Bringing emotional intelligence into business
By Sherrie Laryse
I teach Emotional Intelligence, a concept that is fashionably thrown around a lot these days, yet, understood very little. Especially in the wake of Covid, emotional intelligence has risen to the surface as paramount for leaders. The problem is, it’s not something that we were taught in school. So let’s define it upfront:
Emotional intelligence is the ability to regulate your own emotions and to build resilience so you can more efficiently process challenges and bounce back from stressors.
Why this is so crucial, in all aspects of life but especially in business, is that emotions change the blood flow in the brain, and this impacts how you think. Under stress, you will be more reactive and less strategic. Under stress, you stunt the creative thinking that leaders need for problem solving and innovation.
Managing your emotions and taking yourself out of stress means you allow the blood flow back into the front part of the brain known as the Executive Centre. Your Executive Centre, just as the name suggests, is essential for the clear, rational, strategic and creative thinking needed in business. Knowing how to process your emotions is paramount. As Warren Buffet once said, “If you can’t manage your emotions, don’t expect to manage money.”
While I teach Emotional Intelligence now, my background was in the corporate world, managing peoples’ money. It was while I was the Operations Manager that a fascination with the human experience began. My curiosity was piqued for why some staff members became overwhelmed with stress, while others only wavered slightly. This was followed with my own surreal experience of setting three big goals —to meet my future husband, leave my corporate job and obtaining $50k— and achieving all three within the following week. I became more interested in how people manage themselves and I launched into learning Human Behaviour, Neurolinguistics, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Meditation.
Along the way, I met my own life challenge of unexplained infertility. It became a seven-year emotional rollercoaster where I needed to work every month to overcome the repeated disappointment, despair, the desperation and grief.
It was this lived experience of processing emotion after emotion to make peace with my life path that launched me into wanting to share these methods with others. All of the techniques I used for myself, I now teach to others. Life doesn’t always go to plan, so we need these essential life skills to move through the tough parts.
One of the philosophies that I work with is that there is an upside to every downside. For every situation that we perceive as negative, there will positives to that situation that we’re preferentially blind to. It becomes about a perspective shift. To draw a common example from the leadership sphere, many who climb higher develop a fear of failure. So, firstly, we need to qualify what would happen for you to deem a situation as a failure. One you have this defined outcome, then find all of the upsides if this reality eventuated. Find the positives that you weren’t noticing, that is, what you would gain. What would you learn? Which relationships may strengthen? Which potential new doors would open? Which resources would it free up, creating room for other opportunities? There is an upside to every downside — every perceived failure — and if you can uncover them up front, you realise that the presupposed failure option actually has a lot of perks! It might even end up more appealing. And then you no longer need to fear it.
I teach EI in group, corporate settings, as a keynote, as well as working with people one on one. I’m all about teaching people the tools, rather than you lying back on the couch, so to speak. When I work with people 1:1, it’s always working directly on a past or current challenge in your life that is emotionally weighing you down or impacting your performance — be that in your professional or personal life. While the focus is on this particular aspect of life, you’re learning a new way to think about that experience, and literally rewiring your brain as a result. You’re learning a new habitual way of thinking. It’s a very generalisable skill.
I also teach people how to access the physical aspect of their emotions. Most people are familiar with the physical sensation of being nervous —the butterflies in the stomach, the dry mouth, or the red face— but we don’t often register that all emotions have an embodied response. In these consultations, I show people how to feel the physical aspect of emotions, so we can process them on that level.
I also share both emotional intelligence and meditation techniques through my memoir, ‘On Path’. The book is quite subjective in that people read themselves into the story and cannot help but subconsciously apply the techniques written about to process their own life challenges as they mesh with the story.
Emotional Intelligence is rated as one of the fastest growing industries. And it’s about time. We have the capacity to enjoy our time on this planet, so let’s do that.