel for growth

As Bill Gates once said, “We all need people who give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” Feedback might feel uncomfortable at first (we all like to think we’re perfect!), but the truth is there is always room for us to get better – even those at the top of their game.

And it’s through getting an outside perspective that helps us see things that we might have missed ourselves.

Seek out feedback from the people who know you best – whether that’s your mentors, peers or trusted friends. Those who really care most about you will be able to give you the feedback you need honestly and constructively. They’re the people who want to see you growing and thriving.

Having honest insights to guide you can be like gold dust, guiding you towards the areas you’ve missed so you can shine brighter. Don’t see feedback as a criticism when in fact it’s one of the greatest gifts someone can give you.

  1. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes

It really helps, especially in times of conflict or disagreement, to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand their perspectives, feelings and motivations.

It’s all too easy to retaliate and defend your point, but next time you find yourself in a situation like this, just pause for a moment and actively listen to the other person’s concerns. In conflict, tensions rise because no one feels like they are being listened to so by actively listening to another person’s concerns and acknowledging that you’ve heard them, you can help validate their emotions, and show genuine compassion and understanding.

Practise active listening wherever you can. Put down your phone, look people in the eye and truly absorb what they’re saying. 

You’ll be amazed at the depth of connection you can forge when you give someone your undivided attention.

Try not to see conflict as being all about “winning” the argument. Instead, see it as working through differing perspectives and seeing the situation from all angles so that both parties can come to a resolution together.

  1. Foster positive relationships

Investing time and effort in building and nurturing positive relationships with others is never time wasted. By building strong relationships, you’ve always got a vital network of support for when things get challenging on the entrepreneurial journey.

Whoever you’re dealing with, try and make the most positive impact on them you can. When you meet someone, are you truly showing up in a way that resonates positively? Align your energy with your intentions – if you want people to feel positively about you, make sure that’s reflected in what you say and do. With everyone you meet, make them feel as though they’re the only person in the room. 

Taking a more intentional approach like this not only deepens your understanding of people whom you might genuinely want to work with, but it also sets the stage for creating authentic connections. These are the sort of connections that will truly stand the test of time and bring with them so many valuable opportunities for everyone involved.

It’s not about how many people you connect with. It’s about how meaningful those connections are.

  1. Lead by example

There’s a great quote by Albert Schweitzer that says: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It’s the only thing.”

As an entrepreneur and business leader, if here are behaviours and qualities that you wish to see in others then you’ll want to be able to demonstrate these yourself and to lead by example. Show vulnerability, humility and authenticity if you want to create an environment that values emotional intelligence and empathy.

When you lead from the heart, you inspire others to do the same – and this creates a ripple effect of positive changes.

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In Conclusion

So there you have it – a roadmap unlocking the power of emotional intelligence for your journey as an entrepreneur. 

Because it’s never just about building a successful business. It’s also about building a life filled with purpose, passion and connection.

If this topic has really intrigued you and you want some more help developing your own emotional intelligence, then I’d be more than delighted to help. Get in touch and together, we can explore how emotional intelligence can elevate your entrepreneurial game, unlock new levels of success and ultimately bring more joy and fulfilment to your life.

And if you have your own thoughts you’d love to share – well, then I’d love to hear them! Share your own perspectives on my Instagram and let’s inspire others to embrace their emotions, build more meaningful connections and create a positive environment that allows everyone to thrive and be their best.