As businesses look for anything and everything that could give them a competitive edge, more and more companies are recognizing the roll social intelligence plays in corporate success. They point out several key reasons why they see this trait as beneficial and want their leaders to strive for it.
1. Social intelligence lets you read your audience.
Whether you’re in an intimate meeting with a few of your department managers or pitching an idea in front of hundreds of potential investors, the ability to read your audience has a huge effect on your ability to control a given situation or give a specific impression. For instance, if you see people starting to slump in their seats, you know you have to do something to energize and refocus them. Similarly, if you note looks of confusion, you quickly can give those listening some clarifying points. In this way, social intelligence is a tool for constant self analysis, letting you determine on the fly what to say or do next.
2. Social intelligence creates a sense of intimacy and shared experience.
Even if you have great ideas, you can’t be successful alone. You need others to support you with skills, money, time and other resources. To get that support, you must connect with people on an emotional level. When you exercise social intelligence, you translate and get feelings across well, which establishes the trust that is critical to the development of the interpersonal relationships you’ll depend on for your business. Scientists believe this has to do with specific cells in the brain called mirror neurons, which fire both when you perform a specific activity or see someone else do it. These neurons play a role in reproducing the emotions we interpret. For example, if you see someone dab their eyes, an action associated with sadness and tears, you might feel blue, too. They thus allow you to empathize and sympathize, contributing to a shared experience that makes people more likely to follow you. If you can tap into this phenomenon and activate mirror neurons well, you can boost the mood of the people around you intentionally, letting them take in information better and work more efficiently.
3. Social intelligence enables you to deflect or resolve conflict.
Social intelligence makes you more sensitive to the feelings of others and the needs they have. That sensitivity makes it easier to connect with individuals on an emotional level. Connecting emotionally is important in conflict resolution because people are often driven to argue or fight based on how they feel. If you can establish an emotional link, you show that a certain amount of common ground exists and reassure the other person that they’re really being heard and understood, calming them down.
4. Social intelligence lets you keep personal costs in perspective.
All too often, costs for a business are described in concrete, measurable terms, such as dollars and cents or time. There are other costs to all decisions, however, ones that aren’t always easy to quantify. For example, if you push your team to work late a lot, they might become mentally and physically too fatigued to do their best work, and morale might plunge as your employees struggle to rest and maintain social and family connections outside of work. Strong leaders constantly ask themselves what all the costs associated with bringing their visions to fruition are.
5. Social intelligence makes you adaptable.
Business environments and demands are seldom static. Subsequently, your workers will need different things from you as a leader at different times. For example, if your business is going through some type of crisis, your employees might need you to be firm and demand more immediate compliance, as risk might be too high to allow for much error. If your business is new, however, you might want to take a more affiliative approach, encouraging activities that build trust within your team. Social intelligence allows you to change your style of leadership based on what your company requires in the moment, keeping your business flexible enough to survive even as circumstances change.
In the business context, social intelligence is about much more than just honing in to other people. It connects to your ability to appear relatable, drum up support and keep conflicts minimized. It also links to controlling morale and productivity, and it offers flexibility, letting you give your team what they need when they need it. With every person on your team holding the capacity to be a leader at different times and in different areas, your entire company can benefit from activities that attempt to develop it.
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