How High is Your Team's Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

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What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and How it Contributes to Success

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is usually described in terms that apply to individuals. It describes how well someone is able to recognize, manage, and use their own emotions effectively. High EQ is essential to managing your own behavior effectively and to build and maintain strong interpersonal relationships with others.

EQ not only applies to individuals, but also to teams, groups, and even entire organizations. While most people know what high EQ looks like in a person, there are also clear signs that can help you to recognize the functioning EQ level of your own work group, team, and even your entire organization.

How High EQ in Teams & Groups Yields Increased Performance

High EQ teams are easy to spot because they demonstrate high levels of interpersonal competency across a wide range of day-to-day interactions. These are groups that work together to create high levels of trust, leverage conflict to produce good decisions, and hold each other accountable to produce and deliver outstanding results.

High EQ team members are not "divas" or "lone wolves." They are equally committed to each team member's success as much as they are to their own. They recognize that team members are interdependent upon each other for success. One of the clearest signs of a high EQ group is that tough issues get surfaced and resolved.

Conflict is seen as an ordinary and necessary part of problem solving. Important issues are passionately debated and discussed, but there are clear ground rules in place to contain any untoward emotional outbursts or personal attacks. Instead, honest dialogue and debate is used to address important issues.

High EQ teams also display a clear sense of commitment that leads to an alignment that focuses on achieving goals and outcomes. If team members do get sidetracked or derailed then other team members use accountability to get the stray member back on track or they surface the issue to the rest of the team or to leadership for an intervention. But, they do not let status and ego get in the way of teams delivering results.

High EQ Signs in Groups, Teams, and Organizations

* Team members trust each other enough to openly talk about their own strengths and weaknesses.

* Honest conflict is viewed as necessary and even desirable for effective decision-making.

* Passionate debate and discussion is used to generate alternative ideas and approaches so that the best course of action can be chosen from those created during open debate and dialogue.

* Senior organizational leaders are self-aware of their own power and influence and use appropriate self-control to regulate their own emotions as to have optimal communication with others. For example, they may wait to speak last at a meeting so that their comments do not stifle a more thorough and open discussion.

* Supervisors and managers demonstrate high levels of integrity and are trusted even though others may sometimes disagree with them about specific actions or decisions.

* Negative feedback is not avoided, but it is delivered to members in a way that preserves their professional pride and self-esteem as to assure continued employee engagement and positive motivation.

* The process used to achieve the outcome is as equally important as the outcome itself. Producing high results through unacceptable behavior does not meet the expected standard. The ends do not justify the means.

* Members can readily accept responsibility for their actions and they understand how their behavior, decisions, and reactions will resonate across other team members.

* Team members establish clear down ground rules for unacceptable behavior and the standards are well known to all. For example, problem solving is focused on learning from mistakes and not just assigning blame.

* Team members hold each other accountable, confront unacceptable behavior, and share credit for team success and achievements.

Why Low EQ in Teams and Groups Often Sabotages Success

Low EQ teams also show their own unique signs and styles. However, these behaviors tend to interfere with teams and organizations from being able to effectively deal with tough issues.

Low EQ teams often have fits and starts of success and emotional outbursts, especially when a crisis occurs. This affective instability often results in teams that produce inconsistent results.

Low EQ teams have members that often feel insecure, lack management competency, and tend to see conflict as a sign of dysfunction. Team members often dread meetings and their group interactions are characterized by an active avoidance of conflict and leave members with high levels of stress from leaving important issues unresolved.

Team members are unlikely to take bold risks or encourage other members to do so. Low EQ team members become experts at creating "pre-emptive" excuses so they can readily shift blame away from themselves when the team consistently fails to deliver results.

There is often a tacit agreement between members not to hold each other accountable so that team problems can be externalized to outside forces or unforeseen circumstances. This protects everyone's ego and status and does not force team members to examine how their own interactions propagate low performance and failing to deliver the results and goals expected.

Signs of Low EQ in Groups, Teams, & Organizations

* Team members are reluctant to openly admit their own weaknesses or mistakes and will rarely ask for help, even if it is clearly needed.

