SEF 2020 attendees taught the mindset and emotional intelligence skills that drive successful entrepreneurship  

Workshops led by experts from UK-based self-development organisation The School of Life 

Sharjah, December 9, 2020

“Working together brings much better results than doing it alone, as we have seen in many instances during this period of crisis due to the Coronavirus pandemic,” said School of Life coach and consultant Susan Kahn, opening the first workshop of Day Three of the ongoing fourth edition of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF) 2020, organised by the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa). 

“That is why collective heroism is so important in this day and age. It is a much more easy and efficient way to effect positive change than one person doing it all alone,” explained Kahn, in the session aptly titled Collective Heroism. “Communication and collaboration are key.”

Kahn also outlined the key obstacles to collective action, which includes misunderstanding between collaborators and conflicting expectation, offering solutions for managing conflict that includes establishing a process whereby team members are consulted and informed before major decisions are made, setting ground rules on apportioning responsibility as well as credit. “Leaders must also be silent listeners, asking questions and allowing the team across the board to voice their opinions, and act on them on merit,” Kahn added.

The second workshop titled ‘The Emotionally Intelligent Entrepreneur’ had Monica McCarthy – community impresario, public speaker, and messaging consultant – explaining why it was so vital that entrepreneurs develop emotional intelligence to connect and communicate effectively with their customers and clients.

“We have to be skeptical about our emotional reactions – which are rarely the correct ones. Emotional intelligence enables us to recognise this and work around it. It helps us acknowledge the influence of our past experiences in shaping us into who we are and teaches us to respect the emotions and imperfections of other people,” said McCarthy.

Defensiveness, people-pleasing tendencies and procrastination work against attaining emotional intelligence and can be circumvented by acknowledging our fears, opening a dialogue with oneself and with others and admitting to our mistakes. McCarthy also emphasized the importance of learning the art of saying ‘no’ politely but firmly, and keeping things in perspective, while breaking down the big oppressive tasks to trick oneself into completing them with ease.

In the concluding workshop of the day, ‘Leading Through Change,’ life coach and writer Fiona Buckland stated that “what entrepreneurs need to succeed today is not technical brilliance, but emotional self-leadership.”

“Change is not only a constant, but also beneficial, and entrepreneurs who by definition seek to change the world order, should not shy away from doing it themselves,” she said. 

“The emotional issues of change involve coming to terms with failure and unlearning what does not work any longer,” said Buckland, offering a three-step model to dealing with change. 

Teams need to be handheld to understand the reason behind the proposed change and be able to connect with their doubts and fears. Leaders must not bulldoze their staff to accept the situation but offer options, adopting a trial-and-error method. They should ensure the change suits everyone on the team and is in alignment with their values. 

“Self-awareness and self-compassion are very important,” she said. “Leaders should understand that people want to feel safe and secure and resent leaders who want them to change. It is important to get the team’s input on the proposed changes, get their feedback on how it will affect them and share the thought process that went into planning the move. They must find the balance in the equation that will be beneficial to everybody. Leadership often feels lonely, which is why acquiring emotional skills are so vital.”

Being organised under the theme #BeTheHero, Sheraa’s annual flagship event has gone fully virtual for the first time from December 6 and will conclude on December 10. 

The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF) 2020, powered by Sahab Smart Solutions, is being held in strategic partnership with Sultan Bin Al Owais Real Estate, with support from Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah). Held every year since 2017, the aim of this festival is to cultivate the entrepreneurial mindset and inspire the next generation of changemakers. Over the years, SEF has seen 200+ showcasing startups, 240+ local and international speakers, and 8,000+ attendees.