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What do you need to build a business from the ground up?
Some argue it’s simply a matter of hard work – the perfect blend of discipline and tenacity. Others think strategy is the key ingredient, while some say entrepreneurship is all about who you know.
Unfortunately, there’s no secret formula for developing a business. If there were, I suspect we’d all have a lot more competition. Successful entrepreneurs, at some point, will apply all these skills to create a thriving organization.
But if there’s anything I’ve learned in my years of developing and leading a company, it’s that all these aspects of a strong business – tenacity, vision, relationships – hinge on a single, vital component: the leader’s emotional maturity.
Know-how and the hard skills to apply it come in handy, but without an awareness of your own emotions and the ability to manage them, you won’t be able to manage other people – let alone an entire business.
What is emotional maturity?
I see emotional maturity as being in touch with your emotions and, more importantly, knowing how to use them (or how to set them aside).
For example, there’s a time for the analytical, strategic part of your brain to take the lead. Other times, it’s more useful to act from your intuition. One important expression of emotional maturity is the ability to toggle between thinking and feeling, and more importantly, knowing how to override your automatic method when necessary.
Your knee-jerk response to an employee’s error might be to correct and move on. An emotionally mature leader would notice that impulse, then think through whether taking time to hear the team member’s thoughts could be a more effective method for long-term success.
Another way to look at emotional maturity is through the lens of emotional intelligence. Defined as the ability to “identify and manage one’s own emotions,” emotional intelligence – often called EQ – can also help you identify and manage other people’s emotions.
This ability isn’t just a personal growth tool or even a tool to improve your relationships. It’s also a powerful business tool. According to a test of workplace skills by TalentSmart, emotional intelligence is the most important predictor of employee performance – responsible for 58% of success.
Need more motivation to home in on this critical skill? Here’s why every entrepreneur should invest in their emotional maturity – and how emotional maturity is the key to business development.
Emotional maturity builds strong teams
Ever since I founded JotForm, I’ve tried to prioritize a team focus. One reason is practical: I can’t do it all alone. The other reason is more strategic – I’m a firm believer that at the end of the day, a business isn’t its product or its leader. It’s a culmination of its people.
“Every organization achieves its goals through a series of daily conversations, interactions and decisions,” writes business consultant and thought leader Britt Andreatta. “These necessarily involve humans, and the more emotionally intelligent we are, the more effective we will be on every level.”
By investing in my people and their well-being, I also invest in the longevity and success of my company. Why? When your team is connected and in sync, you’ll be empowered to work together and produce a product or service that adds meaning to people’s lives.
As Imran Tariq writes, “Social awareness and relationship management also come into play when you’re building your company’s team. Emotional intelligence helps you establish a positive culture that encourages employees to give their best effort.”
Why is facilitating connection so important, and what does emotional maturity have to do with it? People who feel a sense of belonging and connection at work will be more creative and strategic because they feel safe sharing ideas and taking risks, which isn’t possible with a leader you’re afraid of.
Further, emotional maturity creates a work environment people enjoy being in and are far less likely to leave, which ultimately impacts your bottom line.
Emotional maturity earns business
One important hallmark of emotional maturity is empathy – the ability to take a personal stake in someone else’s problem because you see yourself in it.
Empathy, in my opinion, is a necessary part of being human and building healthy relationships. But it can also be a business tool. A company built on relational values like empathy is more attractive to outsiders because it’s usually built by a relational and empathetic leader.
In many cases, this type of company culture seamlessly translates into business strategy. Emotional awareness can help you understand your target audience and their pain points, which can in the long run also translate to building a better product and, down the line, closing sales.
More importantly, by building an authentic rapport with your customers or stakeholders, you’ll also build long-term trust – which translates to repeat business. According to Tariq, “being genuine and honest in your conversations – admitting, for example when you don’t know the answer – may seem like basic tips, but they are essential for building rapport and empathy.”
Emotional maturity helps you make better decisions
Early on in my entrepreneurial journey, I made a habit of going with my gut – sometimes, leaning on my intuition a little too much. If a design or marketing strategy didn’t align with how I’d naturally do things, I immediately dismissed it – sometimes, to my own detriment.
Because I wasn’t open to receiving new feedback – feedback that went against the grain but would probably lead to innovation – I ended up making rash decisions that didn’t contribute to the overall well-being of my organization.
Tariq describes self-awareness as “being consistently aware of your feelings so you can keep them under control and understand how they affect you in your day-to-day work.” This kind of maturity requires humility and flexibility.
When you’re aware of your feelings, you’re also aware of your blindspots – and how they interfere with wise or profitable decisions. Only with that awareness can you easily put your blindspots aside and hear other people’s feedback.
Remember: Impulse is part of life, but when the stakes are high, it’s important to pause when an impulse surfaces so you can choose the thoughts – and make the decisions – that follow them.
Emotional maturity fosters resilience
If there’s anything entrepreneurs know, it’s how rare it is for an idea to succeed the first time. Seeing your vision through to a successful end requires grit and perseverance, which don’t always come naturally.
People who don’t give up after failure are emotionally mature because they don’t take failure personally. Instead, they see opportunities to grow – to shift the approach and move forward in a new way.
On a micro-level, this kind of resilience also fosters productivity. Emotionally mature people don’t need immediate gratification to keep building. They adopt a future perspective, with an understanding that good things take time (and sometimes, boredom and failure) to grow.
But the real fruit of resilience comes in the long-term. When you’re willing to stick with a process or project even when it’s not going your way, you’re more willing to look for a creative solution – maybe even the creative solution that will launch your organization into success.