The Emotionally Intelligent Team

One team seems to be struggling, even though the group holds some of the company’s top employees.

Another team is highly productive, driving innovation, and doing it in relative harmony.

Why is one team effective while another falters? The answer seems to center on the level of a group’s emotional intelligence. That intelligence is made up of the ability of each individual in the group to understand and manage their own emotions, as well as the emotions of the group. Individuals with high emotional intelligence will have self-awareness, that is, an ability to identify their own thoughts, feelings, wants and observations. They will also have an awareness of others, which is usually expressed as an ability to listen, show empathy, and feel and express curiosity about others.

The team becomes more trusting, harmonious, and effective, when each person can manage and understand emotions. There’s a group identity, a feeling of safety, and a shared conviction to do what is right for the group.

Some other characteristics of teams with high emotional intelligence:

  • People working collaboratively rather than in silos
  • Common expectations for how to work together
  • Higher quality and faster decision-making
  • Agreement on what the team requires individually and collectively
  • Effective team norms—agreements on how people will act within the group

A struggling team can be seen as a call to work on raising the group’s emotional intelligence. This is work that must at some point be done on an individual level, but leaders can help encourage this ability by taking the following steps:

  • Raise collective self awareness: what do I think, feel, want, observe?
  • Recognize emotional dissonance: “I don’t like how it feels around here”
  • Monitor the emotional tone of the team: What do people seem to be feeling?
  • Listen for what is really going on in the group—the subtext and emotion, not just the words
  • Work to understand the feelings of individuals in the group
  • Be aware of inclusion dynamics: who is in and who is out
  • Be aware of roles people in the group play—who plays which role, and why?
  • Uncover norms within the group that aren’t productive

An emotionally intelligent team can be a powerful force for good in an organization, making it a worthwhile investment in both time and energy.

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