Authentic Success for 2016

Authentic Success for 2016

— Marcia Hughes and James Terrell

success_pathHow was your 2015? What are you seeking for your personal success indicators in 2016? To gain a viable answer hold an internal conversation between your ideal self (how you would most like to live) and your real self (how you really live) and develop an authentic structure to your goals. Authentic success integrates these two parts into a happier and more successful you. Our article was so well received in earlier years as a way to frame moving into the New Year, that it’s back by popular demand.

Authentic success begets peace of mind because you are living and working in accordance with your values, strengths, and your sense of purpose instead of living in conflict. Reaching this highly desired state requires personal awareness. Without it you will be missing the joy from your current wealth by only focusing on what hasn’t happened. Happiness and optimism, both components of emotional intelligence, are vital to experiencing authentic success. The following 10 Actions are based on years of research in the fields of emotional intelligence and positive psychology and set forth choices you can make to change the quality of your life in 2016.

10 Actions to Make Your

2016 a Year of Authentic Success

  1. Define happiness. Know what you are looking for when you are seeking happiness. True happiness isn’t the quick food fix; even Belgian chocolates bring a temporary response. As an article by Carlin Flora, “The Pursuit of Happiness” in Psychology Today states, “The most useful definition – and it’s one agreed upon by neuroscientists, psychiatrists, behavioral economists, positive psychologists, and Buddhist monks – is more like satisfied or content than ‘happy’ in its strict bursting-with-glee sense. It has depth and deliberation to it. It encompasses living a meaningful life, utilizing your gifts and your time, living with thought and purpose. It’s maximized when you also feel part of a community. And when you confront annoyances and crises with grace. It involves a willingness to learn and stretch and grow, which sometimes involves discomfort. It requires acting on life, not merely taking it in. It’s not joy, a temporary exhilaration, or even pleasure, that sensual rush – though a steady supply of those feelings course through those who seize each day.”

Action: Happiness is closely tied to being aware of what success truly means for you. Write your own definition of what Authentic Success means to you and intend to live in synch with your truth about Authentic Success in 2016.

  1. Practice mindfulness. While defined in a variety of ways, mindfulness simply means paying attention. Notice how you are feeling and why and then make a choice to stick with your current path or take a breath and intentionally shift.

Action: Set a time each day when you will review your day with intention to notice and expand your mindfulness. Even a short review will make a difference.

  1. Be you. Embrace yourself. Know your good points and that which you don’t consider so favorably. Know your styles and preferences and trust you are a good and resilient person. We received the following quote awhile ago and we give profound credit to whoever first said it though we don’t know the original source.

Action: Print this out and tape it around your environment:


  1. Practice your 2% Solution. As Marcia describes in Life’s 2% Solution, the 2% Solution requires just half an hour a day (3 ½ hours a week if it works better to cluster your time). Spend that time doing something that’s deeply nurturing, meaningful, fulfilling to you. It may be what you’ve vowed to do later when you are free to explore long-delayed purposeful pursuits. This seemingly small expenditure of time is even more critical in today’s harried world, where work deadlines loom, the carpool to soccer awaits, the dry cleaning is piling up, and a dinner party fills up whatever free time is left. We get it all done, yet feel incomplete. This stress-filled existence leaches away our creativity, passion and sense of fulfillment. We sacrifice the long-view of our lives for short-term results, to check something off a list. No doubt, that scenario leads to burnout.

Action: Integrate your enhanced awareness from taking some of the above steps with your own 2% project. Investing 2% of your time in an unusual way on yourself will make a world of difference. It’s an achievable way of creating more work/life balance without having to turn your life upside down by radical change. You can learn more and follow the 10 step process found in my book Life’s 2% Solution.

  1. Relationships matter. Take time for friends and choose friends who support the values you wish to live with.

Action: Notice who your friends are. Ask yourself if you are giving the time it takes to cultivate valuable relationships. If not make a change. Keep your expectations of time with friends manageable.

  1. Carpe diem! Seize the day.

Action: Today is the only version of this day you’ll ever have. Take advantage of it!

  1. Know your values. It’s easy to get caught up in the multitude of options that expand daily from numbers of cereals to forms of entertainment to interesting books. We all have twenty-four hours in a day. Take advantage of your day by knowing what is truly important so you don’t get distracted with the job of making too many unimportant choices.

Action: Make a list of your top values – somewhere between five and ten items at the most. Then practice connecting your values with your choices.

  1. Create. It feels good! Humans are amazingly creative beings. You probably create much more than you realize and miss giving yourself credit for your gifts.

Action: Intentionally make a soup, draw a picture, write a letter. Whatever feels simply good to you and then stop and acknowledge the act of creating and give yourself time to enjoy.

  1. Express gratitude. This is a big one. Anytime you want to build happiness, be grateful for what you do have and go find a way to give. So much of authentic happiness is based in giving your gifts and in being a good and compassionate human being. Don’t make it hard; find easy and natural ways to give with no strings attached. Pay it forward is a great strategy.

