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A Lack of Emotional Intelligence Can Kill Your Personal Brand. Here’s How

It's about learning to see yourself the way others see you.

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In business, perception is reality.

That’s why building your brand is so vital–and that’s the truth whether you represent a large multinational corporation or you’re a solopreneur trying to provide for your family.

So how can emotional intelligence, that ability to understand emotions and use them to your advantage, help ensure your brand represents the real you?

Check out this guest post by Irene McConnell, founder of Arielle, a company that specializes in developing personal brands for senior business leaders. (And if you’d like more tips on how to make your emotions work for you, instead of against you, make sure to sign up for my free monthly newsletter.)

Here’s Irene:

We’ve all had those bosses.

Ten years ago, I was a HR manager at a large resources company. One Monday, there was a big announcement that a certain HR director would be joining the business. He had a mixed reputation: brilliant guy, but volatile temper–known for treating his team like crap to deliver results at any cost.

The anxiety in the room was palpable.

His first day on the job, he got us all together to tell us how he’d changed. Mellowed. How his previous environments hadn’t been quite right for him, but that we would be the team who would help him to do the best work of his career.

For the first few months, all was well. He respected our work, liked to joke around, and was bringing in juicy projects.

But one day, all of a sudden, we heard murderous screaming, followed by a loud crash. Our agency admin came bursting out of his office in hysterical tears.

After ripping his desk phone out of the wall (cords and all), he had hurled it at her like a javelin.

Fortunately, she ducked in time.

Of course, he was fired soon after, but it took months for the culture to heal.

Ironically, around this same time, concepts like personal branding and emotional intelligence entered the business world.

Now, on paper, this guy’s personal brand was exceptional.

Picture a LinkedIn profile littered with client recommendations sporting words like “genius” and “master”, supplemented by a personal website that links to his blog–where he shares industry-leading insights on recruitment and HR.

But there are no doubt hundreds of people in his network (and at least 50 that I know of) who know the truth:

Mr. Master Genius HR Guru Expert Czar is telling the world a big fat lie–at least about the emotional side of his skills.

Harvard theorist Howard Gardner defines emotional intelligence (or EQ) as your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them.

Maya Angelou described it more poetically:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As a leader, how you react in emotionally charged situations plays a massive role in defining the quality of your brand. 

Tom Peters, the founder of personal branding, declares that:

“An effective ‘Brand You’ is not a ‘marketing promise’. It is a track record of demonstrated/sustained excellence.”

Unfortunately, most people mistakenly believe that their personal brand is somehow separate from their real-life behavior. They believe that it’s simply the sum of social media and online content they generate and post.

What’s missing from that equation?

The human element: The sum of your face-to-face interactions on a daily basis, both professional and personal. Which, of course, directly reflect your EQ.

As digital communication allows emotions such as compassion, gratitude and generosity to be expressed more virtually and less face-to-face in the moment–and as online channels multiply like rabbits–the dynamic between personal brand and EQ will only become more complex.

Centuries ago, the Greek philosopher Epictetus wrote about emotional intelligence: 

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

As someone who’s made personal branding my business, here’s my short bit of advice:

Step away from the computer. Put down your device.

For just one mindful moment, look inside and ask yourself:

  • How do I show up in my career, and in my life, for that matter?
  • Who am I as a person? What am I known for?  
  • What do I want to be known for?

The sooner you answer those questions, the better.

Because when it comes to your personal brand, the essence of your humanity is where it’s at.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.

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