The Value of Emotional Intelligence for Owners in Business Transitions

The Value of Emotional Intelligence for Owners in Business Transitions family discussion
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As a coach, I help individuals finetune their emotional and social intelligence skills so they can better navigate all sorts of change, conflict, and dynamics. As a Transition Guide, I have the privilege and unique perspective of working with both owners and successors during one of the most life-changing journeys for both: a business transition. In this article let’s look at the value of emotional intelligence for owners in business transitions. In my next article, we’ll examine how emotional intelligence applies to successors in business transitions.

Using quick searches on Google and as a barometer, emotional intelligence is a hot topic. At last check, there were 288 million Google results for the term and at least 30 books on the topic. Not surprisingly, there are nearly as many elements (or competencies) of emotional intelligence as there are people writing and talking about it. Rather than try to list them all, I’ve identified four that play a significant role for owners on their business transition journeys.

Personal Agility

Personal agility refers to managing your emotions and behavior during periods of change. For example,

  • Can you readily, willingly, and rapidly adjust to change?
  • Can you challenge your own assumptions and, when you find that one is incorrect, admit your error and move ahead, or do you resist?

Accurate Self-Assessment

Part of transitioning your business to a successor is teaching that successor how you do what you do. Are you prepared to be a teacher? Most owners are not, so we help them build strategies to identify and organize the skills their successors must learn to become competent leaders. From experience, we can anticipate and help navigate the challenges both successors and owners will encounter during the learning/mentoring process. We can’t, however, wave a wand and make owners understand that to be successful, a business transition is a team sport.

  • Are you a Don Quixote who imagines himself to be the hero of your own adventure or someone who understands that transitioning a business takes at least two people working together?
  • Do you know when you are open to new ideas and new ways of doing things or when you are digging in your heels?

Driving Change

This component of emotional intelligence relates to your ability to recognize the need for change, to initiate it, invite others to participate, and model the behavior the change requires. For this element, look beyond just your successor to the many stakeholders involved in a business transition: children or employees not chosen to lead your company, the employees whose support your successor will need to make the company continue to perform, vendors, and customers.

  • Can you see what motivates others to invest in change or prevents them from accepting it?
  • Can you persuade others to participate in a changing environment?
  • Are you able to let your successor spread their wings and do things differently than you have?

Some owners have a hard time truly believing that there is more than one way (their way) to accomplish Result X. Sadly, they hang on so long to this belief that their successors grow frustrated and sometimes leave to work elsewhere.

Service Orientation

The owners we work with typically have this element of emotional intelligence in their toolboxes. Part of the reason they’ve chosen to do the work of transitioning their businesses to family members or employees is that they care about the success of these people. They want to give their successors the same opportunity for a meaningful and profitable career that they’ve enjoyed. Part of the reason owners choose us as transition guides is that we operate using the principle: Relationships first. Contributing to others’ success is at the heart of being of service.

Perhaps the easiest measure of whether an owner possesses these four components of emotional intelligence is, of course, behavior. Do their actions demonstrate a commitment to the end result, in this case, a successful transition or an attachment to their way of doing things? In other words, are they willing to consider—and act on—other ways of achieving the desired result? Or do they live by the idiom “It’s my way or the highway”?

If you are interested in talking more about how the components of emotional intelligence can smooth the road to your successful business transition, give me a call at 303-790-0754.

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