Diliana: You are successful entrepreneur and you are speaking from your experience, not others. Is entrepreneurship leadership?

Ciara: For me, entrepreneurship embodies the skills, behaviours and attributes that an entrepreneur possesses and practices (such as intuition, vision, ambition, risk optimisation, courage, drive, intuition and innovation) that are needed to envisage, plan, launch and establish a successful business or businesses. Leadership is the process of turning that vision into reality by influencing people and providing an environment for them to reach their full potential, to motivate people towards achieving the organisational vision and objectives, and creating value for the organization in the process.

Diliana: „Starting a business is all about intuition, and intuition stems from emotional intelligence,“ says René Lacerte. Would you agree?

Ciara: Intuition is an essential skill to have as part of our emotional intelligence. As entrepreneurs there are times in the journey when we have to make quick decisions and work with speed. We need to rely on our intuition, understand and act upon our gut feelings, tap into and control our emotions and read other people effectively (sometimes without all of the information needed) in order to create a viable resolution in a timely manner.

When we use our intuition, listen to and hear these gut feelings, make expert judgements and combine this with the facts, statistics and other tangible information that we have at our disposal, we make much more expansive, stronger and rational decisions. 

Trusting our own intuition empowers us to trust ourselves more, which results in the confidence to see things through and to progress.

Diliana: Entrepreneurs are more willing to take risks than others. By letting extreme either positive or negative emotions cloud their judgment, the risk might become not well calculated. How could EI help IQ in the very first steps of the entrepreneurial journey?

Ciara: Risk taking and risk optimisation are an inherent and integral part of being a successful entrepreneur. The risks are not only financial, they can be reputational and they can be significant. When we are setting up and launching a business, it is very emotional. We often refer to it as “our baby” as we have invested so much time, money and sweat equity to make it successful. Often times, we are putting our reputation, our livelihoods and sometimes even our lives on the line and by its very nature, this can cloud our judgement, particularly at the beginning of the journey. The emotional attachment to a new business is significant and therefore, in order for us to manage these emotions, particularly at the initial stages, we need to have high levels of emotional intelligence.

By developing a strong sense of self-awareness, we understand what our strengths and limitations are. Being able to identify and healthfully express our own emotions helps us to prevent our emotions from getting out of control, clouding our judgement and distorting our perception. By demonstrating awareness of our mood and emotions, by knowing how we are showing up in terms of our facial expressions, tone of voice and body language, we better understand the impact that it has on the people around us. When we develop our awareness of others and our empathy, when we really listen to what is being said and when we take a step back to think about how others might be thinking and feeling, we can produce a more empathetic response. This enables us to consult others in decision making and considering issues from multiple perspectives, taking the bigger picture into account when decision making and reflecting on feelings when decision making. Ultimately, this will help us to optimize risk and make more calculated risks that are not clouded by positive or negative emotions.

Diliana: Entrepreneurs are driven and motivated individuals, with an internal drive to succeed, but they also need to relate well to others, read people well and know when to push and when to pull back. What are the typical challenges?

Ciara: For me in my entrepreneurial journey, the one thing that I have found more important than anything else is connection. Being able to connect, communicate, collaborate and really understand and empathise with the people who are involved at every step of the entrepreneurial journey is very important and emotional intelligence is essential to be able to do this successfully. Some of the typical challenges that people face that can be supported by developing emotional intelligence include:

  • Taking things that people say to heart/personally
  • Imposter syndrome
  • Working too hard in the business and not on the business
  • Struggling with significant setbacks (and potentially many setbacks back-to-back)
  • Working alone
  • Working long hours and not having a sense of work-life balance
  • Micro-managing tasks and people
  • Not letting go
  • Not having an exit strategy or plan to get out
  • Not knowing (and therefore charging) what they are worth
  • Competing on price alone
  • Not relying on external expertise or advice
  • Not adapting communication styles for various audiences
  • Not using intuition and/or taking calculated risks
  • Not moving forward or taking action
  • Difficulty in remaining positive and displaying a positive and engaging demeanour

Diliana: let’s talk about self-management. Entrepreneurship is by default emotional. My idea is my baby and I love my baby. Every entrepreneur I know is highly engaged with their idea, which means strong emotions. How not burn in those emotions, especially in difficult situations or times?

Ciara: There are a number of thinking, physiological, relationship and environmental resilience strategies that we will go through during my workshop to help to build and enhance emotional resilience and avoid burnout.

