The Hidden Secret To Business Success


Founder of Winterspring Capital, where you can invest in multifamily real estate passively without the headaches of being a landlord.

We all grow up hearing about the importance of intelligence, but the word itself is sometimes misunderstood. While most people probably wouldn’t swear by an IQ test as the truest measuring stick of intelligence, it’s generally considered to be a pretty good measure. The name “intelligence quotient” certainly helps encourage this line of thinking. Yet, in reality, one’s IQ is just a component of their overall intelligence. The general public has become increasingly aware of IQ’s cousin, EI (popularly referred to as EQ), which stands for emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is concerned with your ability to manage your own emotions, as well as how well you perceive and interact with the emotions of others. While there are tests out there that claim to be able to measure your EI, the general idea and importance of emotional intelligence are what we’re concerned with as business leaders. While the utility of having a high IQ might be intuitively apparent to us, we’re now seeing evidence stack up that emotional intelligence is just as important.

Google has been conducting research for over a decade on what traits make for the best managers under their Project Oxygen program. They’ve distilled all of their observations into ten key behaviors shared by the most successful managers. What may come as a surprise to many people is that the list is dominated by traits more associated with emotional intelligence than IQ. Some examples include, but are not limited to: “creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being,” “is a good communicator — listens and shares information,” and “is a strong decision maker.”

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Some of you might be wondering why I would interpret “is a strong decision maker” as a trait related to emotional intelligence rather than IQ. Research actually suggests that emotional intelligence is fundamental to good decision making in business. Study participants with lower awareness of their own emotions were significantly more risk-averse when they were experiencing anxiety, whereas individuals with higher emotional awareness could behave as they normally would even under a state of anxiety.

While, in hindsight, this appears to be common sense, spelling out the connection between the two is still important due to how little energy many of us put into trying to understand how our own emotions are influencing our behavior. This conscious effort to understand our emotions is known as metacognition: the awareness of one’s own thought processes and what causes them to emerge. Once you’re aware of the importance of emotional control and how to keep track of it consciously through metacognition, how can you apply this knowledge to your business?

Review badly executed or failed decisions you’ve made due to emotion.

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Think of all those times when your emotions influenced your decision making in your business—what would you have done differently if you had been more rational, and how can you avoid your emotions getting the best of you in similar situations in the future? It might not be pleasant to thumb through negative memories, but that’s a critical component of being a responsible leader, anyways. Were you aware in the moment of the role your emotions were playing in your poor decision making? If yes, have you been making constructive steps to remain aware of those same emotional tendencies that steered you wrong before, so you can lessen their hold over your decision making?

If no, what sort of mental routines can you create for yourself so that you’re more in tune with your own emotions? Some people are born with stellar emotional control, but the rest of us can learn emotional mastery as well. You just have to literally invent mental processes unique to your own personality and history that allow your conscious mind to suppress the influence of your emotions. The key is awareness: Without being self-aware when your emotions are running hot, you truly can’t take any action to correct your behavior. Once you’re aware, you’re able to catch yourself in the act and restrain yourself.

Keep track of your emotions as you go through your day.

In addition to reviewing how emotions have intersected with your business in the past, you also need to build those emotional awareness muscles so you’re prepared moving forward to handle them better. Keep a log of situations where you felt emotional throughout each day, what the triggers were and how you felt you responded. Logging your emotions can either be a permanent practice or a temporary training regimen to increase your awareness. Once you have a firm grasp on your own emotions, meditating quietly on your behavior each day can make you more in tune with your actions and put you in greater conscious control of yourself.

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All of us have experiences where our emotions have held us back from accomplishing something. It’s simply part of the human experience. Yet, with all the focus on technical skills and raw IQ scores in our society, the importance of taming one’s emotions was somewhat neglected by popular culture for many decades. We’ve entered a new age, however, where people are more in tune with themselves and one another. As business leaders, we have a duty to be at the forefront of this exploration into how we can become more emotionally intelligent human beings, both for the benefit of our company’s profitability, but even more importantly, to benefit our employees, customers, partners and ourselves.


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