Action: Take time to stop and say thank you. Notice how you feel and how the recipient feels. Keep a gratitude journal. Notice five to ten events that occur each day for which you are grateful. Be specific. Feel the gratitude in your heart as you write your list and as you read it over.

  1. Smile. It’s impossible to be grumpy and smile at the same time.

Action: If you are willing to change your emotional state, you will. Breathe, notice what is going on, notice any tension you are holding in your body, and be willing to let it go. Be quiet and smile for a full minute.

Authentic success combines your inner and outer strengths, though integrating these two is not always so easy. Good luck on your journey. We’re always interested in learning from you about how this works. Comment on our blog.

Helping Teams Where It Hurts

pie-7-3dWhile most of the work for organizations is accomplished by teams, just imagine team productivity if their pain was attended to! You can listen to our recent webinar to gain many specific strategies on how to help teams make this transition. In this article we will highlight several areas where we’ve seen considerable team pain and strategies for resolving the concerns.

Much of team pain revolves around emotions including as part of how they handle relationships, how they manage their impulses, and how team members communicate their emotions and manage their assertiveness. Each of these and so many other challenges are resolved by effective use of emotional and social intelligence, often labeled EI. Emotional Intelligence, or better yet, emotional and social effectiveness, is a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way. Teams benefit from team members who are skilled in effective EI and where they apply EI at the group level.

7 team competencies measured by the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey (TESI) provide a strategic format for understanding team pain.

Team Identity reflects the level of pride and connection members feel with the team. It indicates how well the team demonstrates belongingness, and how strong a sense of role clarity is established for each member.

Pain/ Challenge points show up as:

  • Disengaged / apathetic behavior
  • Self-focused not team just a group of individuals
  • Failure to know & agree on goals/mission

Solutions or strategic actions include:

  • Facilitated retreat with an expert guiding the team through challenges and to develop new ways
  • Build WIFFM (what’s in it for me and for my team) so everyone knows WHY they are on they are on the team and why everyone else is there as well.
  • Share responsibilities.

Motivation shows the team’s level of internal resources for generating and sustaining the energy necessary to get the job done well and on time. It gives feedback on whether creative thinking is promoted and if members are driven to achieve together.

Pain / Challenge points show up as:

  • Lack of trust
  • Lack of purpose
  • Lack of advocacy


  • Team collaborates to establish purpose through focused discussion and an emphasis on reaching agreement that then is broadly stated and made visible to the full organization
  • Establish reliable consistent communication
  • Leaders advocate for the team and team members know about the advocacy.

Emotional Awareness measures how sensitive and responsive team members are to each other’s feelings. Does the team value and respect negative as well as positive feelings?

Pain / Challenge points show up as:

  • Missing non-verbal communication, resulting in many feeling misunderstood
  • Feeling wounded, taken for granted or not being seen
  • Ignoring team members


  • Non-verbal skills building
  • Listen with the ears of your heart through active listening practice and then keeping attention on continuing to build this skill
  • Focus on each member at various times in team meetings, have them give brief presentations, lead a topical discussion or take on other responsibilities.

Communication reflects how accurately the team sends and receives emotional and cognitive information. It indicates how well team members listen, encourage participation, share information and discuss sensitive matters. It indicates the extent to which team members acknowledge contributions and give feedback to one another.

Pain / Challenge is reflected through:

  • Poor listeners
  • Introverts not finding ways to engage
  • Missing the message


  • Active listening practice
  • Develop new engagement strategies to bring team members together in new pairs or small groups that haven’t worked together as much
  • Match message & receiver by literally stopping during communications sometimes to see if what one is responding to reflects understanding of what the other intended to communicate.

Stress Tolerance measures how well the team understands the types and intensity of the stress factors impacting its members and the team as a whole. It addresses whether team members feel safe with one another, and if they will step in if someone on the team needs help. Stress tolerance reflects the level of work/life balance that the team is able to achieve including its ability to manage workload expectations.

Pain / Challenge

  • Increasingly being asked to do more with less
  • Team members feeling like they are in an emotionally unsafe work environment
  • Resistance


  • Listen & respond
  • Facilitated intervention
  • Establish positive approach by building speaking and acting strategies that create a positive environment – catch people doing things well and commend them!

Conflict Resolution capabilities show how willing the team is to engage in conflict openly and constructively without needing to get even. It measures the ability to be flexible and to respond to challenging situations without blaming one another. Conflict is natural, and will happen when any team is engaged in fulfilling its purpose. It can be an opportunity for growth or it can destroy a team.

Pain / Challenge

  • Increasingly being asked to do more with less
  • Abuse of power by leaders or de facto leaders
  • Poor impulse control


  • Build individual EI skills through individual and group coaching and training
  • Set boundaries and enforce accountability
  • Train and hold team members accountable to work together to resolve conflict.

