5 Steps to Building an Emotionally Intelligent Team

5 Steps to Building an Emotionally Intelligent Team

What are the steps to building an emotionally intelligent team? Can such teams transform your organization?

Psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, believes emotional intelligence (EQ) can help teams function better, but it’s not as simple as each of the team members being emotionally intelligent. Together, the team needs to be emotionally intelligent, providing a safe place for new ideas, psychological safety, and innovation to flourish.

According to Harvard Business Review, the time employees spend collaborating has increased more than 50% over the last two decades. As you can see, it’s imperative that teams are emotionally intelligent.

Attributes of Emotionally Intelligent Teams

In today’s world, project teams and cross-functional teams can be globally dispersed, cross-cultural, and span more generations than ever before. However, emotionally intelligent team attributes are consistent across the board. Goleman offers insight into the attributes of emotionally intelligent teams:

Cohesion. Entire team harmony and appreciation are felt and shared among all team members. Not only is each employee working toward their own goals, but they’re also supporting each other’s goals. And, of course, they all have the common goal of successfully completing the project.

Conflict resolution. Team members know how to actively listen and communicate with empathy, clarity, and diplomacy to resolve conflicts. Leadership has conflict management solutions in place to step in when conflict can’t be quickly resolved.

Achievement recognition. Within the team, employees are rooting for each other’s success and celebrating project milestones.

Trust. Team members acknowledge and trust each other’s strengths. They are transparent and comfortable discussing their weaknesses.

Humility. Goleman believes that the ultimate attribute is when team members can acknowledge when a certain team member should lead, and one should step aside.

“It [an emotionally intelligent team] is not about a team member working all night to meet a deadline; it is about saying thank you for doing so. It is not about an in-depth discussion of ideas; it is about asking a quiet member for his thoughts. It is not about harmony, lack of tension, and all members liking each other; it is about acknowledging when harmony is false, tension is unexpressed, and treating others with respect. — Vanessa Urch Druskat, and Steven B. Wolff, researchers and authors of Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups

Benefits of Emotionally Intelligent Teams

EQ is about understanding your own emotions and addressing them to benefit yourself and the team. You also recognize the emotions of others and use that ability to guide behavior and decision-making. Emotional awareness requires practice and commitment and can be developed over time with a conscious effort. The benefit of this key skill far outweighs the effort. Here are just a few of the numerous benefits:

“Research suggests it [EQ] is responsible for as much as 80% of the ‘success’ in our lives.” — Joshua Freedman, co-author of The EQ Learning Journal

5 Steps to Building an Emotionally Intelligent Team

According to Gitnux’s Emotional Intelligence Statistics and Current Trends for 2023 blog, 95% of surveyed HR managers and 99% of employees believe that EQ is a must-have skill for every staff member. Let’s get started on steps to take to build your emotionally intelligent team!

#1: Know and Understand Your Team.

The first step is to get to know each member of your team. Your team members are more than just worker bees. They’re each a unique individual who has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. Each employee has diverse skills, talents, strengths, and weaknesses. The better understanding you have of everyone on the team the better you will communicate with them. Be sure to know a little about their personal life, too. Getting to know them as whole people will help build an emotionally intelligent team.

Engage in active listening. Notice your team and its dynamics. Observe how your behavior affects those around you and how you may be perceived. Notice the positive and negative emotions expressed in both verbal and nonverbal communication. What is their tone of voice? What does their body language say? These verbal and non-verbal cues help you know how to read the dynamics amongst the team. Keep in mind, cultural backgrounds and different generations may respond to the same situation differently based upon their individual experiences.

Ask questions. By asking questions, you’ll gain helpful insight into identifying employees’ strengths and weaknesses. Just like a coach knows when a player’s form is wrong and which player will come through under pressure, a good leader is aware of their team’s abilities. Utilizing each team members’ strengths and providing training as needed is imperative to building an emotionally intelligent team.

