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In years past, the emotional intelligence of employees was low on the list of qualifications, especially for leaders. However, with the way that the market has changed, how someone connects with others on an emotional level is becoming much more important. Company leaders need to understand the emotional connection audiences have with services, products and companies as a whole. The most recent Fjord Trends 2020 even talks about “liquid people” and why it is important to set up human insights teams instead of consumer insights. All this leads to the conclusion that now, more then ever before, if you want to successfully lead your company or grow your startup, you will need to understand what emotional connections are and how they can propel you forward.

How is EQ a KPI for emotional connections?

EQ is a term that describes the emotional intelligence that people in the workplace have with each other, and also with the customers or clients of that company. It propels the relationships that people build with one another and can also be applied outside of work.

In general, EQ is thought to have four distinct characteristics, including self-awareness (being aware of how we respond in situations), self-management (how we apply that self-awareness), social awareness (how we perceive others’ feelings in the context of their environments) and social management (how we apply social awareness in order to have fruitful interactions with others).

How does EQ make leaders more successful?

The way people connect allows them to understand what others are going through, which can be the perfect way to help solve someone’s pain points. Leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence often notice how people around them observe, react and respond. Knowing how to respond appropriately in all situations, both in private and in a group, allows for better experiences with the people around us. As leaders, we want to create the best employee experience possible so that those positive experiences trickle down into how our company’s representatives treat clients and customers. In turn, this can help build positive, trusting relationships with customers.

Where can EQ be utilized in today’s companies?

The greatest thing about emotional intelligence is that it has endless applications. It can be used to help inspire higher performance, develop new products and services, and improve personal development opportunities. It can also be used to prevent burnout, as people who learn how to manage their emotions are often less overwhelmed and benefit from a better work-life balance.

Higher EQ can benefit everyone in a company, from the CEO and founder all the way down to the latest part-time hire. But when it comes to helping improve the employee experience, leaders need to fully understand and utilize EQ regularly. The reason? When you understand where your employees are, both with the company and with the clients, you can better serve them. You can inspire them to strive for more fulfillment and give them challenges that allow them to feel as though they can accomplish even greater things.

Three Ways To Improve Emotional Connections

For many leaders, the question is less about why emotions matter and more about how to create better emotional connections. Here are three practices that you can easily incorporate into your schedule:

• Coffee Surprise: Pick one employee from your team, and schedule a coffee this week. Have a 20-minute conversation about how things are going. Show sincere interest. This conversation is not about facts and figures, sales objectives, or difficult clients. It’s purely about your people and what’s on their minds. You might be surprised by what your employee brings up.

• Listening Marathon: Practice your active listening skills on a large scale by engaging your entire team in a monthly listening marathon. This is a meeting — preferably outside — where two people from your team go for a 30-minute walk. For the first 15 minutes, one person is talking, and the other person only asks questions — no commenting, no telling stories — and practices active listening. Then, switch roles. At the end of the month, take time to reflect with your team on what you’ve collectively learned.

• Gratitude Board: Next to your team bulletin board — whether that’s an objectives and key results board or the spot where you post announcements in the kitchen — set up a gratitude board where every team member is required to post one note every day, stating what they are thankful for. This could be related to work, colleagues, clients, the office building, company events, etc. The point is to get in touch with your emotions and practice positive thinking.

Emotional Intelligence Can Be Taught

If you do not feel as though you have as solid of a grasp of emotional intelligence as you could, then feel better about the fact that you can learn it. You have the opportunity to learn about what makes customers respond the way they do and how to help your employees use that to their advantage. But it’s not a tool or a plugin you can buy. It takes dedication, passion and a real interest in the human beings around you to grow your emotional connections.

This post was initially published on Forbes.com early 2020.

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