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There you are, right in the midst of a group conversation where one person didn’t read the room and expressed something that sent the meeting off the rails. We might’ve walked away thinking, “What was up with that?” or “Couldn’t they see that X wasn’t right for today?” Or maybe you’ve been that person and you walked away from a meeting wishing you had handled things differently. We’ve all been there, and hopefully, the next question to come would be, “What can we do to adjust and learn from that?”

You may have heard the phrases “emotional intelligence, EQ, or emotional quotient” being thrown around on podcasts and websites or articles shining a light on the rising trend of companies coming to some interesting conclusions. Emotional intelligence (EI) has emerged as the leading competency indicating an employee or company’s success over time.

We’ll walk through some questions you can ask about yourself and about your small business that will indicate the core competencies your team excels at, and where you could see the greatest positive impact. It can be easy to think of EI as just empathy, how you deal with your feelings or the feelings of others. However, it’s important to understand both how widespread the characteristics of EI and their impact on your business are.

Leadership and self-awareness.

It’s possible that, at times, you might gauge your level of success on your ability to identify and achieve goals both in your life and in your small business. But how we decide on what those goals are is based on our level of awareness of where we are now and how we’d like things to be different. As a leader in your company, this is a responsibility you probably don’t take lightly! This is why self-awareness is the first step in developing strong emotional intelligence.

Take a few moments to consider or write down what your typical responses have been to some common situations:

  • When things are on track and going well.
  • When things have taken an unexpected turn.
  • When high levels of stress emerge.

How did you exhibit emotional self-control? How did you communicate with your team? Was anyone outwardly affected by your behaviour? It’s important not to apply too harsh a critical eye as you move through self-assessment. We all start somewhere and it’s the first step in knowing how to get somewhere new!

As a leader, you set the tone for the positive outlook of your employees, partners, and clients. Anyone can be a leader, and it’s often the people with high EI competencies that find themselves leading from every part of the organization. And the return on investment is substantial. A recent study found that 50% of employees who had resigned from their role did so largely in part because of the manager leading them. You can see how crucial it could be to ensure you and the managers in your company lead from a human-oriented place rooted in EI.

This could look like:

  • Setting clear expectations and dealing with meeting and not meeting them swiftly and with positivity.
  • Including the “Whys” in all your company/project change communications.
  • Holding regularly scheduled 1:1 meetings with employees and teams that include space to communicate capacity, status and things that are going on in their lives outside of work.

👉 For more skills in this area, check out The Epic Guide to Employee Management.


Growing your small business looks different from quarter to quarter and year to year. If we define growth beyond the financial definition, although the impacts of EI are quantifiable here as well, we can understand growth as the flourishing of company culture. In a modern world where no business type is exempt from constant change, having intentional growth plans for your company and your employees is an investment in their EI as well as an investment in the future of your company.

If the return on investment (ROI) on training for hard practical skill levels has proven effective, EI training has proven equally and, in some cases, more beneficial in arriving at the desired outcomes of improved productivity, better communication and stronger team collaboration.

EI training could look like:

  • Mindfulness programs for self-awareness.
  • Communication practice that includes role-play to understand many perspectives.
  • Setting clear expectations and resolving deviation from them swiftly and with positivity.
  • Including the “Whys” in all your company change communications.

People practices.

Most successful leaders would agree that they didn’t arrive where they were without the support of some very strong teams. Those teams have a lot in common. They were invested, adaptable, communicated well, understood goals clearly and reprioritized collaboratively. Above all, they felt safe, appreciated and acknowledged. All of which can be built with any team at any time with some focus and effort.

As a coach and a mentor, investing in the people you work with beyond their job description and addressing their concerns is a fast track to the type of work done by teams with strong EI. That “little spat” or miscommunicated expectation between two managers can easily become a morale killer for much longer than the incident itself, if not handled correctly.

Thinking now to your company:

  • What is the biggest pain point in your company culture?
  • Are there any conversations you’ve been avoiding having?

These are the elephants that can hang out in the rooms where we try to bring things up and shift culture. How you handle decision-making or conflict resolution matters. Avoiding it often makes things worse in the long run.

Make a list of all the open-ended issues standing in the company. If there are any that can be solved in 1-3 conversations, put them in your calendar and look for some resources to support you if you’re not feeling confident!

Like we mentioned, you likely have someone in your midst who is excellent at this. Ask their perspective and notice how clearing those things frees up a lot more mental space for the things that move you forward.

👉 Have a remote team? Use these tips to support and motivate your remote employees.

The bottom line.

Interpersonal conflict (even at a low level), broken communication and avoidant leadership are all obstacles that can be overcome as we move our small business forward. You might be asking, does successful EI look like being in control at all times? The answer: Absolutely not!

No employee, manager, small business owner or human being ever is. Strong EI allows you to develop more awareness of any given situation and how best to respond. But it also gives you the strong ability to recover and learn from trial and error.

Looking at a list like this, it can be easy to get overwhelmed! Like any toolbox, you can see each of these core competencies as a skill to build and bolster in yourself and your company over time. The only place any of us can start is with us, and one person, especially in a small business, can make a huge impact. You’ve got this!