Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important in Business?

There I was in the stunning, brand new ballroom at the Del Mar Luxury Hotel, just north of San Diego, CA. I was producing the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 award show for the 50 fastest growing tech companies in the region. It was around 10:00 a.m. and the doors were scheduled to open at noon.

There I was in the stunning, brand new ballroom at the Del Mar Luxury Hotel, just north of San Diego, CA. I was producing the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 award show for the 50 fastest growing tech companies in the region. It was around 10:00 a.m. and the doors were scheduled to open at noon.

I was exhausted. The day before I was in LA producing the same show and before that Orange County. I kept Goose’s voice on Top Gun, “Mav, got to get back to the ship, we’re running on fumes.”

We stayed up until 3:00 a.m. setting up the theater and everything was set for the show. Or so I thought. I was sitting at a table on the tech riser in the back of the room (with an IV bag of pure caffeine running into my arm) going over final cues with the production team when the maître d’ approached my “throne” and told me that the drape surrounding our tech riser looked bad and would I fix it right away.

Or so I thought. I was sitting at a table on the tech riser in the back of the room (with an IV bag of pure caffeine running into my arm) going over final cues with the production team when the maître d’ approached my “throne” and told me that the drape surrounding our tech riser looked bad and would I fix it right away.

I was sitting at a table on the tech riser in the back of the room (with an IV bag of pure caffeine running into my arm) going over final cues with the production team when the maître d’ approached my “throne” and told me that the drape surrounding our tech riser looked bad and would I fix it right away.

A volcano erupted inside me. I saw red. I could feel the blood rushing through my temples. My teeth were grinding just like when I played football right before the snap.

A little back story: this was the tenth year in a row I produced the Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego events. This was my 30th program. Because of the recession, my budget for the programs had been sharply reduced. I was running on a skeleton crew and doing the work of two or three people to ensure the production went off without a hitch.

Why was I so mad? I knew he was right. I had not paid enough attention to the details. There was a gaping hole in our drape and it looked bad and unprofessional. I was not really mad at the maître d’ –  I was mad as hell at myself for not catching such an amateur mistake and now some guy in a penguin outfit was calling me on the mat for it. The voice of my audio engineer telling me he would fix it right away seemed like a million miles away.

I looked at the maître d’ with fire coming out of my eyes and told him, “Don’t worry, we know about it and we’ll fix it.” He turned to walk away and took one last look at me with a little disgust on his face. I looked back at him and said, “What the hell is your problem?” He responded by saying “Nothing, what is your problem?” He turned to walk away and looked back at me again. This time, all 6’5”, 250 lbs. of me stood up to confront him and that’s when it happened.

As I stood up ready to pound my chest, I saw my client sitting in the front of the room and up until that point, she was unaware of the confrontation building in the back of the room. In a nanosecond, I swallowed my pride, pushed down my anger and sat back down in my chair (no longer my throne). I started to think about ways I could retaliate. How could I make this person’s day miserable? At the same time, I was deeply disturbed that I’d lost it for the first time in 20 years.

Just two weeks earlier, I completed my certification program to lead, facilitate and coach programs on high-performance leadership and emotional intelligence. I realized that I was having a huge KEY MOMENT and I was making the interaction with the maître d’ mean all kinds of things (paradigms). I was standing at a MOMENT OF CHOICE; do I act out of SURVIVAL or SELF MASTERY? In other words: take the high road and turn this situation into a win for everyone. Or, take the low road, which would have a negative impact on the program and most likely create more KEY MOMENTS.

Suddenly I felt better. The mistake was caught and fixed. The room indeed looked perfect. I had just learned how to apply new tools and skills to turn this situation around. I felt empowered. The red in my eyes faded.

Moments later, I walked over to the maître d’, who was talking with a group of his colleagues, probably telling them what a jerk I was, and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and slightly recoiled. I extended my right hand towards him and, with a big smile on my face, said, “I would like to thank you for pointing out that our tech riser did not look perfect. I know we are both committed to the same thing—making this event 100% perfect for our mutual client.” He looked like he was going into shock, but I continued, “I would really appreciate it if you would take a look at the tech riser and let me know if we fixed the problem to your satisfaction.”

A little more back story: the Del Mar was a new hotel and this was the first event in the ballroom. The people attending the event were CEOs and top executives from the fastest growing high technology companies in the San Diego area. There was a lot at stake for the hotel.

In that moment, something miraculous occurred. His frown turned into a big smile. He walked with me to inspect the drapery. He said, “Thank you very much for taking care of this, it looks perfect.” Then he shook my hand and then he pulled out the schedule for the program and began asking me about the timing of the program. I saw that they were planning on pre-setting the salads, which is a big no-no for me (a different post). I asked him if it was possible to set the salads after the opening remarks. He thought for a moment and responded by saying, “I believe we can make that happen for you.”

I then asked him if he created any goals for the event. He said, “I have! I want three companies to book their next event at our hotel.” I told him one of my goals was to be engaged by one of the winners to produce their next program.

As the maître d’ walked away, my audio engineer looked at me with an astonished look on his face and said, “What just happened? How did you do that?” Of course; I handed him my new business card and invited him to call me to set up a coaching agreement.

From that moment on, the maître d’ and I were a team. He consulted me about the roll out of the food. He wanted to know if we should open the doors early or hold off to allow more networking. I said, “Let’s go for a walk and see how people are doing.” We walked together to inspect the reception and chose to hold the doors. During the event, we communicated/collaborated constantly about the timing of the event and made changes on the fly, all of which led to a flawless program.

Here’s the best part. The program was perfect. Everyone loved the event. As soon as the show was over, a major tech company, Qualcomm came up to me and told me they wanted to hire me to produce their awards program the following month. The maître d’ shared with me that four companies inquired about holding their next event at the Del Mar.

We did it. Together, we executed a perfect program and both achieved the goals we set for ourselves.

Had I not applied on what I learned just two weeks earlier, the outcome would have been very different. I made a choice to pursue the path of self-mastery, transformed the situation with incredible outcomes and forever raised my Emotional Intelligence IQ by a significant margin.