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7 Steps To Foster Emotional Intelligence In Your Team

Discover 7 steps that leaders can take to develop and strengthen emotional intelligence among the employees they lead.

The following is a guest piece by John Rampton on behalf of The Economist Executive Education Navigator.

When Daniel Goleman released “Emotional Intelligence” in 1995, did anyone think that this best-selling book would transform the role of leadership?

After selling more than 5,000,000 copies and being dubbed “a revolutionary, paradigm-shattering idea” by the Harvard Business Review, it’s clear that Goleman struck a chord with business leaders.  But, is it possible to create emotionally intelligent teams?

In their landmark research findings published in “Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups”, Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff assert that emotional intelligence underlies the effective processes of successful teams and that such resulting processes cannot be imitated; they must originate from genuine emotional intelligence at the team level.

Druskat and Wolff use the following analogy to back-up their point: “a piano student can be taught to play Minuet in G, but he won’t become a modern-day Bach without knowing music theory and being able to play with heart.”

While creating successful teams isn’t as simple as mimicking the processes of emotionally intelligent groups of people, what you can do is create the necessary conditions in which team members can develop their emotional intelligence. Those three conditions are: trust among members, a sense of group identity and a sense of group efficacy.

Here are the seven things you can do to foster these three conditions that constitute emotionally intelligent teams:

1. Have a ring leader
Before you can start improving your team’s EI, you have to work on yourself by cultivating:

  • Self-awareness – leaders aren’t only self-aware; they also know how to recognize their emotions.
  • Emotional management – leaders are able to maintain their cool.
  • Effective communication – leaders are able to clearly express their thoughts.
  • Social awareness – leaders can realize what’s going on and give valuable feedback.
  • Conflict resolution – leaders can effectively handle conflicts and offer a resolution.

On top of these EI traits, leaders should also be respected by their team members. That can be accomplished by working on these five traits of business leaders who are respected:

  • Act polite and respectful – leaders treat everyone with common courtesy.
  • Show a willingness to change – leaders learn from their mistakes and failures so that you can grow.
  • Listen – leaders don’t just listen, they ask their employees what’s going on and leaders ask for employee feedback.
  • Avoid excuses – leaders own up to their own mistakes.
  • Help others – leaders are always willing to lend a helping hand whenever someone needs it.

Remember, if you want your team to become more emotionally intelligent, then you must first work on building your own personal EI and becoming a leader that your team can respect and someone they can rally behind.

2. Identify team members’ strengths and weaknesses
Your team members are more than just employees or a job title. They’re unique individuals who have great stories to tell. Your employees also have diverse skills, talents, and knowledge that could be beneficial to your overall goals.

If you want to make the most of every team member, then start by getting to know them better. Preferably, you should learn to know more about them outside of a project so that you can see what they can bring to the table outside of their traditional job role or title. Hewlett-Packard, according to Druskat and Wolff, likes to have each of their employees work at cross-training. This means team members see, “if each member could pinch-hit on everyone else’s job.”

Additionally, you want to look beyond first impressions, encourage innovation, let your team members do the teaching, and offer rewards and recognition.

When a team member does make a mistake, offer useful feedback so that the leader shows the person that they are more important than the process of merely being reprimanded.

3. Spark passion
First, as a leader, make sure that you hire the right team members. I’m not just talking about people with the skills or experience. I’m talking about individuals who fit into your company’s culture and are passionate about their work and your business.

Even though you’ve hired the right individuals, this doesn’t mean that they won’t run out of passion from time-to-time. To prevent sagging energy from occurring, you can spark passion by doing the following:

  • Recognizing the accomplishments and hard work of your team members
  • Having a flexible and engaging work environment where teamwork is valued
  • Making sure that your company has a mission that you are working toward so that everyone has a sense of purpose

4. Build team norms
As Druskat and Wolff state in “Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups”:

“Group emotional intelligence is about small acts that make a big difference. It is not about a team member working all night to meet a deadline; it is about saying thank you for doing so. It is not about an in-depth discussion of ideas; it is about asking a quiet member for his thoughts. It is not about harmony, lack of tension, and all members liking each other; it is about acknowledging when harmony is false, tension is unexpressed, and treating others with respect.”

Remember, when you do establish rules, make sure that they connect to your values. When these guidelines support both your business and your team members beliefs, they’ll be more inclined to jump to support and back these rules.

5. Develop creative ways to manage stress
Stress can lead to your employees getting burned out, as well as harm their overall health. Because of this, your team should be able to handle situations such as deadlines and grievances with other coworkers in a healthy way.

To help keep the stress levels of your employees down, try some of the following tactics:

  • Stick to schedules: Rushing and extending projects can affect your team’s time management habits and skills.
  • Encourage team members to disconnect from work and take breaks: Give everyone a chance to rejuvenate by giving them some time to focus on activities that can help them relax.
  • Discourage multitasking: The multitasking technique does not work. In fact, it can double the amount of time it takes to complete a task. Encourage employees to focus on one task at a time.
  • Resolve conflicts: Not everyone in the workplace is going to get along. However, addressing any issues before they disrupt the office is a great stress reducer.
  • Be empathetic: You should be aware of what motivates your team, as well as any challenges, that you’re team may be experiencing. For example, if a team member has lost a loved one, then you should be compassionate and understand that their mind is elsewhere and ask how you can be supportive of them.

6. Allow team members to have a voice
Having excellent communication skills is an absolute must. You can help your team members develop stronger communication skills by having them work on active listening, gaining a better understanding of body language, and giving them a channel to vent their frustrations or concerns.

However, don’t let those negative emotions drag the entire team down. Instead, use it constructively so that your team can solve a problem together and figure out how to way to address the problem.

Additionally, you should also give your team the opportunity to share their ideas. The Hay Group, a consulting firm, uses a ‘storyboarding’ technique where team members create a small poster that represents their ideas. And, make sure that you even ask and encourage your quiet team members what they think.

7. Encourage employees to work and play together
While there can be disadvantages to spending every waking moment together, having employees who spend time with each other outside of the workplace can actually be beneficial to the workplace.
Stephen Ufford from Trulioo tells SUCCESS:

“Team members should definitely hang out outside of work. It makes working together more enjoyable and helps co-workers stay motivated during crunch time. These types of relationships fuel open communication, a good work ethic, flexibility and a better understanding of each person’s roles and expectations. If you hire the right professionals, workplace drama will be minimal.”

Grant Gordon from Solomon Consulting Group adds:

“Whether you have a customary Friday afternoon beer with your co-workers, take the whole team to a baseball game a few times a season or sweat together in corporate challenge events, the result is the same: Colleagues who are in each other’s lives work harder. You’re no longer a collection of individuals who gather in an office but a true community pulling for group success.”

Raoul Davis, Ascendant Group, says:

“Culture isn’t only built within the four walls of your business. Having employees that enjoy spending time together can help make work that much more enjoyable and lead to their hearts being more into the day-to-day work they are doing for the company.”

Here’s to creating a much more emotionally intelligent team this year!

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is founder of online payments company Due.

This article originally appeared on The Economist Executive Education Navigator. Click here to view the original article.

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