Positive Mood reflects the positive attitude of the team in general as well as when the team is under pressure. Positive mood scores indicate the members’ willingness to provide encouragement, their sense of humor, and how successful the team expects to be. It is a major support for a team’s flexibility and resilience. Positive Mood gives feedback on how well the team deals with pressure and if the team has a can-do attitude.

Pain / Challenge

  • Missing work/life balance
  • No support from leaders above
  • Dysfunctional organizational culture


  • Act to manage workload
  • Create support among the team members
  • Advocate for organizational change – show the way through your team’s functioning!

The benefits to noticing where your teams have pain and proactively responding are quite likely to exceed your expectations! Give it a go!

Can Virtual Teams Demonstrate Emotional & Social Intelligence?

Marcia Hughes, Donna Dennis, James Terrell

virtual_teamWhen Manuel cut off Maria and implied her research was simplistic during the recent team webinar, most of the other team members checked out and started doing email. Maria wiped a tear away and swore to herself that she wouldn’t risk participating again. The Team Leader, who is a top notch engineer and is signed up for his first management training class next month, said nothing. This interaction cost the team and the organization in terms of engagement, trust, and willingness to take risks with one another, yet nothing may ever be done about it. Virtual teams face big challenges in being able to connect at an interpersonal level. They are challenged with non-verbal communication, conflict resolution and forming a strong identity. Virtual teams are likely to struggle more than other teams in using their brain biology support system of mirror neurons, spindle cells and oscillators, which Dan Goleman and Richard Boyatzis recently described as core to using social intelligence (Harvard Business Review OnPoint, Spring 2011).

Yet no matter how big the challenges virtual teams are proliferating. So what should a good leader and organization do? Applying a team centered model to measure and build ESI (emotional and social intelligence) will provide the framework for understanding and proceeding successfully to build measurable team ESI skills. First, let’s understand what we mean by ESI and by a virtual team.

ESI is a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.

Another way to think about ESI is that it encompasses your ability to recognize and manage your own skills and to recognize and respond effectively to those of others. These skills, or their lack, are exhibited daily by individuals, leaders and teams. The question is how well these engagement skills are demonstrated. The answer is to have a deliberate process for expanding the skills the particular team needs.

Virtual teams are teams that are working from dispersed locations so that they do not have the opportunity to work together face to face frequently.

ESI challenges for virtual teams include:

  • Developing emotional awareness of one another
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Developing trust
  • Communications challenges prevail due to:
    • Confused or ignored commitments on response time to one another
    • Lack of visual and non-verbal cues
    • Often cultural and language differences
    • Lack of emotional and social tags that create a sense of connection
    • Relying on email to get work done

These challenges need to be taken seriously because they can cost the organization, team and individuals in many ways including through lessened engagement, decreased productivity, higher turnover, and missed creative opportunities. Fortunately, these challenges can be addressed. By using a solid model through which the team members are given a voice about their functioning as a team their ESI can measurably grow.

The model we explore using is the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey® (TESI®), which is composed of seven scales that measure a team’s strengths or challenges. The survey is an internal 360 on team performance as it results from team members responding confidentially to a survey about their team performance. With the data in hand from the survey, the team can frankly discuss their strengths and opportunities as well as their different experiences of being on the team. Best of all they can then create an action plan to support their development. Later the team can retake the TESI and measure their progress, which will be depicted through a pre-post chart.

7 TESI Skills & Opportunities for Virtual Teams

Team Identity reflects how well the team connects with one another and demonstrates belongingness and pride in the team. It also includes role and responsibility clarification. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Making agreements and keeping them- trust builds through keeping commitments in virtual teams
  • Establishing communication agreements, e.g. response time
  • Clarifying roles & responsibilities
  • Creating a logo or motto
  • Naming themselves

Communication reflects how accurately the team members send and receive emotional and cognitive information. It indicates how well they listen, encourage participation, share information and discuss sensitive matters. Communication indicates the extent to which team members acknowledge contributions and give feedback to one another. Trust must be built faster in virtual teams and if key components are not attended to early, the team is not likely to have the foundation it needs to get work done at a distance. Trust is initially built by making and keeping agreements. Thus strong communication strategies will support the team in moving forward to experiencing trust beginning with trusting the communication process. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Establishing a communication process with understood time commitments
  • Practicing active listening virtually
  • Setting up conversations in pairs – virtually have coffee or lunch
  • Building reflective skills

Emotional awareness measures how sensitive and responsive team members are to each other’s feelings. Does the team value and respect negative as well as positive feelings? This scale measures the amount of attention the team pays to noticing, understanding, and respecting the feelings of its members. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Taking a personality assessment and use the information, such as the MBTI or Emergenetics. Understanding work preferences will facilitate smoother interactions with team members.
  • Working with the TESI to build understanding of preferences.
  • Matching technology to task
  • Telling stories about something that happened when working alone
  • Asking questions and listening, checking out the accuracy of what is understood

Motivation is the competency that shows the team’s level of internal resources for generating and sustaining the energy necessary to get the job done well and on time. It gives feedback on whether creative thinking is promoted and whether competition is working for or against the team. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Setting stretch goals
  • Intentionally reinforce what works
  • Catch each other succeeding and talk about it- make sure team members know this is a part of what they need to do as well

