Time does pass by quickly when you’re doing what you love. Fifteen years ago, when I left my 9-5 position as a Marketing Director, I would’ve never imagined that this would be the path I’d take. My focus and passion for teaching emotional intelligence, leadership, and team building in the workplace have led me here. I help professionals tune into emotions in the workplace, which leads them to connect more authentically, communicate more effectively and thrive more collectively.
Today, celebrating 15 years in business – a milestone anniversary, my heart is full. It brings me great joy to celebrate our small business and see how far it has grown. Creating a business from scratch that is making a difference in the world, improving people’s lives and their skills, is so fulfilling.
Back in July 2006, I was a businesswoman who had a passion for being a change agent. Fast forward to 2021; I have grown from a solopreneur to a thriving small business. We are now a well-oiled team with processes and practices in place, where each member can leverage their strengths, grow in their career, and use their natural genius to support our mission, making it okay to be human in the workplace.
Putting People First
Successful organizations put people first. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as I’ve transitioned from an independent consultant to a flourishing small business is investing in the right people and using emotional intelligence when recruiting, coaching, and leading my team.
At Carolyn Stern & Associates Inc., I invest copious amounts of time in the growth and development of my employees while also spending the time to get to know them on a personal level. Building productive relationships is primarily an emotional task, and creating trustworthy, caring, and genuine connections takes time but goes a long way. My team goes above and beyond every day for me because they believe in the company’s values, genuinely feel cared for, are connected to something larger than themselves, are appreciated for their efforts, and are fulfilled in their job.
How do I do this? It’s simple but takes commitment – I make the time and put in the energy to find out precisely what makes them tick; what makes them who they are.
From a business perspective, it’s people, not things, that create an organization’s competitive advantage—putting people first and tapping into their unlimited and unseen potential rewards the company and the team within it as well. And when you start treating people as people, it’s incredible what they can accomplish.
How Did I Grow My Passion Project Into a Flourishing Business?
After recognizing my strengths and development opportunities through various leadership assessments (including my EQ assessment), I began to understand which emotional intelligence competencies I needed to develop and work on and which ones I was strong in.
From there, I began building up my team by filling the EQ gaps and leadership skills I needed to improve on. Using my assessment profiles, I recognized that some of my strengths included: generating ideas, seeing patterns in people, and being visionary, inspiring others to learn and achieve more. However, I also realized that my areas of opportunities were: independence, needing reassurance, not being process-driven, and having a hard time staying focused. Therefore, I had to hire a strong team in the areas I was not. They could then fill in and help me improve on my emotional intelligence and management gaps.
Leading with Emotional Intelligence
Despite the negative connotations and stereotypes surrounding Millennials and Generation Z employees, my entire team is composed of them. In fact, some of them are my EQ competency advisors.
For instance, Natalie, my Client Relations Manager, who is more than half my age, is my independence advisor. When I struggle with caring too much about what people think, or I need reassurance when I know the answer already, I pick up the phone, and she walks me off the ledge.
Having competency advisors inside our company reminds us that there are skill gaps on all sides, regardless of role, age, or background. Each person can address their competency gaps with the help of the other’s strengths. All of us are an advisor and an advisee, a student learning from one another. Each day we show up authentically, flaws and all, and try to learn more, be better, and teach others. We always remember that before we are an employee, we are human first.
We are a tight-knit team that values each other’s opinions and encourages each other to speak our minds. We value autonomy and invite all our team members to contribute their innovative ideas, natural talents, and critical thinking to help the business soar. We want every team member to love and thrive in what they are doing. We dedicate time and resources to learning and development. Every employee is given an opportunity to learn something new regularly and share their knowledge with the team.
Don’t get me wrong; there are days where I screw up, as we all do. I mean, we are human, not perfect. But that is the point. And when I do, I apologize, feel bad about it, and then learn from it. That’s all we all have to do; get up and try to learn more, be better than the day before.
If there is one thing I could tell every business leader struggling to get the results they want, understand yourself as a leader first to determine what qualities to look for in others and who you ask to join your team. Believe in your people, regardless of age, with compatible soft skills, technical abilities, and natural talents to take your company to the next level and empower them to believe in themselves. Then, get out of their way so they can show you what they are capable of.
Invest in people who are investing in you. Investing in your people will lead them to be dedicated to your business.
Due to my undeniable passion for all things EQ, I launched a new division of my business called EI Experience in 2017, which provides executive leadership development and emotional intelligence training for all management levels and businesses of all sizes and scopes. At both of my companies, Carolyn Stern & Associates Inc. and EI Experience, we are on a mission to change the way people experience work by empowering leaders to create committed, engaged, and fulfilled teams who feel truly valued, recognized, and appreciated for their contributions.
Join us in our quest to put humanity, compassion, and purpose back into the workplace!
To learn more about leading with emotional intelligence and how it impacts your team, sign up for our biweekly newsletter here, where you will receive our latest updates, an inventory of free resources, and much more!
Do you find it difficult having real-talk conversations with your team and forming genuine connections with them? Book a call with me here; I’d love to listen and provide support in any way I can.
Or learn more about how you can use emotional intelligence through our Creating a Culture of Engagement keynote or about improving your team’s communication skills through our Communicating with an Impact presentation.