Emotional Intelligence (EQ) In Teams

By: Tracey Levison, Managing Partner at Above + Beyond Management Consulting

When Daniel Goleman published “Emotional Intelligence” in 1995, nobody expected his findings would transform the role of leadership. His argument, that the effectiveness of organizations rely equally on EQ as IQ, struck a chord with business world. Rather than being stuck with traditional top-down structures and value systems that were emotionally obtuse, the potential for positive change inspired people to develop their EQ so that they could make themselves more effective at work and at home.  

It’s clear that emotional intelligence has resonated deeply with business leaders. The issue, however, is that EQ competencies are understood at the individual level, when the truth is that most work today is done in groups. We know that teams are most productive when they achieve high levels of collaboration, cooperation, and participation. But how can we ensure that all team members apply the necessary emotional awareness in group settings?  Is it possible to create emotionally intelligent teams?

Breaking Down EQ

In our coaching and self-awareness assessments, we break down emotional intelligence into 6 measurable scales* :

1)  Mood Labelling: How accurately can you label your feelings and emotions, and to what extent can you interpret your feelings as they occur?

2)  Mood Monitoring: How much time do you dedicate to checking your mood?

3)  Self Control: Do you control your emotions, or do your emotions control you?

4)  Managing Emotional Influences: Do you act rationally and not give in to emotional influences, regardless of the situation or provocation?

5)  Empathy: Can you relate to the emotions of your team, clients, and organization, and adjust your style accordingly?

6)  Social Judgment: How well do you manage your relationships with others in understanding their perspectives and demonstrating an interest in their concerns?

*To understand these scales in more detail, read our article How to Measure Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

Team EQ

While EQ is critical for any well-established relationship, a group of emotionally intelligent people doesn’t necessarily make for an emotionally intelligent team.

Inspired by Goleman’s research, Vanessa Druskat and Steven Wolff investigated EQ at the group level.  Not only did their research re-affirm that the most effective teams are emotionally intelligent, but it also proved that Team EQ isn’t just the sum of its members’ individual EQ.

They found that there are three critical conditions to a team’s success: group trust, group identity, and group effectiveness (2001). To enable these conditions, there needs to be emotionally intelligent norms in place that support the attitudes and behaviours of building such effectiveness, identity and trust.

So, how do you achieve this? For starters, establish a common language that team members can adopt to improve how they communicate with one another and how they hold each other accountable. There also needs to be a culture in place that nurtures an environment where people can grow and try out new things without fear of making mistakes and being judged.

Play to Win

These beliefs all echoed the teachings of our mentor, Larry Wilson. He found that, in life and at work, people either Play to Win or Play Not to Lose. He defined Playing to Win as going as far as one can with all that they’ve got, and learning from whatever happens, and Playing Not to Lose as avoiding anything or anyone that might in any way hurt, embarrass, or make the situation uncomfortable.

When your people Play to Win, they must exercise their EQ to think, behave and relate in productive and positive ways, which ultimately enables them to drive better results for the organization. This will undoubtedly result in:  

  1. More passion for the work
  2. Higher engagement
  3. Stronger relationships and trust
  4. More effective communication
  5. More understanding and helpfulness

And more.   

It’s clear that, as the professional ecosystem becomes further connected and its evolving systems demand more complex teamwork, encouraging an EQ-focused team culture is now key to long-term employee engagement, sustainability, and success.


*To learn about our Play to Win workshops, click here.

How well do you understand your EQ? Contact us today to learn about how our coaching can elevate your EQ potential. For more information, click here.