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Emotional intelligence most important tool for SMEs, expert suggests

While business owners expend most of their energy focusing on planning, administration, cashflow, and getting through the day, one expert says the focus should shift to the psychology of business.

The concept of emotional intelligence should be “the most important intelligence in your business”, says Sue Langley, co-director of The Langley Group Institute.

Earlier this year The Langley Group Institute, which is co-directed by Yulia Zlatkin, launched Australia’s first government accredited Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing.

Langley, who has a Masters in Neuroscience of Leadership, told SmartCompany the purpose was to help business owners and professionals in various fields adopt a studied approach to psychological wellbeing in the workplace.

She says the course covers areas such as positive leadership, positive human resources, positive communities and positive coaching.

“Some people think that taking a psychology approach (to business) isn’t tangible, but there are tangible bottom line outcomes in having positive psychology.”

Langley says these include higher staff retention, fewer sick days, improved staff performance, motivation, productivity, better decision making and revenue growth.

Langley offers four key lessons that all business owners can engage to improve their emotional intelligence in the workplace:

1. Emotional intelligence comes first

Langley says to make emotional intelligence the most important intelligence in your business.

“Emotional intelligence is simply the intelligent use of emotions, we all have emotions and those emotions impact behaviour, decisions and performance,” she says.

The better we can understand our emotions, the better we will be in our decision making and performance.

She offers a practical lesson to begin.

“Don’t make decisions when tired, when our brain has no fuel to make a good decision.”

2. Share the bigger picture

As a leader, ensure your team have a sense of meaning to their position in the business, and how that fits into the overall bigger picture.

“We know how brains are drawn to meaning and purpose, and get fulfilment from something bigger,” she says.

“A good leader should help the team understand the meaning behind what they are doing.

“That way they are not just moving paper from left from right – there’s a meaning for why they do it.”

Langley says if you are having a bad day at work, the chances are that you will more easily overcome it if you feel like you have meaning and purpose to your role.

3. Put a number on it

Langley advises creating a 5:1 positive/negative ratio in your team communication.

Langley says this is the Losada Ratio, and it is the way high performing teams communicate with each other.

“It is not just saying four nice things and one nasty thing, but it’s about how you say the nice and negative things.”

Frame the negative points in a positive way, speak in terms of “we” more than “I” and pose questions rather than always just opinions.

And when offering positive feedback, give it with full presence, eye contact and sincerity so it is well received.

4. Focus on strengths

Langley says a good approach to positive HR is to recruit for strengths, and focus on strengths in performance reviews.

She says this helps people to focus on what they are good at, and their weaknesses will rise up to match naturally.

Melinda Oliver

Former Deputy Editor

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Melinda Oliver is the deputy editor of SmartCompany and LeadingCompany. Previously Melinda was a custom magazine editor with News Limited, a features editor with fashion business magazine Ragtrader, and a reporter for Drapers in London.