Using Emotional Intelligence to Message Up & Across

messageManaging up or messaging up are goals frequently raised in executive coaching sessions. We add messaging across – that is to peers – to this imperative goal. Messaging up and across refers to intentionally and deliberately communicating well with your boss and those above your boss and with your peers. It is a deliberate effort to bring understanding and collaboration to relationships between people who may have different perspectives. The point is to convey respect by taking the time to communicate strategically. Remember your communication can be empathetic, compassionate, strategic and engaging all at once. In fact, this comprehensive packaging should be your goal.

If you are a CEO with a Board governing your organization, messaging up is vital. It’s also vital if you are a team lead, reporting to your supervisor. In fact how we communicate with others throughout the organizational chart is essential to notice. We know communications with your direct reports is fundamental to your success; this article will focus on a different dimension of communications. It’s a form that can be all too easy to miss when you get in the trance of accomplishing your every day list of tactical jobs. And that’s why good interpersonal relationships with those in higher organizational positions and with your peers requires purposeful action.

The potent emotional intelligence skills triangle of Assertiveness, Empathy and Impulse Control is your key to success, especially if you pepper your engagement with Positive Mood (happiness and optimism). With assertiveness you first need to be assertive with yourself by doing whatever it takes to make sure you take the time for this engagement. Put it on your calendar, have lunch or coffee with a peer once a week, meet with your boss regularly give feedback and take a few minutes to ask about his/her life and talk about yours. Create a personal connection; it’s the path to building trust. It’s what it takes for people to want to “get your back” to help you out in times of challenge. It demonstrates engagement, loyalty, and commitment, but more importantly it makes your job more fun. Assertiveness includes the ability to communicate your perspective, to stand up for yourself and to say no when necessary.

Empathy and impulse control govern the effectiveness of your assertiveness. When you demonstrate empathy the recipient of your assertiveness feels that your communication is made with their best interests in mind. That makes all the difference in whether your suggestions are considered self serving or made with their best interests in mind. And you know that deeply influences the response to your communication. Your skills in impulse control help you decide when to speak up, what tonality to use, and how to pace your engagement. Communicate with your peers with impatience and they will reciprocate – directly or indirectly.

Balance is your goal too little of any of these three skills can obviously can get you in trouble. Note that too much of any of these can get you in a lot of trouble. Too much assertiveness feels like aggressiveness; too much empathy feels like the boundaries are failed; too much impulse control turns you into a risk adverse person missing opportunities.

Here are key steps you can follow to message up and across effectively:

  • Be intentional and purposeful
  • Don’t confuse false humility with your poor communication if you don’t speak up for yourself
  • Be aware of and respond to your different personality, communications styles, and conflict resolution styles
  • Acknowledge others
  • Be a team player
  • Let your peers know you value them
  • Be honest and trustworthy
  • Provide solutions, not problems
  • Request feedback, feedback, feedback – ask for it directly
  • Work with strengths and weaknesses – yours and theirs

Messaging up and across is a powerful tactic for getting more interesting work, more responsibility, and enjoying your engagement at work. Use it well and it can help you improve your work/life balance as it increases the ability to set boundaries and have those boundaries understood and supported.

Avoiding Emotional Pitfalls at Work

pitfall_guyFrequently encountered emotional intelligence (EI) pitfalls that limit relationships and productivity at work are numerous. Ordering people to just “get it done” could well be the top pitfall of all. Do you agree? Several pitfalls and better EI Options are listed below.

  • Pitfall: Just tell your direct reports or others to do something.
  • Better EI Option: Use your EI skills in empathy and assertiveness to influence others to want to engage in your project.

Pitfalls sabotage your success. When you just tell people to do something and you don’t take a few minutes to acknowledge them, build buy-in and guide understanding, you often invite opposition and resistance. Ironically you might have been so directive because you felt you didn’t have time for more engagement, yet the resistance will cost you more time in the long run.

trap-jump-pitfall

  • Pitfall: Order your direct reports or others to be happy and engaged.
  • Better EI Option: Create a culture that builds skills in optimism, self-regard and emotional expression and thus supports staff agility and buy in. These and other EI skills are central to building an engaged culture with a “can-do” attitude. Your leadership has a lot to do with the responses you get. If you want happy and engaged direct reports, use positive language that supports optimism. For example, express the belief that together all of you will meet the big challenge, you just don’t know how yet. That wonderful word “yet” establishes the presupposition of success, and that helps create the outcome you’re looking for.

