Getting emotional about your business

Joshua Freedman says people can excel in organisations that have a high Emotional Quotient. (SUPPLIED)

While many leaders possess the technical skills to succeed, exceptional leaders have a secret ingredient that inspires businesses to world-class performance: Emotional Quotient (EQ).

EQ is the ability to integrate thinking and feeling to make optimal decisions and is the foundation of high performing relationships. Businesses lose customers when they fail to form strong relationships with them. According to research, 70 per cent of all lost sales are EQ related and only 30 per cent are lost because of product, service quality, features or business benefits.

In today's highly competitive world, it is important for organisations to use all available resources to the best of their ability, which includes EQ. Organisations and businesses from Microsoft and Lockheed Martin to the US Navy and Marine Corps are realising the benefits of EQ and are including EQ training in their work culture to help their staff become masterful at the "people side" of leadership.

Joshua Freedman is a master-trainer and author of books on EQ and the COO of Six Seconds, a company that develops leadership strategies. Freedman spoke to Emirates Business about the importance of EQ on the eve of his visit to the UAE for a seminar.

What role does EQ play in the success or failure of a business?

EQ is the capacity to be smart with feelings, to integrate emotion and analysis to make optimal decisions. The abbreviation 'EQ' comes from 'Emotional Quotient' – the measure of emotional intelligence. EQ is a learnable, measurable capacity that has profound affects on individual, team and organisational performance. Emotions make or break trust, change and innovation. We've all experienced how emotions can hamper our ability to solve problems and to build loyalty. However the opposite is also true and emotions can be used in a positive way to solve problems and build loyalty. Organisations rich in EQ have the assets to create a context where people excel. Can you imagine an organisation where trust is abundant and people are thrilled to come to work? Think how effectively people there would solve problems and innovate… And just imagine what customers would feel walking in that place. Once businesses succeeded because they had some unique product or process. Today's businesses are more complex and are operating in a global market with constant, rapid change. In this context businesses succeed or fail because of people – and the way people connect internally and to customers. Emotions are the language and glue of relationships and emotional intelligence skills are the key to using emotions well.

How can businesses and organisations benefit from the strategy?

Our clients use EQ in developing three main areas of their business: leaders worth following, change that succeeds, and loyal customers. Real leaders envision a future and enroll people to co-create it. They inspire trust, courage, commitment and hope. While brilliance is essential, it's not enough. Great leaders need to connect with people at a gut level. They have unique insight into people and they have a unique capacity to manage their own energy so that it resonates with others. This all grows from emotional intelligence – and we can teach these skills and make them part of the leadership culture. In terms of change, most efforts fail. Perhaps only 10 per cent of change efforts really hit the mark. Why? It is because most approaches to change focus on developing a technical and strategic plan, and they forget that humans need to execute the plan. How good is a strategy if people are not on board, or even actively resisting? So you need to take into account the human dynamics and the emotions that drive people. We can measure these intangibles, tweak strategies so they work with, rather than against, people, and teach competencies to make it work. Finally, in terms of customers, it's a truism that relationship is everything. But how do you actually build that? EQ helps create a workforce that actually cares about customers and knows how to show it.

How can one integrate thinking and feeling to make optimal decisions?

It's very simple, but not easy to do it well. First, you need to get accurate information. Emotions are data and you can learn to carefully collect that data by paying the right kind of attention to yourself. Process the emotional data without making a mess. Slow down and take it seriously, shift out of reaction – instead of being driven by feelings, be proactive with them. Assess your options against a benchmark. Consider what's truly important to you in balance with what's truly important to others. Then get out of your own way and do what you know is right.

How widely is EQ used in businesses around the world?

There are a huge number of organisations experimenting with EQ worldwide. Six Seconds is a global organisation, and we're seeing tremendous activity in EQ. Probably the most work is happening in Asia right now in many sectors from energy to technology to human services. In the United States we've got several market leaders integrating these skills into their strategy and operations such as Lockheed Martin and FedEx.

