During my first start-up, my mentor said to me while waiting for a flight,
You have a real talent for building emotional capital. You naturally build a strong emotional connection with people.
I did not have a clue as to what he meant and didn’t care at the time.
I was exhausted from virtually no sleep during supporting system conversions and just wanted to get home – or throw up. I could not figure out which one I was feeling at the time.
You business travelers get it.
Days later – and once I got a little sleep – I asked him what he meant.
“Emotional capital allows you to be able to f*%k up occassionally and still have life with a client.
I realized how important the wealth of emotional connection was not only as a leader but as a person.
What is Emotional Capital?
Emotional capital is a level of loyalty built over time and experience. At its core, it is an emotional connection that develops respective value.
Think about your closest relationships. The more emotional capital you have, the stronger and more sustainable is the emotional connection.
Emotional capital is:
- Currency that both participants in a relationship hold.
- Built over time and sustained by consistent, positive experience. Trust is a huge component of emotional capital.
- Exchanged regularly between any participants in a relationship. Think of it as the stock exchange.
As humans, we need healthy and functional relationships to survive. The same goes for a leader.
These relationships are the foundation for moving success and performance far beyond expectations. The core of each of the relationships is emotional capital.
The Powers and Benefits of Emotional Connection
The wealth investment of emotional capital as a leader – and as an individual – inspires people to:
1. People invest in your success
Loyalty builds a following, and it starts with the emotional connection. You have individuals/teams that are willing to go above and beyond to secure YOUR success.
A job transitions to passion.
Work becomes a hobby.
2. Your team will take more risk for your success
You cannot be an extraordinary leader by doing ordinary things. Extraordinary requires taking a risk and a leadership following that benefits and absorbs some of that risk.
Emotional connection builds the trust and foundation that brings both confidence and desire for others to take that risk with you.
Your team will develop a feeling of ‘indebtedness’ that will drive them to desire more risk as long as you are leading it.
You will develop a mutual indebtedness for their willingness – regardless of the outcome.
3. You’re more easily forgiven
This one is HUGE and cannot be understated.
If you do not, then you are not taking enough risk.
Take comfort that if you have the proper following and ‘tribe.’ The enormous success will compensate for the mistakes and failures.
The Limits of Emotional Connection & Capital
Sometimes you have more; sometimes you have less.
Every relationship experiences inequalities of emotional capital.
Wealth in a relationship happens when there is an overall equal exchange. Inequality of emotional capital overall is an indication of a lack of trust.
1. Emotional capital is a limited resource
Like any currency, it is not endless. When it is exhausted, you experience emotional burnout.
Have a million trophies.
2. Emotional capital value- perceived & balanced
In most relationships, there is a perceived ‘value’ and stable emotional connection by both parties. The more balance in the exchange, the more wealthy the relationship.
When the emotional connection value is not equivalent, one person disengages from the relationship.
The same holds true for leadership relationships and how to influence people.
Many times it can be quite the contrary.
I have seen/experienced/coached many horrific leaders that ‘led’ high-performing teams.
How do they do it?
The team wanted to succeed, and it was a common instinct. In organizations that lack self-awareness, the leader may succeed. That is a product of organizational culture.
3. A ‘following’ is imperative to a leader’s success
A following is critical in how to influence people over time.
What is a leadership following?
- An individual (or I have seen entire teams) follow the leader to a different function or organization.
- Emotionally (and that translates to functionally), the person or team does not work for the organization but rather they work for the leader.
These are the people that will jump through hoops-of-fire to make you successful.
They want you to be successful.
These are also the people that will jump through the same hoops during bad times and come together and protect.
A following wants you to be successful. As long as you are successful, the members of your following feel success themselves.
They see themselves as failures if you see yourself as a failure.
Their biggest fear?
Disappointing you – their leader.
That is powerfully influential and built on emotional connection. The same principles are true in personal relationships in having your ‘tribe.’
How to Influence People with Emotional Capital in 5 Steps
1. Focus on individuals.
- A personal emotional connection will roll up to the team level. The more you invest in each, the more cohesive the team will be overall.
- If overall team-level emotional capital is cheap, identify those individuals that require further investment.
- Perception is the reality. Understand and manage perceptions. You should be assessing these frequently at both the team and individual levels.
2. Find commonality.
- Passion, strength, a hobby, a life circumstance or event. Everyone has something in common. Just make sure it is a genuine connection of commonality otherwise, the emotional connection will not be sustainable.
- Leverage that commonality often in interactions and experiences. Again – in an organic and authentic way. You would be surprised at the number of people I have ‘turned’ by focusing on commonality. It can be magical as long as it is genuine.
3. Identify & leverage individual strengths.
- Leverage those strengths across the entire team. Not only is it more efficient, but it also becomes a form of recognition and builds collaboration.
- Everyone wants to be successful, and everyone wants to belong to something.
- This is combining the best of both worlds and will create a wealth of emotional connection.
- Leverage strengths to compensate for your natural deficits.
- This not only allows you to focus on what you do best, including more time to be a leader, it also makes you feel more satisfied and happy.
- Who wants to be doing things that they are not good at or enjoy?
- Ideally, strengths allocation should also be passions or areas of desired growth for career progression.
4. Have consistent & value-add interactions.
We get busy, and we get focused.
This can be a tough one, especially for leaders of remote or virtual workforce teams. It is something I am always trying to monitor with myself.
- Focus on the value of the interaction as opposed to the length of time of the interaction.
- Focus on the interactions being consistent as opposed to scheduled. Don’t keep track of the time and appointments to gauge how well you are doing with this. I know some of you were going down that path.
- Every interaction should not be scheduled. I will often open my office at the last minute and just have anyone pop in for anything, even if it is to chat about the weekend.
- Every interaction should not be formal.
- Mandatory performance reviews or coaching meetings do not count in this category of building an emotional connection. Leverage those opportunities to build your wealth, though.
5. Be human. Being vulnerable is good.
This is a tough one for many leaders, inherent to the role and perceptions.
- Be personable and relatable. It makes you more likable and builds a deeper emotional connection.
- Don’t be afraid to express and show vulnerabilities.
- Balance this though as your role is to make your team feel safe and protected.
- Too much display of weakness may diminish that goal.
- Acknowledge and own mistakes.
- You will feel better, and they will respect you for it.
- It makes you an actual flesh-and-bones human.
Recap & Reminders
There you have it. Now you know how to influence people with emotional connection.
Emotional capital goes well beyond leadership power and performance, however.
Emotional connection is a feeling and the strength of the relationship you have with each – personally and professionally.
A few quick reminders and then I will shut up:
- The greater emotional capital wealth you have with people equates to greater emotional capital wealth for the team overall.
- Leaders of leaders – it is IMPERATIVE to encourage emotional capital growth amongst your leaders and executive teams.
- Proper balance and wealth development of emotional capital builds a truly unstoppable and unwavering team.
There are a couple of pitfalls to emotional capital to be aware of: people hoarding and power-distance culture.
I will save those for the next time.
Now go out there and build your wealth of emotional connection and leadership influence!