Why You Need Emotional Intelligence to Run Your Family Business

Owning a family business isn't for the faint of heart -- and it requires a fair amount of heart itself.

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By Daphne Mallory

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage emotions well in yourself and recognize others' emotional needs. Leaders who are emotionally aware have a knack for reducing conflict and building lasting relationships -- two qualities that are beneficial to businesses of all kinds, but particularly family businesses, where the line between personal and professional matters is easily blurred.

When you lead with emotional intelligence, you can improve attitudes and levels of motivation among family and non-family members. The results of developing emotional intelligence also include higher performance, more productivity, cooperation and collaboration.

Here's some advice on how to lead with emotional intelligence.

Get in touch with your own emotional triggers

What happens when the activities required to push your family business forward creates more work than you can handle? Do you have to get work done with family members who are even more stressed than you? Your internal and external response to stress and conflict in family relationships affect the way you do business. Even if you wear the mask, keep silent and immerse yourself in busy work, negative emotions that are stored will show up in the decisions you make and increase or deplete your energy levels.

Related: 13 Habits of Exceptionally Likable People

One way to analyze how and why you react to triggers in your work environment and in your relationships is to take personality tests. These are assessment tools designed to help you understand your orientation and what energizes you. Popular tests include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DISC and 360-Degree Feedback. Your scores will shed light on your preferred style of handling people and projects. Once you understand your own predispositions, you can work on better ways to deal with conflicts that arise when your preferences clash with others, or avoid them altogether.

Become a better communicator

Entrepreneurs and leaders who display high levels of emotional intelligence excel at communication skills.

Of course, the words you speak account for a small percentage of what transpires during your communications with others. Your body language and tone is largely attributable to what the other person hears and the interpretations they make. Even on the phone, it's not so much about your words; it's about your tone. As you can imagine, this gets amplified in family relationships. Many people are guarded and cautious about their tone when dealing with non-family members. Sometimes, those guards don't exist when it comes to those closest to you. Pay closer attention to what you say and how you say it.

Get others to say yes

Leading with emotional intelligence consists of your ability to influence others. One of the biggest mistakes that some owners of family businesses make is to strong-arm their families into taking on roles and responsibilities. It's sad to see so many businesses end because the next generation wanted to run far away from their family. If you lead with emotional intelligence, then you will have a better chance of creating a family business that's built to last. Developing emotional intelligence empowers you to influence others with your passion, thoughts, ideas and vision. Your team will produce far beyond what you would get if they are solely motivated by a paycheck or job security.

Related: This Family Business Begun in a Basement Has Gone Big Time

Cash in on credibility

Credibility is critical to growing your family business. If you're not able to manage your emotions well, then you will lose credibility. Imagine trying to get your team to take on more responsibility if you're constantly yelling or flying off the handle. What about trying to gain the confidence of employees who you've cornered to gossip about your brother or cousin? Everyone is watching you. Worse, they're watching you after hours, too. They're reading what you say on Facebook, who you're appearing with in public, what you say and do when your family business partners are not in the building. Leading with emotional intelligence means that you carry the attitude that all eyes are on you. It's critical that you embody the values and principles you want to see in your family business.

Training is the best way to learn, develop and improve your communication skills. Find interactive seminars that incorporate real examples and address your specific issues, personalities and past history.

The results of developing emotional intelligence extend far beyond success in business. It might be what you need to strengthen your family.

Related: Are You Emotionally Intelligent? Here's How to Know for Sure.

Daphne Mallory

Daphne Mallory Foundation

Daphne Mallory, Esq. is best known for sharing smart ideas to solve problems. Whether on television, on stage, in the boardroom, or before governments, her speeches and seminars are interactive and rich in content.

Billboard Magazine described Mallory as "Engaging Fans, forging a new path." She appeared on ABC, FOX and NBC and in Entrepreneur Magazine, Essence, Brown Alumni Magazine, Self and more. She hosts a TV show: Family Business with Daphne on KSAW-ABC.

Mallory's training programs include Women & Family Business, Grow Community/ Grow Profits, Grow Community/Grow Memberships, Roadmap to Family Business, and Sales Training for Change Agents.

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