The role of emotional intelligence in driving business success

Dr Frances Wright Associate Director, PwC South Africa December 05, 2023

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

In a recent session at the PwC Coaching Lounge, the significance of emotional intelligence was discussed, particularly its components of self-awareness, empathy, self-regulation, and social skills. My hypothesis is that emotional intelligence contributes to business success as measured through growth, sustainability, customer satisfaction, and net profit. In recognising emotional intelligence as a catalyst for positive business outcomes, it becomes imperative for business leaders to cultivate these skills to foster a thriving environment.

The essence of self-awareness:

At the core of emotional intelligence lies self-awareness, which involves a deep understanding of one's strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. Recognising how these traits influence others is pivotal, given that businesses are built on relationships with employees, customers, and suppliers. Nurturing self-awareness fosters positive connections, allowing business leaders to exhibit mature emotional intelligence, a key factor in effective management. One of the observations that came out of the Coaching Lounge session is that we can develop self-awareness through seeking feedback and acknowledging our desire to improve.  It is therefore important to seek to better understand yourself, stretching out of your comfort zone and trying new experiences. 

Empathy and meaningful connections:

Empathy, the ability to comprehend and share others' emotions, stands as a powerful tool in forging meaningful relationships. Avoiding insensitive language and truly understanding others' feelings, especially during times of personal challenge and grief, creates lasting bonds between employers and employees. Demonstrating empathy requires focused listening, undivided attention, and genuine care, resulting in a harmonious work environment that supports employees through difficulties. In other words, rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.  Empathy can be developed by giving our undivided attention when conversing with others, not interrupting, and allowing them to finish their thoughts before offering feedback. It is important to communicate interest in others with tone, body language, facial expression, and eye contact.

Mastering self-regulation:

Self-control, discipline, and temperance are universal values that significantly impact business dynamics. The detrimental effect of anger issues on a team's culture and productivity underscores the importance of self-regulation. Aligning organisational behavior with positive characteristics such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control elevates the workplace atmosphere, transforming the company into a preferred employer where productivity and collaboration flourish.

Social skills: The cornerstone of organisational success:

In the modern workplace, social skills are paramount due to the substantial time spent in collaborative endeavors. These skills, encompassing kindness, respect, and effective communication, foster unity within the organisation. The art of listening is a crucial factor of social skills. Unfortunately, it is a scarce talent. It is important to listen to people until they are done talking and then answer, knowing what they asked or discussed.

Social skills cannot be demonstrated without humility. We should not do anything from selfish ambition or conceit but, in humility, we must count others more significant than ourselves. In my research I found that employee satisfaction has no direct impact on business success, but when all employees stand together as one team and work together to satisfy customer requirements, the impact on the business is huge, creating customer retention, repeat sales and therefore a direct impact on the topline figures in the income statement. To achieve this requires a team of emotionally intelligent people, encouraging each other and leading each other to perform at top productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness levels. 

We can exhibit social skills through finding common ground, or a shared interest, which is easy to do in a business as everybody’s livelihood depends on its success. But making genuine connection with colleagues and showing real interest are challenges that must be overcome.  Being open and sharing one’s likes, dislikes and emotions assists in developing authentic relationships. Most importantly, being attuned to other people’s feelings and hardships, showing that you care, will not only create a good working environment for all concerned, but will also create team cohesiveness.

In conclusion, emotional intelligence is an indispensable asset that not only influences the day-to-day interactions within a business but also shapes its long-term success. Recognising its significance, business leaders must take on the responsibility of honing their emotional intelligence skills. By fostering self-awareness, empathy, self-regulation, and strong social skills, businesses can establish a foundation for growth, sustainability, customer satisfaction, and net profit. In an era where empathy and meaningful connections are celebrated, investing in emotional intelligence is not just a business strategy; it's a commitment to creating a thriving, people-centric enterprise.

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The role of emotional intelligence in driving business

Emotional intelligence contributes to business success as measured through growth, sustainability, customer satisfaction, and net profit.

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Dr Frances Wright

Dr Frances Wright

Associate Director, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 72 112 4688