Practice social awareness. The key is to recognize how an employee is feeling and why they are feeling the way they do. The best way to do so is by asking questions and encouraging honest and open communication and feedback. Social awareness is extremely important during difficult conversations.

Share. Communicating is paramount to building an emotionally intelligent team. Share what you are not only hearing but also observing through careful observation. Ask your team how you can serve them for better outcomes, where they see problems or challenges, and how you can make their jobs easier.

#2. Lead by Example.

Helping your teams become emotionally intelligent starts by setting a good example for them to emulate.

Lead with integrity. Stand for honesty, fairness, and strong moral principles. Employees appreciate sincerity and authenticity in the workplace. Teams will trust you to do what you say you’re going to do. Decisions should be based on a good set of moral principles.

Be self-aware. Recognize and understand your personal feelings and negative and positive emotions and keep them in check.

Be approachable. Always be kind, open, and an available resource. This will influence others to do the same. The tone is set for better discussions leading to improved work.

Be respectful. Enjoy working with your teams and find value in each member. Sincerely want your team to succeed. They will be loyal and work hard when they know you genuinely care about them. Understand and appreciate their strengths, weaknesses, backgrounds, and individual experiences. Employees who believe their leaders treat them with respect are 55% more engaged, 63% more satisfied, and 58% more focused on their jobs.

#3. Empower.

Empowerment is not only about giving responsibility but also taking ownership. This makes the employee feel stronger and more confident to take on greater responsibilities. When you empower your employees, it’s a win/win scenario that will benefit everyone involved and your company.

Set expectations upfront. Your team is immediately empowered when they understand the vision and expectations. Unclear expectations lead to confusion, resentment, and wasted time. Employees need to know expectations, so they know their action plan and are guided in the right direction.

Have trust. Know your team will do the work. When trust is established, employees’ job performance will improve. You’ll not only have a more productive team but a self-managing team, as well.

Delegate “wins.” Give the team something you know they can succeed at. You’ll inspire them and build their confidence with your trust in their abilities.

Give thanks and recognition. Everyone gets tired, no matter how much passion they have. Help your team recharge their energy and enthusiasm by offering praise and recognition. A simple “thank you” goes a long way.

#4. Inspire.

Be an inspirational leader. To inspire means to “fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something.”

“If your actions inspire others to learn more, do more, and become more, you are a true leader.” — John Quincy Adams, 6th U.S. President

Have a vision. Share the organizational vision with the team so they don’t just have a very narrow view of their department. This reinforces that they’re part of something bigger and empowers them to make a difference as they understand how their contributions truly do make a positive impact. This allows for a sense of group identity, shared common ground, and purpose.

Spread optimism. Maintain a positive team atmosphere. Leaders set the tone and can build a positive working environment that emphasizes psychological safety and values employees’ whole selves. Practicing optimism gives people the chance to offer others the benefit of the doubt, therefore, reducing possible unnecessary conflicts.

Present new challenges and opportunities. This allows great things to happen. Employees will begin to think outside of the box and learn new skills. It also keeps them motivated and not complacent. Innovative ideas take off!

Have fun. Find opportunities, such as team-building exercises, for people to get to know each other better and build stronger relationships. Cross-collaborating with other successful teams is also a fun way to learn about others and their team’s work and form new business relationships.

#5. Provide Training.

An invaluable way team leaders can help teams build EQ is by valuing their people in word and action. Understand what soft skills each team member needs to help boost their EQ and then promptly provide them with the training.

Employees want emotional intelligence training. 80% of employees consider EQ crucial for developing their careers, according to Human Performance Technology by DTS.

Soft skills and EQ training go beyond just checking the box. They also:

HSI Can Help

A team’s emotional intelligence stems from leadership, especially if team members are not functioning with high emotional intelligence at first. Compared to 33 other important workplace skills, EQ is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs. Proper professional training plays a vital role in building EQ in teams.

Many of HSI’s clients open our training library for self-directed employee learning. Employees can choose off-the-shelf training video courses to sharpen their soft skills and learn new ones. Request a free trial of our HSI LMS.

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