How does EQ become the foundation of high-performing relationships?

Emotions are a source of insight into the dynamics of what's happening inside us and between us. If we tune into that information, we understand what's happening on a much deeper level. We read one another better, and we respond in ways that advance our mutual goals (rather than just battling about ego). I think in most workplaces we're trying to act like hot stuff, cover ourselves and put down people so we look good. But we all know that doesn't actually make relationships work. EQ offers another route.

How can EQ help improve and enhance business relationships?

Let me try out a personal example. At the moment, I have two contractors working on web development projects. One of them, named Jacques, is working on a complex interactive tool that's now far behind schedule. But I trust Jacques and I know he's going to deliver. This is partly because he has done good work for me in the past, but even more it's a sense I have. As we talk about technical issues I hear something beneath the words. There's a sincerity there that you can't fake. When people develop their emotional intelligence, they are better able to connect in this way. They attend to the subtleties of the relationship, not just the tasks. Instead of being reactive, impatient, sycophantic or shallow, they bring forth integrity and communicate in a way that's honest, respectful, and caring. In turn this generates equity in the relationship and makes business much smoother and more efficient.

How are lost sales EQ related?

—This statistic comes from research by a consortium of manufacturing companies. They took records from about five years and did a lost sales analysis, categorising the reasons why people stopped using vendors. About 30 per cent of the reasons for lost sales were factors like price and quality. But the vast majority were factors such as: "They stopped really caring about us", or "The representative who really knew us well left", or "It just got to be too frustrating to work with them". Reading between the lines, you can see that these are all about a loss of a caring, respectful relationship.

How can EQ help improve relationships with customers?

When customers feel a genuine sense of caring plus get reasonable prices and a quality product, they go beyond satisfied. We did a small study about this and found that customers notice the quality of the interactions with vendors, and that drives their loyalty. We train hiring managers to use the EQ assessment as part of the selection process, and we develop training to keep that in focus. Second, perhaps even more importantly, leaders need to create a context where these high EQ reps can operate with integrity.

How can EQ give one's business an edge over the competition?

The first step is to build a coalition of senior leaders who are willing to learn and grow. Using assessment and executive coaching we help them develop and apply their EQ competence and bring this perspective to their strategy and tactics. Then, these leaders participate in rolling out a new way of doing business. They get more involved further down in the organisation while building relationships and showing up. They attend to the feelings of their employees and customers as one of their key priorities. They take that into account as a major piece of the decision-making process.

How does EQ help leaders tap into their leadership capacity?

Leaders need insight and influence. They need to be innovative, observant, trustworthy and visionary. All these have a major emotional component. For example, there's a leader I work with who has worked hard to develop his EQ. Now people bring him serious issues and challenges and he doesn't "bite their heads off". Now he's someone his people trust and genuinely respect.

Is EQ just one more buzzword?

No. You're talking about a new approach to understanding people. Rather than seeing emotions as random, inconvenient, and destructive, EQ shows us how all emotions are working to assist us to cope. When we learn to decode them, we get a trove of data.


Leadership workshop

The At the Heart of Leadership workshop with Joshua Freedman will be held at The Montgomerie, Dubai, from May 26 to 28. More information is available from Andreas Olsson, Dynamic Learning, on +971 (0)4 391 4355.


PROFILE: Joshua Freedman, EQ specialist

Joshua Freedman is one of the world's leading specialists on developing and applying emotional intelligence to improve performance at the workplace. He is the chief operating officer of Six Seconds, a world leader in emotional intelligence development with offices in six countries and practitioners in more than 50.

Freedman is also the author of At the Heart of Leaders, the EQ leadership assessment, and organisation vital signs climate index. His clients include Schlumberger, Pfizer, American Express, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, the US Army and Navy, Xerox PARC, Lockheed Martin, Etihad Airways, FedEx and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.