Stress Tolerance is a measure of how well the team understands the types and intensity of the stress factors impacting its members and the team as a whole. It addresses whether team members feel safe with one another, and if they will step in if someone on the team needs help. Stress tolerance reflects the level of work/life balance that the team is able to achieve including its ability to manage workload expectations. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Talking about a non-work joy
  • Agreeing to all go for a walk at the same time
  • Getting up and stretch during the virtual session

Conflict resolution scores show how willing the team is to engage in conflict openly and constructively without needing to get even. It measures the ability to be flexible and to respond to challenging situations without blaming one another. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Expanding dispute resolution skills
  • Pacing one another
  • Practicing paying attention

Positive Mood reflects the positive attitude of the team in general as well as when the team is under pressure. Positive mood scores indicate the members’ willingness to provide encouragement, their sense of humor, and how successful the team expects to be. It is a major support for a team’s flexibility and resilience. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Going to the movies together (in different cities)
  • Supporting team members in setting up a time for two to use Skype or an equivalent and have a drink together, be it coffee or…
  • Making a big and consistent deal of celebrating successes!

There are many resources that will support your ability to use these resources. Attend or watch our webinar on this topic, our books Developing Emotional Intelligence: Exercises for Leaders and Teams, The Handbook for Developing Emotional Intelligence, A Facilitator’s Guide to Team Emotional and Social Intelligence, A Coach’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence, The Emotionally Intelligent Team, and Emotional Intelligence in Action, Second Edition.

We welcome your contacting us for more information.

Donna Dennis, Leadership Solutions Consulting, is an expert on virtual teams.


The 7 R’s to Team Motivation

7rMotivation is your team’s commitment to mobilize its three primary resources: time, energy and intelligence. We guide you through understanding how to motivate your team in Chapter Four of The Emotionally Intelligent Team. There’s no cookie cutter approach for creating motivation – the right strategies need to connect with your team. There are tools for success! As a team, focus on the values supporting your work, the relationships and the rewards available.

We have emphasized the research by Daniel Pink that three critical elements support individual motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose. These are all essential for team as well and you’ll see these principles included in the 7 R’s below. Autonomy includes the chance to operate with independence and to influence your work. Mastery gives the team as a whole as well as individual team members the opportunity to be great at their work. Purpose is unquestionably the driving force for why we do what we do. It’s the source of pride in our work, the core of authentic motivation.

Leaders use their influence and behaviors to motivate teams through the 7 R’s.

  1. Reason – match team members’ WIIFM – help them answer the questions of “What’s in it for me?” and “What’s in it for our team?” Create a reason to engage. Tie the reason for the team’s existence to their purpose and help them develop mastery in their skills.
  1. Respect – take time to get to know the members of the team and demonstrate that you value each and every member. Deliberately share respect between team members. Autonomy is a key component of respect and can unfold in multiple ways by giving the full team some creative time as well as providing the time to individual team members or to sub-groups. Google is one of the best known companies that have gained great results by giving teams autonomy, yet the teams are also expected to collaborate intensely. This requires integrity and real engagement – and leads to powerful productivity. Respect for the team and team members is an integral component of an overarching purpose that everyone is excited about.
  1. Relationships – you can’t bend on this one – compromises are costly. Lead your team to connect with one another and to consistently demonstrate regard. When teams are focused on accomplishing a powerful purpose, there is a natural inclination to build strong relationships to accomplish the common good.
  1. Resilience – let the team know you are committed to engaging with them and that you’ll help gain the resources needed to the best extent possible. Resilience is supported by optimism, which is best experienced as a contagious sense of hopefulness around the team. Resilience is a big concept and casts a powerful web to support success. When all three components of autonomy, mastery and purpose are actively present team resilience expands.
  1. Responsibility – hold people consistently accountable. Let them know their responsibilities are tied to the team accomplishing its mission and providing value. Thus when autonomy is provided, ask the team to then come back and report on what they learned. It’s fine if the creative project wasn’t a huge success, what’s important is that they learned and that the learning is shared in a collaborative spirit.
  1. Rewards & Reinforcement – notice daily positive accomplishments and say something positive right away. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking money is the way to motivate your team. Surprisingly money can demotivate a team. What team members need in addition to respectful pay is to be treated with respect, included in the discussions on why the mission/purpose is valuable, and acknowledged for work done well – promptly. Supporting their ability to develop mastery so they can do their job well is one of the strongest rewards available.
  1. Role Model – like it or not “monkey see, monkey do” holds a lot of truth for human behavior. Researchers have found that our mirror neurons are one of our most powerful sources for learning. Develop your mastery and hold yourself accountable to act the way you would like your team members to behave.

This is the stuff of motivation and results in team productivity accomplished by a team that is experiencing emotional and social well-being.

