Effective Entrepreneurs In Touch with Their Emotional Lives
Quick quiz: In business, emotions are:
(A.) A constant hazard that can cloud clear thinking, interfere with sound decision-making, and jeopardize good judgment.
(B.) The repository of core values, the engine of personal energy, and the cutting edge of human intelligence.
The answer, according to Brenda Smith, a Wall Street veteran and now professional ‘effectiveness coach’ is clearly (B). Business leaders who have been willing to work on building their emotional intelligence, or EQ, are realizing performance advantages in both their personal and professional lives. “Emotion is the force that moves us,” according to Ms. Smith. “When managed, it results in personal leadership for powerful, passionate, and potent results. EQ is the new measure of success.”
At the Nov.19 session of Pitt’s Entrepreneurial Fellows Center, Smith spoke about the value of tapping into one’s own emotional capacity, and enhancing its competencies. “There is a strong business case for EQ, used in conjunction with IQ, to make sound decisions, communicate effectively, influence others with integrity, and deliberately move toward desired outcomes,” she noted. Among those outcomes: improved relationships, higher performance, social leadership, personal power, and life balance.
Underlying these claims is a body of anatomical evidence about the evolution of the human brain. It offers a physiological basis for understanding how emotions developed and why emotional signals have remained important in guiding choices, and even promoting survival, until the present day. “Millions of years ago, when we roamed the Savannah, we had to discern if we should eat it, mate with it, or sense if we would be eaten,” she said.
“It was this very primitive brain – the brain stem, a nodule at the base of our spine – that allowed us to use our instincts like the animals we lived among. It was millions of years later that we developed our amygdala, also known as our emotional brain,” Smith noted. “With this we could feel things and build an emotional memory bank. Finally, atop the amygdala, formed the neo-cortex, our thinking brain.”
But the more advanced brain parts never supplanted the more primitive ones; all three continue to play an important role in our daily lives. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the lion’s share of most people’s attention, sentiment, and choices are rooted in their primordial brain parts. At worst, ignoring their signals could risk grave danger; at a minimum, it could throw a person’s priorities and life off balance.
For entrepreneurs in particular – people whose lives are often consumed by their businesses – there is special importance to seeking balance across a series of interrelated dimensions: public self vs. private self; acting vs. responding; doing vs. being; thinking vs. feeling; and those clusters of qualities she identifies as masculine energy vs. feminine energy, although both types are characteristic of men and women alike, Smith pointed out.
At the outset, it helps to visualize the various axes around which people’s lives typically balance – or fall out of balance. In her coaching, Ms. Smith uses a graphic “balance wheel” – a series of ten concentric circles segmented into 18 wedges by spokes radiating from the center – to help her clients “dimensionalize” the major areas of their lives and how well or badly they are living them. With the innermost segments representing least satisfaction and the outermost representing greatest fulfillment, the completed wheel yields a snapshot of the person’s life and its balance across such disparate dimensions as: economic, interpersonal, recreational, family, romance, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical.
Balance for one person, however, is not necessarily balance for any other. Different temperaments, physical needs, life circumstances, and personal values set each individual apart. Even for the same person, over time, those balance points will change. “Balance shouldn’t be just one more thing we have to do,” Smith noted. “It is much more than simply managing our time differently.”
Being true to your values
The key to balance, according to Smith, is to live in a way that’s consistent with your values, and to realize that different people have different values. Personal values, however, are not simply chosen at whim. “They are hardwired into us and often will determine how we allocate our time and what we do in business and in life,” Smith said. “Values drive us and determine how we conduct ourselves. They are a system of guiding principles that underlie our philosophy of life and determine what action is most authentic for us.”
But to Ms. Smith, values are not just the empty slogans that adorn corporate lobbies or the lofty nostrums preached from lecterns; they are instead the deeply personal, emotion-charged ethics which are only revealed to others when they are demonstrated.
“Allocating resources, investing time or money, making decisions, or focusing your attention, is how you or your organization’s values are revealed to others and yourself,” she said.