* Team members are reluctant to hold each other accountable to their commitments and responsibilities for fear that it may damage interpersonal relationships and others may then also hold them accountable.

* Fragile egos of senior leaders lead to "out of bounds" or "forbidden" topics that need to be addressed, but cannot because team members feel unsupported challenging the ineffective pet policies of key players.

* Individual competition and the need for high individual achievement often interfere with necessary cooperation and teamwork necessary to create the collaboration needed to create win-win solutions.

* Members are unwilling or incapable of passionate debate about critical issues, unless a crisis is looming, and then the conflict becomes personal and ineffective.

* Artificial Harmony exists among team members whenever powerful outside players are present. Everyone seems to get along swell when the regional vice-president is visiting.

* Time and energy are actively invested in avoiding conflict and directed toward shifting blame and responsibility onto others. "Pre-emptive" excuses and other ways to avoid accountability are frequently used to protect status and egos.

* Fear of making a "bad" decision often results in "analysis paralysis" and constant delays which prevent team members from taking decisive action. The need for a "perfect" solution gets in the way of an "effective" solution.

* Negative feedback is delivered inconsistently and often in a way that is not constructive. There are emotional outbursts and team members are made scapegoats for poor leadership.

* Team members often feel that they are being humiliated or embarrassed, while more senior managers see them as being too sensitive and needing a thicker skin.

* Organizational leaders do not accept responsibility for any issues relating to culture or morale. The problem is always with the person or the team and never with the organization or the culture.

What to Do If You Need to Raise Your Group's EQ?

If you are fortunate enough to belong to a high EQ team, then you already know what it feels like to be part of a successful group, team, or organization. If, however, you see your team acting in Low EQ ways, then you need to decide what you can do to make things better.

It's very important to realize that improving the EQ level of a group or team is a much tougher task than working with a single low performing team member. This is because you are dealing with group dynamics, different levels of interpersonal functioning, and a collection of egos and people who are likely to be fearful of change and doubt their own ability to improve. After all, they have developed a number of ineffective ways at deflecting responsibility and accountability, so don't expect them to welcome and opportunity to resolve the conflicts they have been actively avoiding.

The first place to start in developing higher group EQ is to assess where your team is functioning well now and where there is a clear need for professional development. Do not attempt do this job alone - get help. Locate either an internal or external expert who has experience in working with EQ and groups.

Work with your expert to establish exactly what behaviors are contributing to success and what behaviors are interfering with reaching team goals. Then figure out a set of strategies to advance team development around the core issues of trust, conflict management, commitment, and accountability. Remember, change is a process and not an event. Even with expert help, it may take 6-12 months of active focus before you see significant improvement

I can tell you, from personal experience, that it is possible to increase a team's EQ. But, it absolutely requires a strong and secure team leader who is able to recognize the signs of low EQ and how it is negatively affecting performance. The team leader must also be willing to ask for help, accept outside advice and counsel, and be willing to support ongoing change.

The expert and the team leader, working together, must develop ways for team members to hold each other accountable and for letting go of the old ways of interacting. Conflict avoidance must be abandoned and teams must be shown how to effectively integrate conflict into normal problem solving to achieve better results. Team members must be taught how to give and receive honest feedback in ways that address real issues. Finally, all team members must feel empowered enough to challenge members who lose focus or do not deliver on their commitments.

Not all teams can make the change from low EQ to high EQ. It's tough, takes hard work, and challenges the usual way of interacting. But, for those teams that are able to raise their EQ, they often find that they are capable of far more effective problem solving than they ever believed possible. High EQ team members have high levels of engagement, produce more high quality results, and are committed to their team and organization. Finally, high EQ teams often become talent magnets and attract top level talent across all levels of the organization.

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Thomas Haizlip has 1 articles online

About Thomas J. Haizlip, M.A.
Since 2000, I have helped transform great managers into great leaders. My experience and training as an expert in human behavior allows me to quickly assess and analyze what you need to do differently to move forward.
Over 50% of my clients have been promoted after working with me and learning how to become a more effective leader. Please, give me a call so I can help you move from where you are to where you want to be as a leader.

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How High is Your Team's Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

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This article was published on 2010/04/04