Emotional Intelligence in a Startup

As we grow BrightGauge and have started to hire more people, I’ve spent more and more time reflecting on what has made our team special to date.  In our fast paced environment and small team, that last thing we need is  to spoil the dynamic with a wrong hire.  My first realization was needing people on our core team that had Startup Grit.  My second realization came this weekend after reading two articles on Emotional Intelligence.

Like Startup Grit, being Emotionally Intelligent is not discussed in the startup community so unless you have your MBA, you probably haven’t heard the term.  If you’re interested, the two articles I read were from the New York Times and Lifehacker and they provide great overviews of EI.  The Lifehacker article, though, had a great summary for the 5 components of Emotional Intelligence.  I’ve copied them below:

  • Self-awareness: Self-awareness involves knowing your own feelings. This includes having an accurate assessment of what you’re capable of, when you need help, and what your emotional triggers are.
  • Self-management: This involves being able to keep your emotions in check when they become disruptive. Self-management involves being able to control outbursts, calmly discussing disagreements, and avoiding activities that undermine you like extended self-pity or panic.
  • Motivation: Everyone is motivated to action by rewards like money or status. Goleman’s model, however, refers to motivation for the sake of personal joy, curiosity, or the satisfaction of being productive.
  • Empathy: While the three previous categories refer to a person’s internal emotions, this one deals with the emotions of others. Empathy is the skill and practice of reading the emotions of others and responding appropriately.
  • Social skills: This category involves the application of empathy as well as negotiating the needs of others with your own. This can include finding common ground with others, managing others in a work environment, and being persuasive.

Essentially, being emotionally intelligent is all about having self awareness and control to handle your emotional reactions in situations and be able to empathize and socialize with others.  If you’ve seen the show Silicon Valley then you know what NOT having emotional intelligence looks like.  But that’s what makes it hilarious, all those awkward and very funny conversations/interactions.  Particularly, the woman who took over for Peter Gregory this season epitomizes not having Emotional Intelligence.

In a core startup team, just having the smartest people in the room is not enough.  Teamwork makes the Dream Work and people need to be handle working together for many hours over many years and working VERY closely together.  In that length of time, there are tons of highs and lows and being able to cope through them together is having Emotional Intelligence.

Combine Emotional Intelligence with Startup Grit and you can make your own dream team.