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The real juice in your startup: organizational emotional intelligence

handwriting that says "Startups don't die when they run out of cash. They die when the founders run out of energy."

"Startups don't die when they run out of cash. They die when founders run out of energy."

I wish I knew who to attribute this to because it's been living rent-free in my head for years.

I've spent a lot of time with visionary leaders. It is an exhilarating place to be, but it's no wonder the burnout rate is so high. The mental load and energy required to build something are taxing.

So, how do you push on? How do you keep the magic alive for yourself and your team?  

The Founder's Well-being

The most obvious place to start is with the founder. If you are feeling burnout or experiencing a persistent lack of passion in your work, you must decide if the empty gas tank is about a loss of purpose, exhaustion, chronic stress, or a change in what you want out of life. Each of those is normal, but each requires different fixes.

For leaders to continuously reach new milestones and motivate teams requires a deep, inward look to understand aspirations and needs.

However, while focusing on the founder's well-being is crucial, it's only the first step in sustaining organizational energy and passion. To truly create a lasting impact, founders must cultivate a shared vision and emotional intelligence among team members.

Cultivating Emotional Intelligence for a Shared Vision

While a founder's infectious enthusiasm sets the initial spark, sustaining organizational energy requires developing a collective vision. Employees must connect personal purpose to the larger mission for passion and vision to endure beyond a charismatic leader.

How does that happen?

Research reveals that the level of employee emotional intelligence (EI) directly impacts the internalization of company vision and subsequent engagement.

As organizations invest in emotional intelligence skill building, they equip members to:

  • Clarify personal values, strengths and goals

  • Recognize and manage their emotional patterns

  • Express empathy and compassion for colleagues

  • Communicate and collaborate more effectively

These competencies foster self-knowledge, which is vital for employees to align individual aspirations with organizational objectives. Without high EI, employees struggle to identify and articulate what matters most, making linking job responsibilities to meaningful impact challenging.

Emotional Intelligence as an Amplifier

Emotional intelligence amplifies the influence of perceived organizational support on engagement by helping employees discern what types of resources and recognition genuinely fulfill their needs. You're less likely to feel the organization has your back if you lack awareness of your core values and aims.

But as EI rises, so too does the sense of common cause. Instituting EI training across functions makes the broader mission feel like a shared endeavor rather than a top-down mandate.

As employees understand their own and others' deeper motivations, they more readily see how discrete roles integrate to advance the vision. Camaraderie and commitment solidify as coworkers appreciate the unique ways their efforts contribute.

Ways to Raise Organizational EI

So, while founders must champion the overarching "why," converting external vision into internal purpose takes company-wide emotional intelligence. Here are some ways to raise the EI in your organization:

  1. Provide EI Training Opportunities

    • Offer training programs focusing on building EI competencies, such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

    • Encourage open communication and active listening among employees and leadership.

    • Provide resources for employees to manage stress and maintain well-being.

  2. Incorporate EI into Leadership Development

    • Ensure that leadership development programs focus on EI competencies.

    • Help leaders understand the impact of their own EI on employee engagement and performance.

    • Encourage leaders to model high EI behaviors, such as empathy, effective communication, and vulnerability.

  3. Embed EI into Organizational Culture

    • Make EI a core value of your organization and communicate its importance regularly.

    • Recognize and reward employees demonstrating high EI behaviors, such as collaboration, empathy, and effective problem-solving.

    • Foster a sense of belonging and connection among employees through team-building activities, employee resource groups, and inclusive practices.

  4. Provide Coaching and Mentoring

    • Offer coaching or mentoring programs that help employees and leaders develop EI skills and navigate workplace challenges.

    • Consider having a coach available during critical times, such as major project rollouts or organizational changes, to support teams and individuals.

    • Encourage peer coaching and mentoring relationships that allow employees to learn from and support one another in developing EI competencies.

Sustaining organizational energy and passion requires a multi-faceted approach beyond financial metrics and product development. It starts with the founder's well-being and self-awareness but thrives when emotional intelligence is cultivated at every level of the organization.

By investing in EI skill-building, startups can create a shared vision that resonates deeply with employees, fostering a sense of purpose and commitment that endures beyond any individual leader.

A note of caution… while prioritizing renewal activities and self-care sends a powerful message that the organization values its people and recognizes the importance of recharging to maintain high performance; simply writing about these initiatives in a memo is not enough.

Founders and leaders must lead by example, actively participating in EI training and renewal activities alongside their teams. Employees take their cues from the actions of their leaders, not their words.


Hi, I'm Brandi, a coach, writer, and brand strategist with 20 years of experience accelerating growth for founders and CEOs in multifamily, tech, and public-private initiatives.

If you're a founder or leader struggling to sustain your energy and keep the magic alive for yourself and your team, know you're not alone. I've been there too.

Several years ago, I found myself juggling an executive role while caring for my terminally ill husband. After his passing, I kept going at full speed because that was the only speed I knew. Eventually, the floor dropped out beneath me, and I lost my passion and zest for life.

I share this story because I know firsthand how easy it is to get caught up in the grind, neglecting our well-being until we reach a breaking point. But I also know it's possible to stop the burnout cycle, create transformation through raised emotional intelligence, and build a business and life that fills you with joy and fulfillment.

If this resonates with you, I invite you to schedule a call. During our conversation, we'll dive deeper into your unique challenges and goals. You'll walk away with a fresh perspective and actionable insights to help you reignite your passion and build a culture of sustained success.


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