people-puzzle

  • Pitfall: Ignore the impact of reassigning employees who have become friends and are working effectively as team members.
  • Better EI Option: Respond to and acknowledge relationships, notice how they support or weaken team work. When you need to make new assignments, help people process and accept the change.
  • Pitfall: Insist that emotions be left at the door when it’s time to solve problems.
  • Better EI Option: Use all your smarts in solving problems; that is both your IQ and your EQ. People can’t think without using their emotions. So the question becomes whether you and your team want to be aware of your emotional responses, including your intuitive awareness, and factor in all your data when resolving the problem. We suspect people seek to avoid their emotions when they are afraid they don’t have the skills to manage the emotions successfully. However, this strategy frequently backfires as the emotions will leak out in some poorly managed format. It’s better to get training and coaching and be fully in charge of your responses.

angry-redhoop

  • Pitfall: Blast your stress on all in your path.
  • Better EI Option: Learn strategies to regain your equilibrium when your buttons are pushed, then talk to others. You can breathe, use stair therapy, count to 10, any number of strategies work. Just give yourself time to avoid the adverse consequences of getting all tied up in knots! The key point is get more oxygen to your brain and give yourself a few minutes before you respond. Stair therapy is one of our favorites. When you feel triggered, tired or cranky go climb a set of stairs then come back to your office or to the situation and respond. Your renewed resilience will invite more welcome responses.

Avoid Emotional Intelligence Pitfalls at Work

pitfall_guyFrequently encountered emotional intelligence (EI) pitfalls that limit relationships and productivity at work are numerous. Ordering people to just “get it done” could well be the top pitfall of all. Do you agree? Several pitfalls and better EI Options are listed below. Listen to our recent webinar on these pitfalls and then let us know your thoughts and additional pitfalls you see on our blog

Pitfall: Just tell your direct reports or others to do something.

Better EI Option: Use your EI skills in empathy and assertiveness to influence others to want to engage in your project.

Pitfalls sabotage your success. When you just tell people to do something and you don’t take a few minutes to acknowledge them, build buy-in and guide understanding, you often invite opposition and resistance. Ironically you might have been so directive because you felt you didn’t have time for more engagement, yet the resistance will cost you more time in the long run.
Pitfall: Order your direct reports or others to be happy and engaged.

Better EI Option: Create a culture that builds skills in optimism, self-regard and emotional expression and thus supports staff agility and buy in. These and other EI skills are central to building an engaged culture with a “can-do” attitude. Your leadership has a lot to do with the responses you get. If you want happy and engaged direct reports, use positive language that supports optimism. For example, express the belief that together all of you will meet the big challenge, you just don’t know how yet. That wonderful word “yet” establishes the presupposition of success, and that helps create the outcome you’re looking for.
Pitfall: Ignore the impact of reassigning employees who have become friends and are working effectively as team members.

Better EI Option: Respond to and acknowledge relationships, notice how they support or weaken team work. When you need to make new assignments, help people process and accept the change.

Pitfall: Insist that emotions be left at the door when it’s time to solve problems.

Better EI Option: Use all your smarts in solving problems; that is both your IQ and your EQ. As we described in an earlier article, people can’t think without using their emotions. So the question becomes whether you and your team want to be aware of your emotional responses, including your intuitive awareness, and factor in all your data when resolving the problem. We suspect people seek to avoid their emotions when they are afraid they don’t have the skills to manage the emotions successfully. However, this strategy frequently backfires as the emotions will leak out in some poorly managed format. It’s better to get training and coaching and be fully in charge of your responses.

Pitfall: Blast your stress on all in your path.

Better EI Option: Learn strategies to regain your equilibrium when your buttons are pushed, then talk to others. You can breathe, use stair therapy, count to 10, any number of strategies work. Just give yourself time to avoid the adverse consequences of getting all tied up in knots! The key point is get more oxygen to your brain and give yourself a few minutes before you respond. Stair therapy is one of our favorites. When you feel triggered, tired or cranky go climb a set of stairs then come back to your office or to the situation and respond. Your renewed resilience will invite more welcome responses.

