"Emotional intelligence" has become a buzzword among business leaders recently, but what does it really mean, and how can you improve upon it?

By tapping into the emotions of your colleagues as well as turning inwards to understand your own, you can become a better leader who facilitates team cohesiveness. Ten entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) share the tactics they use to improve upon their emotional intelligence and become stronger business owners in the process.

1. Solicit feedback regularly.

To be an emotionally intelligent leader, you have to be able to find feedback and criticism valuable, not upsetting. Practicing this will allow you to take rejections in stride, and turn almost anything into a learning experience. I strengthen my emotional intelligence by encouraging my employees to give me feedback and criticism of my ideas daily.--Elle Kaplan, LexION Capital

2. Be curious.

Approach every conversation or situation with curiosity. The "why" or "how" can be more important than the "what." By understanding the underlying thought process, you can avoid frustration and communicate more effectively and in a way that people can more easily understand. This way, everybody wins.--Alisha Navarro, 2 Hounds Design

3. Show empathy.

Put yourself in other people's shoes by asking yourself about their hope, fears and aspirations. What keeps them up at night? What are they proud of? What are their goals? When you put yourself in their shoes, you'll have a better understanding of your clients, investors and employees for a better business across the board.--Christopher Kelly, Convene

4. Surround yourself with people smarter than you.

I've learned that the easiest way for me to improve my emotional intelligence is to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am. They tend to not only challenge me at all times, but bring out the best of me. Entrepreneurs should team with or employ individuals who will help them grow personally and professionally, yet are as passionate about the business as the owner is.--Anthony Pezzotti, Knowzo.com

5. Pay attention to others with high levels of emotional intelligence.

It helps to observe others who are known to have a high level of emotional intelligence to see how they react to situations, what behaviors they exhibit that get a positive reaction, and how they worked to develop their emotional intelligence. It always provides a framework for me. I can apply their emotional intelligence to a situation as a best practice for me to adopt.--Cynthia Johnson, American Addiction Centers

6. Meditate often.

In a circuitous way, meditating has become an exercise that has inadvertently made me more emotionally intelligent. Sitting alone may not give you that impression, but there is something about the way I feel more deeply aware of and connected to the emotions of others because of it. I went from being someone often called emotionally robotic to being highly empathetic and intuitive.--Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

7. Invest in yourself.

Your personal capacity determines your company's capacity for growth. And dynamic emotional growth requires practice under the tutelage of an expert. That might be a coach, a leadership program, an acting class, a public speaking class, a psychology program, a yoga class, etc. Spend money on your development and your people will follow suit and spread that mentality throughout your organization.--Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

8. Keep a journal.

Journaling has always been known as a way to reflect on the self. Looking back over previous entries can help you better understand your own feelings and emotions. The actual process of writing has always been pegged as a means of stimulating the brain, including cognitive and emotional functions, helping to grow your emotional intelligence capabilities.--Drew Hendricks, Buttercup

9. Hold regular check-ins without an agenda.

Most CEOs have check-ins with their direct reports. But what I've found to be helpful is trying to grab lunch or coffee with someone on the team I don't usually check in with. There's no agenda going in; just a curious mind to understand what they think of their role, their manager and the company culture. Doing this sets a communication standard company-wide that every voice is important.--Fan Bi, Blank Label

10. Tune into what's going on around you.

Simply listening to the world around you can go a long way in teaching you how to be sensitive to the emotional spectrum and improve your own understanding of it. Oftentimes it's not about trying to become more emotionally intelligent through our own goals for improvement; it's about learning empathy and compassion, and becoming more emotionally competent through helping others resolve their issues.--Nathan Hale, First American Merchant

Published on: Apr 4, 2016