How to Be an Emotional Leader for Small Business Teams in a Crisis

How to Help Your Small Business Team Stay Motivated

Here’s something you can agree on:

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the business sphere once and for all. Many had to start working from home, marketers had noticed the rise of online sales, and all business communication went online.

And while big retailers feel more or less okay, the representatives of small businesses face a new challenge:

The need to support their team’s cohesiveness and motivation to work.

Let’s face it, it’s not that easy to maintain the work-life balance in a crisis when you work remotely, don’t see your teammates, and lose the sense of involvement in business, its mission, and values. And that’s where your emotional intelligence can help:

As a small business owner leading a team, your task now is to support employees and organize business processes so that your people felt the motivation to keep on working with you. For that, don’t be just a formal boss, but become an emotional leader for them.

Here’s how to do that.

Step 1: Show the Right Emotions

Leaders always use emotions to manage people. Whether it’s a good leader who supports employees or a bossy manager yelling at people, both enhance the information with their tone of voice and emotive shade. So please pay attention to what you tell and what emotions you communicate to the team.


  1. “John, I need this report by Friday. Otherwise, I’ll find you.”
  2. “John, could you please prepare this report by Friday? I know the deadline is strict, but I believe you can handle it as you are one of the best analysts in the company, and I trust you.”

Often, a few emotional words are enough to motivate your colleagues and make them want to complete your tasks.

Step 2: Use Emotive Arguments

Forget about arguments if you want to persuade someone. They help to substantiate your point of view, but a person will remain of the same mind. If you want colleagues to listen to you, consider stories and emotions:

  • The human brain retains 70% of information through stories.
  • People retain 95% of information through emotions.

An excellent example is the mind-blowing sales of the iPhone. Steve Jobs didn’t sell smartphones but status and lifestyle. He appealed to the emotions people wanted to feel when buying an iPhone. Emotive arguments helped Jobs influence consumers.

To understand how it works, try the exercise from Case Western Reserve University:

Take a sheet of paper and divide it into two columns. The left one is for your personal leader, who has helped to reveal your strengths. Write down everything he or she did to inspire and motivate you.

It can be your former boss, a teacher at school, a parent, or a friend. Do the same with the right column, but write about the leader who prevented you from unleashing your potential.

Therefore, you’ll have a list of behavior patterns to use and avoid with the team when you start a business.

Step 3: Inspire Them Through Mission and Vision

All outstanding leaders demonstrate the importance of their work to employees, linking it to something more significant and showing how their work will reflect on the whole company.

Here’s a small experiment:

Try to set a task for your close person: your husband, wife, brother, neighbor, you name it. Ask them to do something instead of you: wash the dishes, write a report, go to buy food, etc. Use the SMART model for that: As far as all managers know, this is the best way to achieve goals.

You’ll probably get an average result. Your conversation partner may agree to do it, but they will hardly show much enthusiasm.

Now try to do the same, using the information about emotional leaders who inspire. Below are some phrases that will help you make your speech more inspiring:

  • “It will help us too” (Emotional leaders inspire through vision and mission.)
  • “I need your help.” (Good leaders build trust and show concern.)
  • “I can count on you.” (Leaders are empathetic, and they evoke the same emotion in colleagues.)
  • “I can’t do it myself.” (Emotional leaders are honest and sincere.)
  • “I know you can do it.” (Good leaders are confident, and they inspire.)

Step 4. Feed Them With Your Positive Emotions

You know that both positive and negative emotions are transmissible: your small business team will “feel” your mood in your words and the tone of voice you’ll use when talking to them. Just remember that they will “eat” your negative emotions too, which is not as inspiring and motivating as you want it to be.

That is why it’s critical to “feed” employees with positive emotions in a crisis. Like this character of Jack Nicholson does:

Dave Buznik and Buddy Rydell sing “I Feel Pretty”

At the same time, you see that the work of a leader requires tons of emotional involvement, which is why it’s considered one of the most stressful. So please make sure to devote time to self-recovering and self-reinforcement; otherwise, you won’t be a leader but a blown horse, tired and unproductive yourself.

What can you do to recover from stress in a crisis? Try meditation or yoga, spend more time with family and pets (yes, your cat or dog can help you deal with stress), train your social responsibility, and master time management and task prioritizing.

Step 5: Train Your Social Intelligence

Modern science separates the concepts of emotional intelligence, responsible for how a person can manage their emotions, and social intelligence, responsible for how a person interacts with other people. The latter is also known as empathy.

Empathy is about your desire and ability to understand others and listen to other people with the intent of understanding them. It comes with coaching and mentoring, influence, and conflict management. Organizational awareness, with teamwork and inspirational leadership, is a part of social intelligence, too.

Emotional intelligence domains
Emotional intelligence domains – 12 Elements of Emotional Intelligence by

Step 6: Help Your Small Business Team See Better Selves

According to the Theory, people change all the time, but these changes happen non-linearly. It means that your employees don’t become better every day; it happens by leaps. If you don’t see immediate results after your training, feedback, and other efforts, maybe it’s worth waiting a bit.

People change through their strokes of insight, so help them see those strokes. There’s a scheme you can use to do that:

  1. Help your employee see a better self. Discuss their dreams and plans, and ask about their career goals and ambitions. Say that you believe in them and you’ll support them.
  2. Help team members identify the areas for development. Give feedback on what they can improve, and remember about positive thinking and trust. Practice active listening.
  3. Help to make a plan for their development. Talk about books or training that might help them grow. Think of new tasks they might perform to improve their skills and assist you with marketing strategies for business.
  4. Start assigning those tasks gradually, and remember to give feedback.
  5. Celebrate the positive result with employees when they achieve their goals.

Step 7: Start Changing Yourself

And now it’s time to apply this knowledge to yourself. Ask yourself, “What emotional leader do I want to be for my small business team?” Think about the skills you miss at the moment and start working on them today:

  • Emotive arguments instead of rational ones
  • Inspiration through mission and vision
  • Empathy
  • Feeding with positive emotions
  • The ability to recover from stresses
  • Listening skills
  • Emotional self-control
  • Adaptability
  • Coaching and mentorship
  • Taking care of your employees

Follow the lead of sports players: Spend 90% of your time training to spend just 10% of your time working. Create a schedule, write down the qualities you need to develop to become the best emotional leader for your team, and practice regularly. No crisis can scare those with the right people nearby.

Emotional Leadership: A New Trend in Post-Pandemic Times?
Emotional Leadership: A New Trend in Post-Pandemic Times?

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