Gone are the days when you could put all your focus on being a master of your craft, and everything else in your business would just fall into place.
Business is about people. So whether you run a Saas, service, or online business, you have to engage and interact with people, your customers, contractors, employees, and influencers on a regular basis.
Because the success of your business is so intertwined with how well you are able to connect with and serve others, it is essential that you practice emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is all about being aware of, expressing, and controlling your emotions as it relates to your relationships with others. That means you also need to have an awareness of the emotions of those you interact with, and respond accordingly.
Daniel Goleman popularized the term and our understanding of it in his international best-seller Emotional Intelligence. He explains why it's so important to your work:
"I would say that IQ is the strongest predictor of which field you can get into and hold a job in, whether you can be an accountant, lawyer or nurse, for example. IQ can show whether you have the cognitive capacity to handle the information and complexities you face in a particular field. But once you are in that field, emotional intelligence emerges as a much stronger predictor of who will be most successful, because it is how we handle ourselves in our relationships that determines how well we do once we are in a given job."
We've all encountered a person at some point in our careers that seemed to operate completely devoid of emotional intelligence. I'd venture to say that's probably someone you were not eager to work with again.
You've got to be the one that others are excited to interact with. Someone that energizes them and helps them feel empowered and supported, rather than drained. So here are three simple strategies to help you up your emotional intelligence game.
1. Practice empathy
You'll be in a better position to cultivate deep relationships with the people your business touches when you take the time to consider things from their point of view.
Renita Bryant, founder of SightsSet Consulting and Mynd Matters Publishing explains how she uses this to her advantage to win clients:
I have a natural unwavering commitment to empathy. I think it's made me very effective at being a business owner, in terms of working with different types of clients...because people feel like I connect with them, and most of the time it's because I always try to figure out what out what experience I've had or how I've walked in their shoes in some kind of way.
I'm just always trying to find the common ground...and most of the time I don't have to search too hard. I mean, you start talking to someone and if you actually have an interest in hearing them, knowing who they are, finding out more about them, you find out that we aren't that much different.
Whenever possible, look for the common ground with others when communicating with them. Consider things from their point of view. It will help you both find mutually beneficial solutions and enable you to form a stronger bond.
2. Read between the lines
Many times as you're working with your customers, you'll find that the key to giving them both what they want and need doesn't always come by listening to what they say.
Lebogang Luvuno, founder of Motopi Consulting explained how she observes and interprets what her clients don't say, in order to serve them effectively.
I think a big thing... is to be able to read between the lines. When a client is sending you an email saying 'we've spoken about this enterprise development idea, I don't know what's happening, have you spoken to the beneficiaries, what's happening?' you have to be able to read and say, 'ok, the client is a bit panicked. They feel like they are not being updated. Let's update them a bit more regularly.' We have to read what they are not saying.
You have to understand what their pain points and pleasure points are. So the pain point is that their boss is hounding them about getting this done. I need to manage myself so they are able to give their boss frequent feedback that is progressive and that they feel like they're winning, and that their boss trusts them. So let me help them manage the relationship with their boss by doing what I need to do well.
Get good at taking a step back and observing a situation from a broader lens, to help you identify what may be driving your clients' behavior.
3. Use data to help you serve your customers better
Even if your business operates completely online with little or no direct contact with your customers, that doesn't mean you're off the hook with emotional intelligence when it comes to how you engage with them.
Jon Nastor is host of the podcast 'Hack the Entrepreneur' and co-host of 'The Showrunner' podcast. He provides insight on how to effectively keep the people you are creating products for at the forefront of how you operate, even when it's completely digital.
We shouldn't not look at numbers, and we shouldn't not look at data. I just don't want you looking at data and not thinking about people. Because every single one of those data is a person...You look at data so that you can optimize for the customer. You're still making money obviously, but you should be thinking about them as a human being.
Keep a clear view of who your ideal customers are, even when you don't interact with them physically. When you're able to consider the living, breathing, thinking human that is using your products and services, it becomes easier to create an experience that makes life better for them.
Your professional expertise will get your customers to consider you as an option to help them solve their problem. But it's the soft skills, particularly emotional intelligence that will enable you to move beyond the transaction and build relationships with them at a deeper level.