How to: build an emotionally intelligent team

Friday, June 23, 2017 - 12:00
AIM Blog - How to: build an emotionally intelligent team

Emotional intelligence also known as EI, describes a person’s or team’s ability to recognise emotions, to understand their powerful effect, and to use that information to guide thinking and behaviour. As a leader wishing to build an emotionally intelligent team, you need to focus on building emotional intelligent individuals first.

To assist in developing an individual’s emotional intelligence, focus on the four core skills required:

  1. Identifying your feelings and those of others
  2. Using feelings to guide your own thinking and reasoning, along with others
  3. Understanding how feelings might change and develop as events unfold
  4. Managing to stay open to the data of feelings and integrate this into decisions and actions

In addition to working on the development of an individual’s emotional intelligence, what can a leader do to build a culture of emotional intelligence that produces a high performing team?

1. Get to know each team member

As a leader, if you want to get the best out of people, you should get to know them first. Understand that people can offer something beyond their role description and KPIs. A practical strategy to learn more about an individual’s potential is to see how they perform on projects outside of the scope of their traditional role.

Leadership top tip: Many sporting coaches employ this strategy when they play people out of their usual position on a sporting field. This tactic allows a coach (leader) to see what unique skills and abilities can be unlocked when they’re taken out of their comfort zone. It’s important to note that this approach is not about making people feel uncomfortable or putting them under pressure, it’s about giving them space to grow and demonstrating you trust them to try new things and learn new skills.

2. Develop a team language

It’s the little things that make a big difference. While it’s great to deliver the final results of a big project after weeks and months of work, sometimes it’s nice to just get a simple thank you for passing the stapler. This gesture goes beyond simply being polite, it’s about building a culture of language and behaviour norms that help team members to feel appreciated and empowered, every minute of the day.

Leadership top tip: During team discussions, ensure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute ideas and make it explicit within your team culture that listening to others is just as important as having your say. Overall, look at the ideals and culture that your organisation aspires to and discuss how your team is going to operate and interact with each other in order to create that inclusive culture.

3. High-performance doesn’t equal high-stress

Stress and productivity very rarely work well together. When team members are relaxed and working harmoniously, they approach tasks with an open mind and genuine enthusiasm. Conversely, when people are stressed, they can burn out very quickly and begin underperforming. Deadlines and disagreements will still be a natural part of the daily working routine but there are ways to manage these potential stresses in a healthy way.

Leadership top tip: Ensure your schedules are realistic and avoid overloading team members with projects. While we all multitask to some extent, the best results are achieved when team members apply their focus to a core objective. In addition to realistic expectations, ensure your team feels comfortable discussing their workload when they feel they might be overloaded. When team members are consistently working after hours or without taking a break, it’s important to intervene and ensure those working habits aren’t normalised. Make it clear that work-life balance takes precedence over meeting deadlines.

Whether you’ve got a team of 2 people or 200, developing emotional intelligence across your organisation yields big results. While the advice above will help you get started on building emotionally intelligent teams, the best returns come from an investment in the skills and knowledge of your people. AIM offers a great variety of programs for developing emotionally intelligent leaders and we can even develop a tailored program for building emotional intelligence capability across your organisation. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you develop the building blocks of successful teams.