‘Emotional intelligence’ or ‘EQ’ is one of those buzzwords that’s been cropping up everywhere recently. Alannah Jones from Inspiring Interns sets out why you shouldn’t write it off…

You might have heard that EQ is the new IQ. Unfortunately, EQ is also fairly intangible and difficult to quantify. But rather than dismiss it as a passing fad, aspiring entrepreneurs and start-up founders should sit up and take note. They are the people best placed to utilise it to their advantage.

  • Founder to CEO
Emotional intelligence is a characteristic of huge importance in establishing effective leadership in a young company. The ability to perceive and manage your own emotions – and those of other people - comes into play here in a number of ways.

Most start-up founders are also CEOs. Unfortunately, it often transpires that visionary founders don’t have the necessary management skills to thrive in this role and consequently they often don’t last very long.

However, founders arguably have more of an emotional connection with the business than a CEO who comes on board further down the line. If they can channel their EQ correctly, this can be a great advantage. For example, Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe puts her success as in the role of founder/CEO down to her gratitude towards her employees.

  • Day to day management style
In a managerial role where you are working directly and closely with a team, being able to identify the needs of your employees and how to meet them is extremely valuable. Similarly, emotional intelligence is key in identifying what motivates people, how to give them the right tasks and responsibilities as well as finding the right ways and times to communicate with them most effectively.

For example, some people work well in an environment where you can fire off questions to each other randomly across a desk, whereas others might prefer to hunker down and get on with things with earbuds in, and it might be best to send them a quick instant message rather than interrupting them.

In small teams of people working in the start-up industry, defining a management style in a nascent company is of paramount importance. What’s more, your team will more than likely notice and appreciate your consideration of their needs. This is undoubtedly the best way to get the most out of your team as you work together to build a company and shape its culture.

  • Networking and investment
As you are no doubt aware, a huge chunk of seed-funding for start-ups nowadays come from individuals or groups known as ‘Angel Investors’. They differ from venture capital firms in that the investment they put in has more of a personal quality; such individuals or groups are often looking for more of a personal relationship or connection with the founder and/or the enterprise.

Therefore, it makes sense that you will need to hone your emotional intelligence in order to build and sustain a relationship with an angel investor in order to secure seed-funding from them. If you’re not fortunate enough to move in the same circles as people with a spare couple of hundred thousand lying about then you have no choice than to get out there and network, network, network.

There are now companies that exist in and of themselves to connect start-ups with angel investors (such as Angels Den, founded in 2007) but the onus is still on you to get out there and do it! Again, the ability to listen to and identify what angel investors are looking for in an opportunity and being able to respond effectively to their needs and wants is the key to building a relationship and securing their funding.

The best advice you can take for making networking of this type easier is to hone your Emotional Intelligence and put it to good use!

EQ has been cited as the ‘holy grail’ of personal attributes. Arguably, however, this term is misleading as it implies that emotional intelligence, whilst highly desirable, is an elusive quality to possess. EQ is often perceived as something innate that you either have or don’t have – like the ability to curl your tongue.

This is a misconception and often used as an excuse! Improving your emotional intelligence can be as simple as making the effort to listen properly to what others are saying and responding accordingly. Even machines will soon be able to perceive and respond to human emotions; if a computer can do it then you certainly can!

Alannah Jones is a graduate jobs writer for Inspiring Interns.