After reading this insightful article, you may want to rethink how your project teams are formed and managed.

These days the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) at work is largely accepted by most organizations. For example, if we assess EQ as well as technical competence when we recruit and promote, it has been shown to significantly reduce staff turnover—in one case by 63%! There is increasing evidence that hiring emotionally intelligent recruiters will itself increase our ability to attract and retain employees we want.

In other studies, emotionally more competent salespeople outsold other salespeople and dramatically improved the bottom line. And in two other companies, training the managers in EQ resulted in a 50% reduction of lost-time accidents, increased production of 17% and a reduction in formal complaints from 15% to 3%.

Further research has shown that the primary cause of derailment in executives is not because of technical incompetence or lack of IQ. It is consistently because of poor EQ skills: unsuccessful executives have difficulty in handling change, are poor at interpersonal relations and unable to work well in teams.
The ability to work in teams is still one of the key requirements for employees today. Which leads to this question: does a team need to have its own EQ? If you take a number of emotionally intelligent individuals and put them together, do you get an emotionally intelligent team?

Think about teams that you have worked in or observed. What makes the effective ones work well together? When and why do they fall apart? In my experience, powerful and productive teams have a strong sense of trust, are open and honest with each other and hold each other explicitly accountable for their contribution to the team’s goals.

Dysfunctionality begins when the team members do not honestly communicate with each other, there is no real trust and little mutual accountability—and these are all EQ competencies.

Understandably, teams are pre-occupied with getting the job done. Few teams regularly take time out to reflect on how the team itself is working and what it needs to do to improve the way of its modus operandi. Even fewer set measurable objectives for team functioning and/or get feedback from internal and external customers about the teams’ effectiveness.

Yet these are critical components of effective and productive teams. It is the first part of team EQ—self-awareness and evaluation. It requires more than individual members relating well on a one-on-one basis to have an honest discussion about the way the team is working. It requires the team itself to be able to address its own issues as a group.

One team I worked with, most of the team members had very good individual EQ but they all knew that the team was not functioning as well as it needed to. There were delays in making important decisions, a sense that not everyone was committed, frustration that information was withheld or not openly shared and a lack of clarity about what the team goals actually were.
When they came together to discuss the team’s functioning, the level of tension and discomfort was palpable. They were experiencing emotional responses to the team’s poor EQ dynamics. They needed a way to articulate this and find solutions. Happily, they have started to assess what EQ behaviors are supporting the team’s objectives, what are getting in the way and what to do about this.

Yet how many times have you heard the phrase: “let’s leave feelings out of this” explicitly or by implication? It’s clear now that successful organizations can’t and don’t. So how can you improve your team’s EQ?

One way is to establish agreed norms or rules for how the team is to operate and rigorously stick to them. Norms could address the obligations of team members to the team, how it will assess its performance, how it will work together, what motivation systems will be used, how it will relate to customers and the mechanisms to facilitate an honest exchange about the team norms and behaviors. Sometimes it is helpful to have an external person facilitate these discussions particularly if the team is in the early stages of building its collective EQ.

Establishing, articulating and reviewing norms is also important when there are changes in the team membership—particularly if the team does not have a major role in determining who should be in the team. A discussion about the group EQ is also valuable at times of success as well as more challenging occasions.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

EQ has 5 broad components:

  • Our ability to be aware of, recognize and evaluate what we are feeling and how we are reacting at any time, at work and elsewhere. How well do we know ourselves? How honest and realistic are we about our own strengths and weaknesses?

  • How we manage and control those feelings instead of letting them control us. How flexible are we in handling change?

  • How good are we at motivating ourselves, persisting, hanging in there, and gearing up—even when the going gets tough? Do we see the glass as half full or half empty?

  • How good are we at sensing how others are feeling? Are we empathic? Can we `bracket’ our feelings and remain attuned and focussed on the other person’s perspective?

  • Are we good at relationships? What sort of interpersonal skills do
    we have? Can we lead others, influence them, resolve conflicts and collaborate and co-operate with people?