EQ for Entrepreneurs: Why the Most Valuable Investment You Can Make is in Yourself

01/06/2020 | By Anna Barber

This post originally appeared on blog.up.co

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou

Every day, it seems, there’s a new headline about a tech founder resigning from his or her own company after some kind of emotional blowup or major management bungle. The fact is, trying to scale oneself in order to keep up with a growing company is one of the hardest journeys anyone can take. It’s not surprising that under this kind of pressure, many entrepreneurs begin to crack. The job of going from founder to CEO of a rapidly growing company requires you to grow up- in public - and demands a massive investment in building your own emotional intelligence in order to do that.  

Research suggests that EQ may in fact be TWICE as important to business success as general intelligence, or IQ. In the startup community and in particular the tech world, we have developed a culture that values hard skills. Ironically, the soft skills are probably harder to train for and more important than the hard skills. We’ve just released a Techstars workshop I developed as a free online mini-course looking at EQ. This new unit of the amazing Techstars Toolkit focuses on tools you can incorporate immediately to access your own emotional intelligence and build this essential skillset. 

So what exactly is EQ? 

We define EI or EQ as the ability to:

  • Recognize, understand and manage our own emotions
  • Recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others

In practical terms, this means being aware that emotions can drive our behavior and impact people (positively and negatively), and learning how to manage those emotions – both our own and others – especially when we are under pressure.

We can look at EQ in four quadrants. This definition of EQ is based on academic research and popularized by researcher and author Daniel Goleman.  

Self awareness is having an accurate understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, your core values, and your triggers. What are the things that you are great at and the areas you are working on? What really motivates you - what’s your why? And maybe most difficult, what are the things that set you off and get you into a spiral where you are acting on emotion rather than logic? Being self-aware means understanding all of this. 

Self management includes staying calm and positive in a crisis, and being able to recognize and detach from feelings rather than letting them drive behavior. Good self-management allows us to focus under pressure and be adaptable, to be in a state of continuous improvement and to set high goals and reach for them.  

Social awareness starts with empathy - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The next level of social awareness is reading the room - seeing the overall mood and the dynamics between people. It doesn’t take a big leap to understand how that might help you do everything from make more sales of your product to raise money more effectively.  

Then in the fourth quadrant we have social skills - which includes everything from being able to give and accept feedback, to being able to build and inspire trust, the ability to use your understanding of someone’s perspective to influence their opinion on something, and the ability to be an inspiring leader.  

Many investors, myself included, ask a question like is this someone I would be excited to work for? before making an investment. That question goes directly to EQ and in particular this fourth quadrant of social skills. 

What we are really trying to do in building EQ is to connect the two parts of our brain so they can work together. Our feeling brains are wired to unconsciously keep us safe from harm. A lot of the actions we take are driven by impulses that are deep wired and that we may not fully understand. 

As a leader you’ll want to become fluent in EQ so you can use all the tools to be a better leader, build better teams and companies, and have a positive impact on those around you. Bonus, your partner and even your dog will like you better.

I developed this material with my colleague and friend Robyn Ward, who coaches entrepreneurs and high growth management teams at Founder Forward. Robyn and I are both certified executive coaches and share a mission to help entrepreneurs become the best version of themselves. I’d love your feedback on this new resource so feel free to drop me a note here on Linkedin if you check it out!  Want to work with me on your startup? Applications for Techstars LA 2020 open on January 6.