Facilitation Supports Collaborative Decision-Making

“There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish.” Warren Bennis

dancersGood facilitators create a curious and safe environment that promotes singing, dancing and decision-making!  Organizations seek facilitation when they value an integrated group process with lasting results.  A well facilitated process focuses on building Collaborative Intelligence™. A good facilitator works with the leaders to ensure a well-designed and run event, which can take many shapes and sizes.  It can be an offsite, a retreat/advance, a high conflict session or a discussion by a well-functioning team looking to expand their skills.  There are times we help an organization with employees in conflict select between a facilitated process and a mediated process.  In mediation a neutral third party assists others in arriving at a mutually acceptable decision, but doesn’t add his or her own thoughts to the process.  In facilitation, the facilitator actively assists the parties in brainstorming options and solutions.  It is always important, though, that the decisions are made by the participants.

Collaborative Growth provides facilitation for elected boards and commissions, executive sessions, organizational retreats or advances and employees in conflict.  There are many elements in common for all the processes.  Possibly the most important is that the facilitator elegantly promotes the full participation by all parties.  This calls for guiding those who want to over-participate to pull back on their comments while the facilitator invites the more quiet introverts to share their insights and questions.

At a recent facilitation a participant commented on the great benefit he and others were receiving because of our reading and responding to the non-verbal messages from the team members.  It is important for the facilitator to notice when someone wants to speak, acknowledge that and then remember to get to that person in order of others who have indicated a desire to speak.  Non-verbal communication can also include indications of discomfort with a topic such that the facilitator calls on the person making his or her participation safe, saying something such as “Jason, give us your thoughts on the challenges or possible concerns with this approach.”

Facilitation benefits include:

  • The comfort for participants is increased because they know they will all receive help in speaking up with balance and respect for one another.
  • The leader can participate as he or she doesn’t have to be in charge of managing everyone else’s participation.
  • A highly interactive and engaging process can occur.
  • The facilitator structures the topics without stifling creativity thus helping the group take time to vet a decision and then consider all aspects of implementing and working with the decision.
  • The facilitator guides the group to apply reality testing to potential decisions and to access if it can get done and by when and to identify and assign responsible parties.
  • The facilitator can help the participants combine their EQ and their IQ.

Good facilitation is welcomed by organizations when done well.  That means it is focused on assisting all parties to participate, reach sustainable solutions and along the way provide assistance in resolving conflict and exploring difficult topics. Curiosity is welcome and promoted.  Imagine what can be created – Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talent.  I am only passionately curious.”

Building Team Resilience Through Positive Mood

PIE-color-pos-mood Positive attitudes on your team will build resilience and influence every dimension of teamwork. 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 the TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) measures. Research Dr. Barbara Fredrickson describes in her books Positivity and Love 2.0 provides the scientific grounding to prove the power of positive engagement. Because most 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.

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 exclusively on the task rather than each other. Busy team members can become so externally focused on projects and customers that they don’t focus on themselves or on the team. This lack of internal team focus can feel safer for several reasons: 1) addressing interpersonal relationships can seem much less controllable or scientific and less predictable and thus too uncertain; 2) team members may not be trained to be good at team or human dynamics, they enjoy being an expert but they aren’t expert in this situation; 3) their external focus in getting all the jobs done may leave them drained with little energy left for the team, and this is often compounded by highly demanding organizational politics; and 4) the team leader may be a technical 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 5) 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. This is why your team needs to make conscious, intentional efforts to build its positivity and resilience if you want to maximize productivity.

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. The more positive we are with each other, the more overlap we see between ourselves and others and that leads to feeling more openness and connection with others. In turn, this increased connection leads to helpful responses among team members that build trust – 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 dynamics of positive mood helps show us how to act in order to achieve its powerful effects.

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’s so for positivity, as well as 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) We are certain that’s what you want for your teams.

Furthermore, 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. Frankly one of the easiest team strengths to build is positive mood so practice this and you will also build your team’s resilience.

Building Resilience and Positive Mood

resilience_meterppt100Resilience and positive mood are tightly 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 we treat each other and what we 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 a big deal of them and increasing their stress instead of their resilience.