Inside Out for Adults – Mindfulness

Inside Out – Pixar, Walt Disney Pictures

Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness interact in Inside Out, a 2015 American computer-animated comedy-drama film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures. The film is set in the mind of an 11 year old girl, Riley, who has been very happy until her parents uproot her as they move from Minnesota to San Francisco. She becomes unhappy in her new world without friends and her emotions go through considerable turbulence before they get it together and help her tell her parents of her troubles. Riley’s parents comfort her and a year later she has friends and a new capacity to hold emotional complexity. Go see the movie; it’s good for all ages!

There’s much more to the story, which does an excellent job of showing how emotions activate our responses, work with memories and can lead us to derail or succeed. Emotions always influence our behavior and our decisions. The question is how to engage with our emotions so we are successful and the movie helps us learn more about how this process works.

One key component in Inside Out is the interplay between the emotions of joy and sadness. Joy has run Riley’s emotions much of her life until the move, and then Sadness begins to have impacts. Joy seeks to prevent Sadness having an influence, but after a fairly difficult adventure they learn of the importance of these two emotions working together. While Joy and Sadness are gone on their learning journey, Fear, Anger and Disgust start guiding Riley’s behavior, which leads to starting to run away and other consequences.

Adults can learn a great deal from this reflection on emotional interaction. We can stop and reflect asking ourselves:

  • “What emotions run my show? What are the consequences?
  • “Would I like to make any changes?”
  • “What one change would I like to inquire about first?”

Personal Inquiry is an opportunity to stop and listen, to reflect, recognize and perhaps reorganize our thoughts or our behavior. It is a key part of being mindful. Mindfulness has many powerful descriptions created by those who coach or teach personal development or personal evolution. It is core to many spiritual practices and is central to many strategies for expanding emotional and social intelligence. Webster defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” It’s paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the physical environment without judgment. Mindfulness can be a powerful and restful state.

Stopping, breathing and being mindful provides an opportunity to gain perspective, to allow complexity of emotions to develop as they integrate, and then to peacefully choose your next response instead of being at the effect of a situation. This strategy taps into all 16 EI skills; some of the most prominent are emotional self-awareness, reality testing, impulse control, optimism and happiness.

One excellent article, published by Greater Good in Action, on Inside Out, emphasizes four lessons from children from the movie. Joy worked hard to suppress Sadness in the movie and that can be dangerous the author’s point out. Joy drew a circle away from the action board and asked Sadness to just stand in it so she wouldn’t impact Riley. Emotions can be tough, but they need to be experienced in age appropriate ways. Suppressing sadness can lead to anxiety and depression. Trying to reinterpret an event so it isn’t as difficult, sometimes called cognitive reappraisal or reframing, can cause the message of the difficult emotion to be camouflaged but not eliminated – and this can be costly later on as it could lead to emotional explosion or to self-medicating to keep the emotions away.

One of the best ways of managing impulse control can be to find safe ways to know how we feel and to process responses to those feelings. Then those difficult emotions are not lying in wait to jump out when we’re crossed in just the wrong way. Mindfulness, together with personal inquiry, helps us slow down and recognize the complexity of our feelings and then respond thoughtfully. It helps us manage our Resilience Meter™ as we’ve discussed in other articles. Mindfulness practice holds many gifts including the integration of our emotions at a level that allows us to live the purpose inspired life we prefer.

Top 10 Reasons for Playing!

reasons to play1. It feels good and makes you happy!

2. Happy is good! Good for your health, for your decisionmaking, for your relationships….. Heck, what isn’t it good for?

3. It’s good for our world economy – a stretch? Maybe, but what about the recreation dollars we spend even if were just driving to a great hike in the forest and taking a picnic. And happy people have more capacity to slug through the difficult conversations to get to good collaborative decisions. Tell that to the G20 or even the G7 leaders!

4. We build resilience, defined as the ability to recover quickly from setbacks and elasticity, as in the ability to spring back after things are bent out of shape. Resilience is enhanced through play, through relaxing and through nourishing reflecting. Play regularly to be prepared for life’s twists and turns.

5. It makes other people happy.

6. You can get good exercise and increase your cardio vascular functioning.

7. Brain health and wellbeing.

8. We satisfy our own developmental need to be creative and feel competent.

9. We can be more creative while playing with novel possibilities in an environment where we can be flexible and relaxed.

10. To interact and be reflective without it seeming so serious Hey, why did we miss that grounder when Holly hit it? What shall our team do next time?

Play has been described as unplanned behavior, in other words activity that emerges and evolves spontaneously from within its own context. It occurs in a climate that facilitates creativity and innovation. Young children accomplish the majority of their most critical early learning through play. But guess what, adults learn best in the same sort of attitude relaxed curiosity. We just don’t emphasize play nearly as much as can serve us. For children play is considered valuable because it develops their social relationship skills, helps build positive interactions between the child and their classmates, and provides the chance to let off a bit of steam (reduce or prevent anger). It also builds on their skills of sharing and taking turns. Isn’t this what we want for ourselves, our families and our teams? Of course it is!

