The Psychological Secret to Building a Successful Business


Business leaders, MBAs, and entrepreneurs all have different ideas of what builds a strong, successful business. For most people, it's the idea — creating something unique that people feel inspired to be a part of. That is key to building a successful business.

Of course the reality is that it’s not entirely true. If all a company needed to excel was a “unique” idea, there would be a good amount of companies without competitors or competing ideas to spur innovation. Other people credit leaders, culture, or a strong understanding of strategy in the market as the most important components of building a successful business. While all of these are valid and important points, they’re rather factors than the end-all-be-all of business success. Instead, success can be tied to one singular psychological notion: Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

A Different Kind of Knowledge

When we discuss emotional intelligence, we don’t mean empathy, and it’s important not to mix the two up. Whereas empathy is the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes and experience their emotion, emotional intelligence refers to the ability to manage your emotions and the emotions of others.

EQ denotes a level of perception of the world around, without necessarily letting that knowledge alter personal feelings. Empathy is an important skill in some professions — such as social work, medicine, or any job with an emphasis on the care of another human being.

Business, on the other hand, can benefit from empathy, but has a reputation for requiring a more shrewd approach. This stereotype exists for a reason. A business that is too empathetic can easily find themselves bogged down negotiating the feelings of others (customers, the market) with their own success strategy. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for businesses to do, it can be distracting. Thus this “shrewd” and “discerning” element normally associated with business is the distinguishing point in how emotional intelligence can be beneficial.


Strong businesses operate with emotional intelligence informing their every decision. These leaders use EQ to navigate the waters of investors, partners, and employees. They ensure that sentiment and morale are positive and decisions are being made with managed emotions.

Strategists use emotional intelligence to understand the needs of customers and prospects in the market and discern which trends are important to follow or improve on. Marketing and sales use emotional intelligence to understand the journey a buyer takes before purchase. Teams can even use EQ to encourage a better sense of culture and motivation.

The fact of the matter is in individuals, emotional intelligence is a better predictor of success than IQ. That’s not to say IQ is an unimportant measure, but people who have both a good IQ, coupled with strong EQ are more likely to find success than those who have high IQ but no EQ. The good news for businesses is that while EQ is to some extent innate, it can still be taught and nurtured — and should be when building a successful business.

Promoting a Strong EQ Culture

Knowing that emotional intelligence is important to business success, how can a company ensure that they promote a strong culture of EQ? The biggest way is to teach it.

At present, EQ isn’t taught widely at schools, and the general population doesn’t have a wide breadth of knowledge as to what it entails. So ensuring your team has the EQ foundation to be successful in developing their emotional intelligence is important. It can be as simple as holding workshops or even having your HR team create a course.

With schools like Harvard encouraging students to adopt emotional intelligence, and companies like Google promoting courses on the subject, EQ is gaining traction as an important part of the business game.

Beyond teaching EQ, facilitating it is key to ensuring that knowledge imparted does not go to waste. This means creating processes in which it's brought in naturally, both internally and in the work that’s produced. This might mean conducting more client and customer interviews to better understand your brand’s perception, the market needs, or client feedback.

Ways to help promote emotional intelligence for internal issues might include changing the way annual reviews are run in your organization or changing the way team meetings are organized to include a psychological safety and an ability to connect with each other interpersonally.

In creating these avenues, emotional intelligence is given opportunities to grow and spread.

Business Harmony = Business Success

It's easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty when chasing business success. Whether your company is new or seasoned, success in business ebbs and flows, and it's rare when a business feels secure in its status. Most businesses choose to pursue success single-mindedly, focused on “hitting the big time," or finding longevity in their industry.

Yet in knowing that emotional intelligence is a predictor of success, businesses can use this knowledge to reach another conclusion — that when the whole business is in sync, success will surely follow. In adopting this ideal, businesses should find that in seeking to attain harmony among their business, success will surely follow. 

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