 

Tips and Strategies

resilience_meterppt_rev2Use your emotional intelligence to grow your teams’ positivity and resilience. Key team competencies focused on in the TESI are Positive Mood and Stress Tolerance. Of course while you’re building this team competency you will find that some team members are more positive than others so you will need to work with the whole team while respecting the individual differences as the team builds composite resilient strength. Tips you might use are:

  • Build the habit of finding people doing something well and publicly thank them.
  • Start team meetings with a discussion of something that’s worked well recently. Then the team can move to strategic analysis and of how to cross map that skill 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 takes pride in them or they won’t help.
  • Support team members in taking time to be relaxed with each other so caring relationships are built resulting in the natural desire to shield each other’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 because positivity supports deepening relationships. Develop positivity deliberately and expansively for the benefit of all individuals, teams and the organization.

Communicating Around the Team Table

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 competencies in the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey® (TESI®), described in our book The Emotionally Intelligent Team. But 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 team member is proceeding in the attempt to satisfy his/her needs. Communication consists of the following ingredients as identified in The Emotionally Intelligent Team:
• Sender: the person who transmits the information
• Receiver: the person to whom the information is transmitted
• Message: the information transmitted
• Meaning: the intent of the message
• Feeling: adds depth to the message
• 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 effective 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. Strengthening communication requires paying attention to the learning styles and preferences of the intended recipients and presenting the information accordingly. It requires patience which leads to slowing down enough to check in and see if you are understood. Most of all effective communication is highly rewarding, even if you slow down you get things done faster because when the sender and receiver are communicating the results are sustainable.

What Do You Think & Feel? The Art of Giving Feedback

feedback“What is the shortest word in the English language that contains the letters: abcdef? Answer: feedback. Don’t forget that feedback is one of the essential elements of good communication.” www.thinkexist.com

Through 360 reviews for leaders, team surveys and coaching we have found that giving effective feedback is one the most likely actions to be missed even by the most effective leaders.  There are many reasons given. Some say they’re just too busy, other will say they just don’t know how.  No matter what the excuse, leaving effective feedback out means significant compromise to productivity and engagement.  Feedback is at the heart of effective communication, of getting the job done well and being able to replicate that success and in building good relationships.  It matters at all levels – between individuals, in teams and in every aspect of our lives.

If it’s so important you’d think we’d be really good at it, right?  Wrong!  So what’s the challenge?  Giving effective feedback requires time, discipline, reflective capacity, courage and compassion.  To give effective feedback we need to be disciplined to observe how something is done or communicated and then take the time to honestly communicate our observations while inviting, listening and responding to the thoughts and feelings of the others involved.  It takes time and skill and sometimes those are in very short supply.

Feedback is defined as providing information and reflection on how something was accomplished and preferably it is designed to result in specific decisions about how to move forward.  Feedback is by far best when it’s a multi-party open communication.  Thus it’s not just boss to employee but a respectful, reciprocal conversation.  If it’s feedback at the team level, everyone is invited and encouraged to participate, and that means giving time for the more quiet deliberate thinkers to speak up as well.

One of us is coaching a client we’ll call Jose, he is a new supervisor and eager to do a good job.  Jose has many skills, but he hasn’t ever been a supervisor.  He is seeking to learn and to try different approaches.  Unfortunately his immediate supervisor, the department manager, doesn’t like to give feedback, he’s happy to talk about the game last Sunday but isn’t available to help Jose understand what to do when an employee is routinely late to work, or underperforming, or demonstrating any of the myriad of challenges that are a part of developing an effective workforce.  The manager just won’t have the conversation.  We’re able to give Jose feedback through coaching and help him take an in-depth look at viable strategies and that’s very good.  However, coaching doesn’t last forever, and we’re not in the environment and able to respond to all the nuances.  One day Jose put it perfectly when he made a heartfelt simple statement, “I miss receiving feedback from my boss.”  Jose wonders if he’s doing a good job, craves help in prioritizing to meet his boss’s and organization’s goals and much more.  He’s luckier than most.  He does receive regular coaching and has a mentor at a more senior level.  What happens to all those employees who just operate in a vacuum?  Imagine the loss of productivity!

3 R’s and Emotional Intelligence for Teams and Individuals

Providing effective feedback is a skill that can be learned.  It isn’t a big mystery, yet its successful use occurs only when we intend to incorporate it as a part of our effective workplace. Key components are:

1)    Do it!

