As men and women in business, you’ve probably been told to separate your emotions from the job that you do. However, no matter how hard you may try, it’s impossible to fully separate yourself from those feelings of anger, excitement, sadness, or sympathy. These emotions influence every decision you make, good or bad, implicitly or explicitly. After all, you’re only human. So own these emotions.
Recognize them, manage them, and understand them, whether they belong to you or to someone else. Know when emotions can be advantageous to your business and client relationships and know when they can be detrimental.
Personal and Social Competence
When it comes to emotions in the workplace, there are two distinct skills you must be able to grasp, two skills that research has shown lead to higher rates of success than even IQ scores:
- Personal Competence – Understanding and managing your own emotions.
- Social Competence – Understanding the emotions of your clients, your customers, your employees, and others around you.
If you’re personally competent, you can knowingly connect your behavior and your emotions. This is a valuable skill in the business world. Sometimes emotions may lead to hasty decision-making. For example, anger or frustration may influence you to abandon a project, a product, or a goal. However, being personally competent enables you to take a step away from your emotions and instead take a more objective decision-making approach.
Personal competence is something we find very important here at KDG. Every Friday, employees are required to reflect on their successes and failures from the past workweek. Come Monday, we share these with the rest of the company and open up a conversation about how we felt, what we would do moving forward, what we would tell others in the same situation, etc.
While personal competence is important in a business, social competence is even more so. When you’re socially competent, you’re able to understand the emotions of others, such as your customers and clients. You’re able to appropriately approach a situation based on the emotions and feelings you perceive. This skill is necessary for a flawless customer experience. You need to be able to understand when a customer is nervous about moving forward with a project, when they are discouraged by a problem, and so on.
At KDG, we also strive to be socially competent. When we partner with clients, we first like to let them simply talk. We listen to them explain their current problems, their project ideas, and what they would like their ideal solution to be. As we mentioned before, listening is one of the vital first steps to any successful client relationship. When we truly listen, we are able to get a sense of what a client is feeling and plan the best path forward.
However, some people are not likely to say what they’re feeling. After all, a majority of all emotional conversation is actually nonverbal. This can be hard in business when consultants, CEOs, and others need to be socially competent in order to make the best decision for their customers.
However, this is where identifying and understanding “emotional motivators” comes into play.
The Harvard Business Review lays out a few emotional motivators that may help you become more socially competent. Once you come to understand these motivators, it will be easier to understand what is driving your clients’ decisions. Some of these motivators that people act on include:
- A need to “stand out from the crowd”
- A yearning to “belong”
- A willingness to improve their environment, or their surroundings
- A desire for self-improvement
At KDG, when we help schools launch UI/UX design projects, they usually fall into the first category. These colleges and universities are looking for a medium through which they can showcase their uniqueness. Meanwhile, when our small business IT support team walks into a business and upgrades its servers, computers, or security, it’s because these clients are looking to improve their surroundings.
These motivators don’t only work in the tech world. People may go to a department store or a hair salon because they want something (clothes or a new haircut) that will make them feel like they belong or, vice versa, make them feel like they stand out. Someone may shop at a home improvement store to enhance their immediate surroundings. Others may go to the gym or bookstore with a desire for physical or mental self-improvement.
It’s important that you be able to identify the motivating factor behind your customers’ or clients’ actions so that you can better give them the customer experience that they want and deserve.
Build Your Social Competence
How you own, recognize, and control your emotional competence is a very flexible trait. It will change over time and, if you’re willing to work hard, is very likely improve. It’s not a fast fix, but it’s an important one.
If you feel like you and your employees are lacking in social competence, there are some things your company can do to build this skill:
- Solicit Feedback – There may never be a customer experience blog post in which we don’t stress the importance of soliciting feedback from clients and customers. It’s vital when it comes to transparency and it’s key when it comes to communication. You’ll never be able to understand how your customers feel if you don’t give them the chance to tell you.
- Follow the Golden Rule – You grow up learning to “always treat others the way you would like to be treated.” This expression really works in the business world. How do you know what your clients are feeling? Can you relate? Sometimes it’s best to put yourself in their shoes to come to a fuller understanding of their emotions. For example, at KDG we use the very same software we develop so that we can experience any issues our clients may be facing, as well as any improvements they may be benefiting from.
- Be More Social – Your business or organization should establish social media accounts. You’ll not only hear from your clients and customers firsthand (enabling you to relate better), but your clients and customers will also relate better to your business if you use your social media as a place to humanize and personalize your company.
Just as you take ownership of and responsibility for your own emotions, you must also take ownership of a customer’s or client’s. Never shrug off a client’s emotions and never pass blame. Chances are your clients have a lot at stake and they’ve trusted you as their partner.
One of the features of a true partnership is to let customers and clients know that their problem is your problem. One of our key values at KDG is working by the phrase: “Our goals are your goals. Your success is our success.” When you own a client’s emotions, their frustration is your frustration. Their happiness is your happiness.
It’s a value we hold whenever we develop custom software, design new websites, or conduct IT audits and, if you’re looking to improve your customer experience, it’s a value you should keep at the forefront of any work that you or your employees do. When it comes to customer service, sometimes it may be the smallest change in attitude that leads to the biggest success.
Kyle David is the President and CEO of KDG. He has navigated the dynamic intersection of technology and business, advising both leaders and organizations, from Fortune 25 companies and professional sports leagues to innovative technology startups.