At Collaborative Growth were declaring July as a great month for playing. We hope you take time to enjoy this beautiful month whether it’s quite sunny for you in the northern part of our globe or snow is whitening your world in the southern hemisphere.

We also want to express our gratitude for Freedom. In the United States where we live, July 4th is the day we celebrate our nation’s Independence. Let us all embrace freedom with our intentions that really includes liberty and justice for all to help build a world that. Neurologists assure us that seeing requires believing so let’s join our combined vision in seeing a world that works for all!

Blessings and our thanks to all of you! Marcia and James

Why Teamwork Gets So Tricky

people_puzzleAfter more than 20 years of investigation and practical application at Collaborative Growth, the results are in:

Developing leaders is comparatively easy. Developing teams…well that’s a different story – and here’s why. Any individual who is interested in becoming a more effective communicator (and this is the most fundamental and far-reaching skill of leadership) can practice the known skills that will make him or her easier to understand. Leaders can become more persuasive, and if they sincerely want to work on increasing their authenticity, they can genuinely become more trustworthy. It is simply a matter of exercising their own initiative. Their only real obstacles are internal –their occasional lack of willpower, the strength of their bad habits, their inability to focus their attention or muster sufficient energy. And if they don’t develop quite as rapidly as they wanted to their sincerity is not called into question and there is no embarrassment if their plans were private goals.

Developing teams also requires the development of effective communication skills, however this time for a group of individuals all at the same time. This is definitely a much more difficult and public undertaking. At the very least everybody on the team knows that change is afoot, some kind of progress is expected, and this progress is going to disrupt the way power is currently balanced and what – engaged, coordinated, distributed, practiced, implemented, effectuated? All of these words come close but none exactly capture the idea, so perhaps we could say developing team effectiveness disrupts the way in which members communicate their power within the team. This usage is a little unusual but perhaps it captures the situation a bit more crisply.

In these days of “do more with less” there are very few teams that are overstaffed. For everyone who has a spot on the team there usually is some specific expectation that they need to meet in order for the team to reach its goals. If someone isn’t happy with the way things are going (or if they don’t really know how to or want to do the role which they have been assigned) they can innocently make it look like someone else is to blame. We call this disassembling.

Primates learn to deceive at a very early age. Attentive parents can tell when their child’s crying is a sincere expression of pain or a more general bid for attention. Attentive team leaders may not be quite so skillful at detecting what is going on between team members, and even when they do detect some potential disassembling they may not feel all that capable or inclined to tackle the conflict that will result when they attempt to let the responsible parties know that their behavior has been noticed. Most likely accountability has not been defined specifically enough to provide for effective evaluation.

But like the developing leader, each team member can also suffer from a lack of willpower, bad habits, a lack of energy and/or the inability to focus their attention as well as they want. Even though some amount of this is normal and to be expected, for it to be noticed publicly is embarrassing, and embarrassment is just the surface expression of our deep instinct to avoid rejection. Primates do not like to feel excluded! Can you begin to see why developing emotionally effective teamwork is such a challenge compared to developing leaders?

At Collaborative Growth we use a scientifically validated assessment called The Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey, or TESI to help teams be able to pinpoint where the real problems are. Then using our team communication training skills, developed over more than 20 years with all kinds of teams from the private and public sectors, we help the teams and their members and their leader get real! Once people understand the general ways in which people are wired to communicate and cooperate and compete this is not a particularly confrontational process. People enjoy discovering the effectiveness of the communication patterns that we teach, in part because these skills are every bit as effective at home as at the office.

Utilizing a basic understanding of this information we can help team members deconstruct the triggers that activate those self-protective reactions which so often turn disingenuous, or manipulative, or outright intimidating. We coach all the team members on how to use specific communication language to acknowledge and transform the many kinds of conflict that have often been swept under the rug for a very long time, and because everyone is learning and practicing it at the same time the team itself begins to grow and self-organize holistically.

As the team members learn how to use these language patterns to communicate their authentic hopes and fears they begin to express their displeasure about what isn’t working more openly, however now in nonjudgmental language. They know how and why to constructively reinforce the things they feel optimistic about. This begins to transform the tension into motivation. With continued practice teams find optimal ways to co-create and co-operate on their projects together, and they begin to evolve a collaborative intelligence that is intuitive in place of what was previously a closed and self-protective group think.

The team you are on could do its important work even more effectively if there was less conflict and politics and more communication! The TESI provides guidance on how to get there.

Building Team Resilience Through Positive Mood

“Pride broadens your mindset by igniting your visions about

other and larger ways in which you might be helpful.”

Barbara Fredrickson


Positive attitudes on your team will build resilience and impact every dimension of team work. Positivity will impact how well people get along with one another, how pleased they are to be on the team, their motivation and their creative thinking. That is why this is one of the seven team competencies of the TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®). In her books Positivity and Love 2.0, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson provides the scientific grounding to prove the power of positive engagement. Probably because most of organizational work is accomplished through teams, we are finding a tremendous thirst to better understand what this means for teams and how to assist teams in growing their positive mood.

