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Emotional Intelligence in Business


There was surely a disconnect between emotion and intelligence during a major engagement I was working on with one of Chicago’s top creative talents. The client had requested a simple change on a consumer package goods project that was “this close” to approval. Imagine my surprise when the creative director on the account took his shoe off and hurled it at me screaming that he was the ##**ing author of all visual and editorial content. Lucky for me, I ducked just before the offending loafer made contact with my head!

Today, workplace culture has shifted toward collaboration and team success. Mary Pat Knight, Transformation Strategist and Business Coach at Leaders Inspired, offers insight about the role that emotional intelligence plays in building a collaborative and productive working environment.

Why Emotional Intelligence is Important in Your Business

By Mary Pat Knight

The role of Emotional Intelligence in business is to inspire your team, and foster communication, connection and motivation.

Do any of these statements resonate with you?
“My team is not engaged; not achieving results.”
“Why can’t they get along?”
“Why so much drama?”
“Why am I doing everything?”
“Where is accountability?”

What if the problem is not with them, but with you? There can be much truth in the old bromide: It’s lonely at the top. In many cases you’ve created your own loneliness due to habits, beliefs and paradigms about power, decision-making and the ability of others.

Understanding and challenging limiting beliefs such as if it’s to be, it’s up to me, is a critical component of Emotional Intelligence in business leadership. Top-down decision-making is a key dysfunction that strangles team engagement and shrinks results. Any person who has led a business, team, or even a family is tempted to (and often lauded for) making all the decisions. Running the entire show seems like a safe bet, but the impact is great, often blocking inspiration and engagement from those who will carry out your decisions.

Challenging a control paradigm provides important opportunities for others to participate in brainstorming, feedback and decision-making. Leadership requires that you are bold, create direction and have long-term vision. In sharing the vision, you persuade others to play. Let them. When you carry each decision or important effort on your back, the resulting exhaustion leaves you unable to inspire anybody else to take action.

5 Strategies to Resist the Temptation of Top-Down Decision Making

  1. Let Mistakes Be Fertile Learning Ground
    It’s not the mistake that matters – it’s what you do after the mistake that counts. Mistakes create opportunities for learning. Don’t regress at the first snafu and retake control. If you step in too soon, growth will be stunted and disengagement will increase.
  2. Transcend Your Assumptions
    If you assume that someone else can’t do it, then who is left? YOU. Review and update your assumptions or judgments about the abilities of employees, partners and vendors. Assumptions are opinions; find out the facts.
  3. Understand the Impact
    Top-down decision-making creates an environment where people don’t take ownership because someone else is doing everything for them. The result is a group of so-called leaders who are unable to make decisions. You feel needed…but at what price?
  4. Take a Risk to Let Others Drive
    Open up the lines of influence by stating expectations, setting inspection points and then let go of the reigns. When your leaders are blocked from having influence with their followers, not only will the team disengage, there may be no team at all.
  5. Forgive Yourself When you Take Back the Wheel
    Face the fact that this will happen at some point. Stay self-aware so that when it does, you can acknowledge the situation and take immediate action to course-correct back to an inclusive approach.

Control is an illusion. A team pointed toward true north is greater than one person trudging it alone. You will be liberated as you finally let go. It may take time for trust to develop, but as you consistently lead with Emotional Intelligence, you will enjoy the results of an empowered team. What will you accomplish with the time that will open up in your day?

TMG is commemorating its 25th anniversary with a series of blog posts by leaders in our industry. The world is a very different place than it was when we opened for business in 1990. This series offers insight into business today and gives us all a measure of perspective as we ponder what’s next…