Most seasoned leaders know that emotional intelligence (EQ) is a necessary skill for success in the role. But research has shown that one person's EQ isn't enough for an entire team. Especially when teams are comprised of people with different interests, strengths, needs, and workstyles, it's the team's collective EQ that promotes success. Just as there as ways to increase your individual EQ, there are ways to increase that of the team, by creating conditions that establish trust between teammates, a sense of group identity, and a sense of group efficiency.
Here are five easy methods to try with your team.
1. Establish team agreements around collaboration
Research has found that small acts like showing appreciation and acknowledging differences in opinion build group EQ. Explicitly stating and agreeing on these small acts will ensure that everyone on the team recognizes and practices them. Bring your team together to identify what this looks like for you. My team had a meeting during our first week together in which we came up with Team Agreements. For something to be an agreement, everyone on the team had to agree to it, with the acceptance that an agreement could change at a future date with full team agreement. One of our agreements was that we wouldn't schedule unnecessary meetings during team collaboration time, which is 9:30 AM to 4 PM.
2. Have top-down meetings
When people multitask during meetings, for example by doing their work or responding to emails, they miss important information, the person speaking feels disrespected, and team discussions and decisions take longer. Discourage multitasking by having laptop-free (as one previous manager would say, "top-down") team meetings whenever possible. Then, ensure that people have enough time outside of meetings to attend to their individual work.
3. Create a team ritual
When team members are able to connect on some level other than work, they are more effective in working together, especially in times of higher stress. Encourage and support your team to identify some sort of daily or weekly joint activity that will allow them to connect on a personal level. This could be anything from a weekly team lunch to a daily one-song-workout (the latter is one of my all-time favorite team rituals).
4. Be open about people's strengths and weaknesses
The beauty of a team is that it invites a diverse set of people to come together. As in most social situations, problems arise when team members expect others to work and behave the same way they do. As a leader, encourage your team members to be open. Understanding and accepting differences early on will help the rest of the team understand how each person can contribute in the best way possible. At the start of every new project, each person on my team shares how he or she likes to work, stressors that the rest of the team should know about, and what he or she sees as personal strengths, opportunities, and goals.
5. Create a culture of giving and receiving feedback
Often, miscommunication between team members arises from a lack of communication in the first place. People may misunderstand someone's intentions, needs, or desires and without an opportunity to clear the air, the team becomes increasingly misaligned. Create a comfortable way for team members to give and receive feedback to and from you as well as to and from other teammates. My current project lead set the tone of open and honest feedback early on by helping the team understand that her feedback is always backed by good intentions. Feedback is typically done in person, and rarely in front of the entire team, creating a safe space for everyone.
EQ is commonly identified as an important skill for leaders. Perhaps the most emotionally intelligent thing they can do is build the emotional intelligence of their teams.