Positivity is central to the ability to collaborate, which is based on the ability to work jointly with one another, to listen to different perspectives and to find common answers. Collaborative Growth’s team model demonstrates how we bring team emotional and social intelligence competencies together to create collaborative intelligence. One of the easiest team strengths to build is positive mood so take advantage of this and build your team skills.

Developing teams is a complex challenge that never stops requiring positive and proactive attention. One of the challenges to team effectiveness is the tendency for people to think and act individually and objectively, that is to focus on the task rather than each other. Busy team members can become so externally focused on projects and customers that they forget to pay attention to their personal needs or those of the team. This lack of internal team focus can occur for several reasons:

  • Addressing interpersonal relationships can seem much less controllable or scientific and less predictable and thus too uncertain;
  • Team members may not be trained to be good at team or human dynamics, they enjoy being an expert and they aren’t expert in this field;
  • Their external focus in getting all the jobs done may leave them drained with little energy left for the team; this is often compounded by highly demanding organizational politics;
  • The team leader may be an expert in his/her production world but likely is not trained to be a team leader and to manage complex interpersonal situations and to build motivation while maintaining accountability; and
  • The full organization may not be aware of the challenges their teams are experiencing nor understand how they could support the team in effective change.

Thus, intentional effort to build a team’s positivity and resilience is needed to get the most from your team.

Art Aron, a human relations scientist, conducted research that shows how people move from a sense of separation – me and you – to a sense of being together – us or we. His research was done with couples, but the same principles apply to teams, which are a group of people working together to solve problems. The more overlap the individual team members see between each other, the more likely they will have a sense of “us” and that leads to a series of positive results. In turn, this increased connection leads to helpful responses among team members that build trust as team members learn they can rely on considerate and supportive responses from one another. Most people will say they agree with the maxim that “All of us are smarter than one of us.” Understanding the effects of positive mood helps show us how to act that way, not just say it.

Fredrickson writes that positivity broadens one’s view from “me” to “us” and then to “all of us,” not just the part of the group that looks or thinks like you. Thus building positive attitudes within your team will expand the effectiveness of your diversity efforts. We often talk about emotions being highly contagious and that is so for positivity, just like it is for negativity. This makes it important for team leaders as well as all team members to be intentionally positive. Fredrickson explains that “positivity spreads because people unconsciously mimic emotional gestures and facial expressions of those around you … positivity breeds helpful, compassionate acts.” Furthermore, she points out that when we act positively with others we are likely proud of our engagement and “pride broadens your mindset by igniting your visions about other and larger ways in which you might be helpful.” (Positivity, pp. 69-70) This is a goal all organizations have for their teams.

Building Team Resilience and Positive Mood

resilience_meterppt-3levelsResilience and positive mood are closely connected. Resilience includes the ability to bounce back and relies on teams having a reserve to tap into when big challenges hit. That reserve is built by how team members treat each other and what they expect of one another. The more positive members of a team are, the deeper the reserve and the less often they are likely to need to tap into it. Positivity builds perspective so teams take challenges in stride rather than making them a big deal that expands stress instead of resilience.

Tips and Strategies

Use emotional intelligence to grow your teams’ positivity and resilience. Positive Mood and Stress Tolerance are two key competencies in the TESI that build team resilience. Of course while the team is building these competencies, they will find that some team members are more positive than others so the team leader needs to work with the whole team while respecting the differences as the team builds composite resilient strength. Tips for success include:

  • Build the habit of finding people doing something well and publicly thank them. This can be implemented by the team leader as well team members.
  • Start team meetings with a discussion of something that has worked well recently. Then the team can move to strategic analysis and can proactively cross map that skill that success reflects to other requirements.
  • Social connections are at the heart of team success so take time for building connections – and emphasize it even more if you have a virtual team. Do something fun together, have a pot luck lunch, and start meetings with going around the team and asking everyone to comment on something particularly interesting or important to them.
  • Find purposefulness in the team work so the team feels the sense of being a part of something bigger than itself. A traditional way to do this is with Mission, Vision and Values statements. Make sure those statements are meaningful and that the team feels ownership and pride or they won’t help.
  • Support team members in taking time to be relaxed with each other so the connections are built resulting in the natural desire to get one another’s back when needed.
  • Respond to comments made by one another. People want to be heard more than they want to be right. Applying skills such as active listening and empathetic responses will help people feel acknowledged and valued and that builds positivity and engagement.
  • Intentionally tap into the team wisdom. Your team knows what they need, however you may need to facilitate their recognizing and employing that wisdom. Take creative brainstorming time to explore topics such as: “What works that we can expand?” and “What do we want that we can influence?”

Recognize that positivity and trust go hand in hand as positivity supports deepening relationships. Develop positivity deliberately and expansively for the benefit of all individuals, teams and the organization.

