Entrepreneurs & Emotional Intelligence
Having engaged with several entrepreneurial businesses across India over the last 17 years, I have had the opportunity to watch up close how entrepreneurs cope with various business and people situations across various stages of their business life cycles.
However, as I underwent a certification in Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Emotional Quotient (EQ) based coaching about 5 years back, I had to rewire myself significantly to how one looked at an Entrepreneur – not just as a person who made cold and logical choices. Shared below are some of the patterns in how entrepreneurs bring forth their EI / EQ skills to bear.
#1 challenge – Growth & Scale vs. Organization building
Most of us tend to think that the above two parameters overlap and are synonymous – for an entrepreneur, it is about finding a fine balance in terms of personal / result / outcome focus and managing internal and external expectations. Successful entrepreneurs get leaders and managers in place to facilitate organization building as they dream up newer ideas for growth & scale as emotionally the visioning & ideation is a more sacred territory for an entrepreneur as they are more than happy to share space with others for organization building.
There is also the key decision point in making choices – as an advisor I would often find myself in the midst of an entrepreneur’s choice making dilemma so I would position myself more as a thinker who could critique / validate / expand / substantiate / research rather than present new ideas as this was a key ‘inner emotional connect’ for an entrepreneur to envision the ‘next big thing’. In EQ language, this tests the Problem Solving and Reality Testing skill of an Entrepreneur and Independence aspect.
#2 challenge – Raising funds vs. Optimizing spend
Raising funds is the most upwardly delegated task in entrepreneur led organizations and the entrepreneur often has to play the ‘investor’ and / or ‘investment facilitator’ role which can put a lot of stress – from an EI perspective, this puts a lot of stress on the entrepreneur as he/ she is expected to demonstrate flexibility, be optimistic and tolerate the stress, often alone!
Once the funds are given into the system, entrepreneurs love to get into ‘manage, monitor & control’ mode often looking both ahead through the organizational ‘windscreen’ and also into the ‘rear view’ mirror as they monitor and review their businesses. During tough times, emotionally intelligent entrepreneurs become more ‘Assertive’ which is a key counterweight and balance their communication with reasonable ‘Empathy’ another key emotion. On the flip side, many entrepreneurs prefer to do fund raising on their own often not fully involving peers and colleagues – to my mind this demonstrates the ‘independence’ and ‘optimism’ traits of an entrepreneur in EQ language but may not be an efficient or optimal to function this way as investors usually bet on teams rather than individuals.
#3 challenge – Building leaders vs. Inspiring teams
Entrepreneurs often go through an ‘effort and focus’ consolidation of their business portfolios and not unlike larger corporations, they often need to rejig teams and ensure appropriate leadership / direction. However, choosing leaders also means “letting go” which takes the entrepreneur from the self-perception and self-expression territory into interpersonal, decision making and stress management areas in EQ language.
However, emotionally intelligent entrepreneurs do continue to inspire teams through regular small and large group communication, sponsoring / rolling out initiatives and creating spaces for innovation that continue to inspire teams and instill confidence in the chosen leaders. The founder’s image is often larger than life and continues to dominate but many organizations work on the organizational brand becoming the primary anchor which helps the organization step out of the founder’s shadow as it grows and adopt a broader leadership platform.
#4 challenge – Good times vs. Tough times
Entrepreneurs have to navigate and nurture the organization both through good and tough times. This is more often than not a test for how the Entrepreneur has built relationships and networks deep into the organization and external ecosystems on a solid foundation of trust and integrity. While good times can often attract ‘hangers-on’ and fair weather friends, bad times can also be very lonely when just about everyone ‘situationally deserts’ the entrepreneur.
Achieving a true emotional balance in relationships is the hallmark of a truly emotionally intelligent entrepreneur who is able to carry his / her peers and team – some of the competencies that come into play include impulse control, optimism, flexibility, self-respect, self-regard and reality testing. Both good and tough times provide opportunity windows for an entrepreneur to personally learn and grow and also ensure that the relationship goodwill is intact with various stakeholders to navigate in a balanced manner.
#5 challenge – Innovation vs. Disruption
Entrepreneurs love to create, innovate and sometimes disrupt as they constantly work towards keeping themselves motivated and not giving into “entrepreneurial fatigue”. Very few entrepreneurs experiment with ‘timed sabbaticals’ to experiment with fresh leadership and ideas of their teams. Emotionally intelligent entrepreneurs often create ‘challenge projects’ with their leaders to test their ideas and take risks both through ‘innovation’ and ‘disruption’ while staying operationally hands off.
In EQ language, the entrepreneur is demonstrating a combination of flexibility, optimism, problem solving and is pushing the organization boundaries to re-map and adjust. However, without an emotional connect with peers and teams, this may not be very easy as such projects require the entrepreneur to often be part of the exercise.
Emotional intelligence goes beyond basic social skills of an entrepreneur as it tests several dimensions of individual and team relationships. At the very core are the values ecosystem that the entrepreneur and his / her core team pick to build the right cultural fabric of the organization. Without emotional content and engagement, organizations tend to become dull and ritualistic and often lose their creative and competitive edge and this is exactly where the emotionally intelligent entrepreneur is well positioned.