Up Emotional Intelligence, Increase the Bottom line

Raman Chadha, founder of the Junto Institute

Raman Chadha, founder of the Junto Institute

This guy’s guy wants you to get in touch with your feelings--and not just for his own amusement.

Raman Chadha is a business and management expert focused on startups and his recent Inc. piece on emotional intelligence caught my attention. He says business leaders with high emotional intelligence see the impact directly to their bottom line—and he can prove it. In fact, he believes so enthusiastically in the power and potential of increased self-awareness, listening, and interpersonal connection that he founded the Junto Institute. This Chicago-based social concept/community/business is focused on both spreading the word, as well as, creating learning opportunities for entrepreneurs. He's specifically taken aim at sparking new business growth by upping the emotional intelligence of startup leaders. Huh. That’s interesting.

I didn’t even have to read the article (of course, I did though) to be a believer. He had me at hello with all the “emotional intelligence is important” stuff. Don't worry.  This isn’t about stocking the conference rooms with tissues.  Emotional intelligence goes deeper—to the core of who we are, why we’re attracted to business, and how we show up to our colleagues, investors, and clients. It is the activator, the accelerator, the differentiator. And when the new wears off of your shiny new business, emotional intelligence remains to grow your idea to its full potential. In short, the more you got, the more sustainable and resilient you are.

So seriously, I get it but was skeptical about how learn-able core EI skills really are.  Why bother creating a training program, let alone an Institute (which sounds so… serious)? While I don't know why, I’d always thought that when it came to emotional intelligence-- you had it or you didn’t. You can’t really learn how to better connect with people at least not in an authentic way, right?

Well, after reaching out a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Raman. During our conversation, I was treated to his perspective, his story, and his vision for a business environment that embraces all of the skills needed to be successful—not just the technical and market strategy ones. Going in, I was curious to understand more about his curriculum, target clients, and why he dared to believe something so intangible could be made more real.

His story is like many of our in that a series of events, some manufactured, some happenstance led him to where he is today. In short, his primary interest and career focus has been in and around adult learning. The "how" though has morphed and changed. After many years of both starting his own businesses and being a part of a community of entrepreneurs, he noticed a need.  The pattern he observed went something like this… having a great idea and some guts led to generating some interest/investment led to starting a company led to enjoying some early success, and then…??? After all that, smart, ambitious, resourceful people and their young but not-so-new businesses were stagnating or, sadly in some cases, falling flat. The problem Raman identified was that the skills and energy needed to start a business weren’t the same as the ones critically needed to sustain and grow a business. 

Specifically, he noticed an emotional intelligence gap in a set of tech-savvy but green entrepreneurs. Bad professional manners, ill-treatment of staff, and the struggle to connect and sell their vision were all common problems.  After seeing this pattern, the solution he came up with was pretty obvious (and by that I mean—totally not obvious to me). Raman created the Ben Franklin-inspired Institute. Their offering is an advanced curriculum in emotional intelligence tailored to getting these business starters over the hurdle of initial success so they can keep their business growing.

The program itself is a blend of mentoring, investor match-making, and classroom/group study. As the first cohort successfully completes their training, the results encouraging. Participants do increase their emotional intelligence and their businesses are better for it.  Raman was clear to point out that he collects hard data on results whenever possible but the stories and anecdotes are more important to him (not surprising for a high emotional intelligence kind of guy).  From his view, the most satisfying moments happen when graduates report that that their businesses are back on track and growing, work life is somehow easier or less stressful, and, in some cases, personal lives and relationships are improved. Not bad for a day’s work.

So, that’s cool. After hearing his approach, I’m convinced you can up your emotional intelligence through increased attention and focused, expert-lead study. But I was still a bit stuck on how this might work for all the crappy or just clueless people out there that we all cross paths with daily.

Doesn’t it seem that the people who would benefit most would be the least likely to seek out a program like this? Raman agreed—at least to conclude that emotional intelligence only has a chance to improve if the individual identifies the need and comes willingly with an open mind. Maybe we all get out there and start dropping hints to that dense, pain-in-the-ass in your work life who's missing these connections.  Meanwhile, I think we’d all be better served to explore the success (or failure) drivers more deeply and resist the urge to chalk it up to a luck or a better technical solution.