Team Leaders Motivate Your Teams!

team_cheerLeading emotionally intelligent teams is a tough job. Developing your skill is worth it as teams strong in EI are productive, creative and loyal to their organization. Building team motivation is a key strategy for success and it’s a skill team leaders can always enhance by implementing the 7 motivation actions. This article complements our earlier team motivation article on Change and Teams found at

Follow these 7 action steps to motivate your team. Before you implement any of these steps, think about someone who did a great job leading a team you were on. How did he or she motivate you? How did he or she engage and follow through. Now with a good example in mind ask:

  1. Who is on that team I’m leading? Know your team members individually.

Get to know your team members individually and help them know each other through an assessment such as Emergenetics or MBTI. You’ll be amazed at how much good data supports understanding team members’ preferences. With this information you can strategically target your requests to gain the best buy in.

  1. What’s my team good at? What are their challenges?

Access your team with the TESI®. The Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®, is a team 360 reporting on how team members access their functioning in seven core areas of team engagement. These measurable results help teams focus on how to tap into their skills and improve areas of weakness. You and your team can measure success through the pre-post assessment.

  1. What rings their bells – what dampens their spirits?

Pay attention to the feedback you receive on a regular basis and repeat what works. Weave your data on individual and team strengths in order to further positive engagement.

  1. How will the team break out of old patterns to awaken creativity and boost spirits?

Creativity is an energizer. Even though some team members may moan about change, when you lead them in purposeful change and have a defined approach and outcomes it will help build new energy and clear out old ways of doing things that aren’t necessary anymore.

  1. What’s our team attitude?

Discuss the power of attitude with your team. Ask team members to explore current attitudes and then set intentions for the attitude they will express in the future. Be specific about who does what so you can notice as engagement improves.

  1. What inspires team members and the team as a whole?

What about giving some time to a worthwhile community project? You and the team could spend an hour at a soup kitchen or a day helping build a house. There are many ways to contribute. Challenge the team to consider options and find one a suitable project. After contributing your time get together and debrief. Talk about how it felt, what you learned about your community and what it means to volunteer as a team.

  1. How will we know when we have a team that functions with emotional and social well-being?

The Collaborative Growth team model measures the seven specific skills seen in the outer ring. Your team can take the TESI, consider Collaborative Growth Team Modeltheir skills and opportunities, and engage in intentional growth. The model shows that as teams are deliberately enhancing their skills they develop the benefits shown in the middle circle, such as trust, and then progress to being a team that enjoys emotional and social well-being. This is a highly productive and engaged state which leads to sustainable good results. However, be sure to pay attention to maintaining those skills. High performance requires constant attention.

Communicating Around the Team Table


The single biggest problem in communication is

the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

group_peopleAsk any team what they need to improve most and they are like to say “Communications!” And they are right. Any team that communicates well has the foundational tools to respond well to stress, conflict, changes and to have a positive mood. So there’s a lot in it for you as a team leader or team member to improve team communications. Fortunately, this can be done! Remember all those phrases like an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or a stitch in time saves nine! Apply this tested savvy to teams and you know it’s time to improve how you speak and listen to one another. This is one of the seven skills in the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey® (TESI®), described in our book The Emotionally Intelligent Team.

Yet if communication is so important why is it often such a failure? Frankly, it’s not a complex answer. The skills needed have not been taught, fostered and insisted upon; mediocrity is too often accepted. Let’s start with noting the key parts to good communication.

Communication is what team members do to connect with others so that they can understand the collection of goals that are being pursued and how well each is proceeding in the attempt to satisfy their needs. Communication consists of the following ingredients as identified in The Emotionally Intelligent Team:

  1. Sender: the person who transmits the information
  2. Receiver: the person to whom the information is transmitted
  3. Message: the information transmitted
  4. Meaning: the intent of the message
  5. Feeling: adds depth to the message
  6. Technique: how the message is communicated

Communication is how people interact with each other so they can satisfy their needs and desires to make life better. To communicate, one person (the sender) must transmit information to someone else (the receiver). This message can go to the whole team or to one person, but there has to be an exchange of a message or there is no communication. For example, if a team member speaks about an issue, and another team member later believes he or she never heard of the topic, communication did not occur.

For effective communication to occur, the sender’s meaning must also be clearly understood by the receiver. Meaning is conveyed by both verbal and nonverbal communication. If the sender’s words are encouraging but he or she is looking down when speaking, the message and meaning are mixed. Nonverbal communication is likely to convey more of the truth, so it is important that the sender’s verbal and nonverbal messages are congruent in order for the meaning to be accurately understood.

All communication has meaning, from the trivial – “Please post a notice of our meeting” – to that of huge consequence – “The building is on fire!” The feeling component adds even more depth to the meaning.

Finally, technique is critical for effective communication. Without the awareness and implementation of effective techniques, the message, meaning, and feeling in the communication is lost. The following exercises will help build team communication. We have provided many tips and exercises for working with team communications in our Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Facilitator’s Guide – TESI® Short. This is an important area for us to strengthen together. So send us an email at or comment here on our blog!