We moved into a new office. There’s something about moving furniture that makes you re-evaluate how you do things. Who sits next to who? What do you need on the walls? Where do the new plants go?
During that re-evaluation we restarted our Bullhorn U series. We wanted to better understand emotional intelligence. We had a feeling that it was important, but didn’t know what to do about that feeling. Some surprising insights came out of our three week series.
“Emotional intelligence (EI) or emotional quotient (EQ) is the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.”
Like every business, we have unwelcome friction points. Friction causes conflict. It causes internal conflict that keeps us from doing our best work. We talked about conflict in meetings. We evaluated our processes; analyzed who plays what role. But there seems to be a more fundamental problem.
One of the first insights came from this TED Talk by Daniel Goleman. He discusses the importance of empathy. Empathy allows us to imagine ourselves in the position of someone else. We have designers, writers, and strategists thinking deeply about client problems. In order to find an elegant solution, the person becomes invested in the idea of where the client can go. We also have account representatives and project managers who more consistently interface with clients. The client doesn’t always want to go the direction we think is best or wants to get there in another way. That creates stress/friction. In order to overcome this stress we have to empathize with and trust one another.
We are all trying to get to do the best work. We have to trust that.
The role of emotional intelligence in client relationships can’t be understated. Thinking about our clients differently has radically changed our relationships. It is easy to think of client/service provider relations as adversarial. Again, this stands directly in the way of doing good work. We have to be part of the same team working toward a common goal.
Empathy is key here. While re-branding is a common exercise for us, most of our clients will only do it once in their careers. It is very stressful. They often come from successful businesses. They don’t want to mess that up.
If it is a new business, there are additional stressors. Usually, money is a major concern. This is their baby and we are trying to name it, decide what it looks like, and what kinds of clothes it wears. That takes an intense amount of trust on their part. We have to remember to not take that lightly.
Again, we are all trying to get to do the best work. We have to trust that.
If you start thinking critically about how you relate to your customers and employees, your business’s culture will change. For the better. There are complex definitions of what company culture is. Ultimately, it is the exchange of ideas among the people who are part of the organization. The physical space affects it. Policies affect it. But it comes down to the people.
Dedicating time to understanding and improving emotional intelligence will decrease stress, improve relationships, and allow the work you do to be better. Remember, this isn’t just work. This is a significant portion of your life. You owe it to yourself to make it better.