The Role of Emotional Intelligence In Early Struggle and Fun

Jan 20, 2004

emotional-intelligenceIn the early stages – from Early Struggle through Fun, most organizations have strong, unconsciously innate, built-in emotional intelligence.

Because the organization is small and centrally controlled (usually by a strong founder/owner[s]), there is nowhere to hide for anyone with poor EI. People who ‘don’t fit’ are usually expunged – office gossip, manipulative power plays and emotionally dysfunctional behavior is easily seen and dealt with.

When and if someone does exhibit emotionally dysfunctional behavior, the response is usually straightforward: Are they major revenue contributors, or not? If the former, they are often given leeway – indeed, revenue ‘big dogs’ are often given considerable scope for emotional dysfunction.

If, on the other hand, the employee is in a support function, the scope for ‘grandstanding’ is considerably less, and is usually not tolerated to the same degree.

During Early Struggle and Fun, there is usually no need, and nothing to be gained, in messing with what is happening naturally. Best leave well enough alone and let the organization grow (in size and emotional maturity) at it’s own pace, and in it’s own way.

The psycho-boss exception

An exception to the leave-well-enough-alone principle is when the founder/owner (or one or more of a founding group) is significantly deficient in Emotional Intelligence.

A pathologically manipulative, abusive, moody or otherwise emotionally disfunctional founder will cap the growth of the organization by poisoning the atmosphere and driving out stellar performers.

[In an interesting aside, many abusive founder/owners do achieve what can be seen as enormous growth in their organization by sheer willpower, and often, fear. They often achieve high rates of early growth, win awards and wow the business press, despite high employee turnover and persistent morale issues. But it rarely lasts.

What is misunderstood in these cases is how great the organization could be – truly world-beating and less transient – if the dysfunctional owner could address and correct their lack of emotional intelligence through coaching and/or mentoring.]


In Early Struggle and Fun, stay out of the way, except when an emotionally dysfunctional founder/owner threatens the success of the organization, in which case, coaching should be provided (assuming the individual is receptive, and someone has the power or influence to attempt the intervention…).

Next: Emotional Intelligence In Whitewater