Leaders have known for a long time that enhancing team cohesion is a critical driver of creativity and productivity within the workplace, and is essential for keeping projects on-task and team members on track.
However, until recently “team building” was normally encouraged through activities and exercises such as standing in a circle and catching one another as they fell backward to promoting feelings of trust.
While these types of exercises can be beneficial for creating feelings of community and physical trust among team members, they don’t do much to develop an internalized sense of team cohesion.
These days, modern leaders are turning to emotional intelligence to create team environments where all members can work together to achieve shared goals.
What Does an Emotionally Intelligent Team Look Like?
Before we dive in, let’s assess what an emotionally intelligent team looks like so you can begin to foster one within your place of work. Researchers Dr. Vanessa Druskat and Dr. Steven Wolff outlined the key attributes that can be found in teams and came to the following conclusion:
“Our research tells us that three conditions are essential to a group’s effectiveness: trust among members, a sense of group identity, and a sense of group efficacy.”
This finding tells us that the elements keeping workplace teams from realizing their ultimate potential and efficiently achieving their goals aren’t due to inexperience or a technical skill gap. Instead, challenges emerge because team members don’t feel comfortable enough to engage emotionally with each other and, as a result, can’t fully engage in the tasks at hand.
How can you foster a sense of community and emotional openness that promotes success of and cohesion in teams? Apply these steps:
Encourage Interpersonal Understanding
If team members are going to start emotionally engaging with one another in a more meaningful way, you need to facilitate opportunities for group awareness, and make a note of how each team member feels about group activities and goals.
However, it’s not enough to just ask: “what does everyone think?” to the group and hope that the answers you get are accurate. For example, an introverted employee might not feel comfortable sharing an idea unless encouraged to do so.
Facilitating specific and directed opportunities to discuss challenges and share feedback allows your teams to hear from and consider diverse perspectives, which can build team cohesion and enhance problem-solving.
Address Team Members Who Break Norms
Most workplaces already have a set of “OK, not OK” rules for behaviour with respect to treating teammates in the workplace, such as not shaming another team member for not knowing a fact, or understanding a concept with which other team members are familiar.
For example, a response to a question asked during a meeting such as: “how could you not know about that?!” must be addressed. The behavior is not acceptable and should be changed to reflect a more inclusive approach. Even if the accusatory nature of the question wasn’t intentional, these kinds of behaviors can be demeaning in a group setting.
If a situation like this comes up, address it in the moment instead of letting it slide. It’s not necessary to make someone feel bad about breaking the norm, but being vigilant about kindly and respectfully calling out and correcting a mistake in the moment ensures team safety and comfort.
Lead Your Team Through a Self-Evaluation
The easiest way to understand where your team's strengths and weaknesses lie is to regularly self-assess with members of your team. This can be done in a more official capacity by issuing evaluation exercises, or hiring a third-party consultant to walk your team through this process.
However, the most emotionally intelligent teams are ones that work to build feedback into their regular communication, through weekly team meetings or monthly “state of the union” meetings.
During these times, aim to keep feedback general and applicable to your whole team (no finger-pointing) and reflect on some of the major wins, setbacks, process changes and issues, taking note of individuals’ emotional states as you work alongside each other.
Practice Proactive Problem-Solving
Nobody should struggle through a problem alone if they’re on an emotionally intelligent team. Encourage team members to work together to help each other overcome challenges, and encourage a “pitch-in” mentality when it comes to tackling a tough problem or challenge.
The most successful and cohesive teams are those where team members all feel empowered to take the initiative to solve a problem, even if it isn’t directly related to their job title or duties. By offering a helping hand and working together, team members won’t feel isolated or stressed out by overwhelming deadlines and roadblocks preventing a project from progressing further.
No one is an island, and that applies to how we think about work as well. By leveraging your emotional intelligence to apply a “coach approach” to team leadership, you can guide your workplace teams to continued success by creating a safe, supportive, and positive working environment.
At EI Advantage, we help leaders and team members develop their Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to better understand how others approach change, how they deal with change on a personal level, and how your team can navigate challenges together. Want to learn more about how our services can help you improve your team’s overall performance? Contact us today or reach out on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.