Some might argue that having team leaders with well developed Emotional Intelligence will automatically produce teams which function within an emotionally intelligent culture... Clearly the reverse is likely to be true: a team with a leader who is lacking in key EI competencies is likely to experience disharmony, lack of mutual trust, and difficulty in expressing true feelings and ideas for fear of being knocked back. However, does it go without saying that team leaders and managers who understand the critical nature of EI in the workplace, and who prioritise their own personal development in this area, automatically create an emotionally intelligent working environment? I'm not convinced that they do. And anyway, what exactly IS an emotionally intelligent working environment?
Here are my ideas on the sort of things you'll be able to spot in an 'Emotionally Intelligent Team':
1. There is genuine respect: Not everyone needs to be the best of friends, but there needs to be a genuine mutual respect between team members. How can you spot that this is the case? It's often seen in the way that team members challenge each others' approach or ideas during discussions and disagreements. Genuine respect is demonstrated when all parties make efforts not to undermine each others' self-esteem by using personal attacks - even as a method of self-defence. Seeking win-win solutions and encouraging input and ideas from everyone whenever appropriate/possible demonstrates true respect.
2. There is trust: Each member of the team needs to be able to trust that their colleagues are looking out for their best interests, and for the best interests of the team/organisation. Teams with high levels of trust will take risks with each others' ideas, and they will accept information and opinions from their colleagues without insisting on intense interrogation. Trusting team members need not be naively compliant, but they will appreciate and work with each others' expertise and experience as if it is their own.
3. Individuals work for the team good: Whilst it is human nature to protect one's own interests, self-serving behaviour can be extremely undermining of the collective effort. An emotionally intelligent team will find ways to balance the needs of the individuals within it, with the overall objectives of the team. Selfish behaviour will be self-regulated, within an under-pinning culture of collectivity. Individuals will also lend their support to their colleagues without hesitation or resentment, if it is in the best interests of the team.
4. There is a sense of team achievement: Team members will encourage and congratulate each others' achievements, rather than competing for praise or attention. Individuals will generously attribute their own successes to the collective work of the team. They will understand the important contribution others make to their achievements, and they will value the tangible and intangible benefits of simply being a part of that team.
5. Expectations are negotiated: Team members are successfully able to communicate and negotiate their expectations of each other. If there are no taboos, and minimal unspoken disagreements, there will be far less fuel for building resentment between individuals. You will be able to spot emotionally intelligent teams regularly checking out each others' expectations and doing all they can to ensure that they are as closely in alignment as possible.
6. Conflicts are managed effectively: A team that has no conflicts is not necessarily emotionally intelligent - it may be a sign that people are afraid to speak their mind, or that they are being ruled with a rod of iron! A certain amount of conflict is inevitable in all teams, as it is often at the heart of creativity. Therefore look out for whether team members are able to freely express their opposing ideas and frustrations, and whether they use problem-solving techniques to find win-win solutions wherever possible.
So... how does your own team measure up to these indicators of 'Team Emotional Intelligence'? If most or all of these factors are present, then it is likely that your team is dynamic, productive and successful - and that its members are pleased to be a part of it! It is rare that these things happen by chance though. There is usually a team leader or manager who has worked hard to create the environment in which these factors can be nurtured and maintained. And there are usually a number of team members (if not all) who are self-aware and who understand that being part of a winning team requires effort - sometimes having to behave in ways that is counter-intuitive for the benefit of the team...
Next time I'll share my ideas on how a team leader can foster higher levels of EI within their team.