Building resilience is very personal. What works for me might not necessarily work for others. For me, I have a number of resilience strategies that I use to ensure that I can manage my emotions effectively. They include: exercising for an hour every morning (super early!); monitoring my caffeine and alcohol intake; and working on getting enough sleep. I also make time for gratitude reflections, I connect with people regularly through networking, conferences and industry events (I have a highly extraverted personality type and therefore get my energy from being around other people), I ensure that I work in an environment that works for me (neat, orderly and organised).

I also think that it is important to demonstrate a positive, energising demeanour, as it helps to build and develop strong connections. As entrepreneurs, we need to manage our time effectively, learn from our mistakes and keep up to date with industry trends and market conditions.

Diliana: Concept like “command and control” is especially irrelevant to entrepreneurship. EI is the foundation for cultivating trust, a unified vision, and good morale, which leads to improved productivity – the internal effect. Being able to manage emotions is key when communicating with investors and other important allies to the business – the external effect. Is EI the secret weapon? What are your advice and tips?

Ciara: In my mind “command and control” is the opposite to entrepreneurship. However, because of the emotional attachment to a business, especially at the beginning, entrepreneurs want to do everything themselves and can adopt a command-and-control approach (sometimes subconsciously) to try to manage everything that they have to do efficiently and effectively. As the business grows, it can be difficult for entrepreneurs to realise and accept that it is impossible to do everything themselves.

Emotional intelligence is the key to develop how we connect, communicate with and influence others, and how we move away from the command-and-control approach. This will be discussed in greater detail in my workshop and here are some things to consider:

  • Delegation and outsourcing  
  • Exceptional Communications
  • Active listening
  • Empathy
  • Inspiring performance
  • Authenticity
  • Coaching
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Self-belief

Diliana: Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are very much alike and the workshop you will facilitate would be beneficial for both. We witness a blossom of start-ups but the mature business also needs fresh ideas and an intrapreneurial mindset. How could EI help? 

Ciara: Intrapreneurship tends to elevate both employee engagement and productivity and drives innovation, creativity and empowerment. At any stage of the company life cycle, organisations benefit from an entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial mindset.  Intrapreneurs are proactive and use their emotional intelligence to make things happen, they take the initiative and move quickly to achieve their objectives.

By using self and other awareness, intrapreneurs excel at identifying new ideas (or taking dormant ideas or older projects) and reenergising and revitalising them by identifying their own and strengths and weakness and those of the others within the team and the organisation in order to find different and better ways of doing things.

They have the ability to create the vision, turn the vision into reality and inspire and motivate people around them to achieve what they set out to do, bringing out the best in themselves and their team in the process. Intrapreneurship is about using emotional intelligence to encourage employees to think, dream, act, and create as though they were entrepreneurs themselves.

Diliana: Entrepreneurs succeed or fail based on their personality, skills, and knowledge. But not only. As business is built on relationships, EI is vital. And, well, entrepreneurs are busy, they have no time. Could entrepreneurs afford NOT to cultivate better emotional intelligence?

Ciara: I believe that emotional intelligence is essential for successful entrepreneurs and that we have to make the time and effort to develop it, regardless of our time constraints or how busy we are. It will pay dividends in the long term and should be a priority. Developing emotional intelligence is an ongoing, life-long journey. This development is not a static or one-off event, we need to make time for our personal and professional development and that is what I would consider to be an essential journey of an entrepreneur – always be learning!

Emotionally intelligent entrepreneurs know their customer and develop long and strong relationships with them. Brand loyalty is hard to come by, we have to use emotional intelligence to really connect, communicate and understand our clients. It is that connection, which is underpinned by our emotional intelligence, that is key.

With the pace of technology accelerating rapidly, with automation and artificial intelligence, emotional intelligence is more important than ever. Our emotional intelligence skills, our human skills, are the key differentiator that will help us to be successful entrepreneurs and allow us to continue to connect, empower, innovate and bounce back from setbacks. It is time to cultivate better emotional intelligence, time to enhance our creativity, our empathy, our innovation and our awareness. In the workplace of the future, our ability to capitalise upon this, and develop it in others, might ultimately lead to our company’s success or failure.

Diliana: Indeed, emotional intelligence is the key differentiator. Thank you very much.

Ciara Aspinal will present the keynote in the first part and will facilitate the workshop “Entrepreneurial Leadership with Emotional Intelligence” in the second part of Leadership accelerator “Emotional Intelligence – Imperative in Business and Leadership” in November 25th 2021.

Links: About the eventRegistration

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