Intend to provide feedback and specifically build in feedback opportunities.  With your team you can set aside an hour a month, or time at the end of each project, or set some other specific time that you’ll conduct deliberate review of how things are going.  Invite comments from everyone.

2)    3 R’s roll you to success

Respect – make it safe, but not so sanitized that it is pointless by being so careful that nothing is said.  Do be safe in the sense that there are no personal putdowns.  Don’t seek to make some people better than others, but do look for strategies that are more successful.  Make the point of the conversation an open, interesting learning conversation.  Feedback should never be for retribution or it will be seriously counterproductive.

Reflect – think about what you saw and felt when the communication or event occurred. Then talk about both thoughts and feelings.

Reciprocal – this is a two-way conversation.  Even if it’s initiated by the boss for the employee, it’s important for the boss to listen and respond to the ideas and questions of the employee.  Making feedback reciprocal at team meetings requires attention and possibly some facilitation to be sure that everyone’s ideas are heard.  Balance the thoughts of the extroverts with those of the introverts.

3)    Keep it alive – establish next applications

Start the feedback with the explicit intention that this discussion is being held in order to recognize the efforts that were made and to move toward more success in the future.  The past is over and literally can’t be changed.  However, the people who participated in the conversation or event likely have feelings about how it went, this is a great chance to reflect on those feelings and then decide how to approach similar situations in the future.  People have the most energy and creativity when we are moving toward what we want rather than moving away from or against what we don’t want.  Together develop positive next steps that will be applied.

4)    Emotional Intelligence skills matter for teams

At the team level each of the seven skills reviewed in the TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) support effective feedback.  In particularly teams do the best at feedback when they apply:

Emotional Awareness – take time to notice and respond to one another including the non-verbal communication.

Communication – check out whether the sender of the communication sent the same message that was received.  Use active listening and check out if you’re on the same page.

Conflict resolution – conflict can be a creative stimulus that supports team growth when feedback is used as a part of effective communication with respectful feedback.

5)    Emotional Intelligence skills matter for individuals

We work with the EQi and EQ 360 and find that all 16 skills support effective feedback.  Some of the most essential skills are:

Self Regard – experience self confidence so that you recognize your own strength and feel safe in communicating fully with others.  Too much self regard leads to narcissism and then the person is not likely to listen to others.  Any skill when over used becomes a detriment.

Emotional Expression – as a part of feedback it’s important to include how you feel and to ask about the others feelings.  This builds trust and motivation.  For example, “I felt awkward when Abigail couldn’t remember the results from the report, and then I was so proud when Sandee stepped in with a compliment to Abigail’s work and reviewed the report. Now that’s teamwork!”

Empathy – using empathy allows you to demonstrate to the other person that you care about his/ her best interest and the feedback is given with this positive intention.  That makes your responses much more likely to be listened to and acted upon.

Impulse Control – be in charge of your effective engagement.  Don’t talk over others or talk so much they can’t get a word in edgewise.  However, if you control yourself to the point of not participating, you’ve lost your chance to be helpful.  Find a good balance.

Problem Solving – notice both the emotional and factual data that’s a part of the feedback conversation.  Incorporate both for a thorough and inclusive result.

Remember to be intentional about giving and receiving timely feedback!

Avoid Emotional Intelligence Pitfalls at Work

Frequently encountered emotional intelligence (EI) pitfalls that limit relationships and productivity at work are numerous. Ordering people to just “get it done” could well be the top pitfall of all. Do you agree? Several pitfalls and better EI Options are listed below. Listen to our recent webinar on these pitfalls and then comment with your thoughts and additional pitfalls.

Pitfall: Just tell your direct reports or others to do something.
Better EI Option: Use your EI skills in empathy and assertiveness to influence others to want to engage in your project.

Pitfalls sabotage your success. When you just tell people to do something and you don’t take a few minutes to acknowledge them, build buy-in and guide understanding, you often invite opposition and resistance. Ironically you might have been so directive because you felt you didn’t have time for more engagement, yet the resistance will cost you more time in the long run.

Pitfall: Order your direct reports or others to be happy and engaged.
Better EI Option: Create a culture that builds skills in optimism, self-regard and emotional expression and thus supports staff agility and buy in. These and other EI skills are central to building an engaged culture with a “can-do” attitude. Your leadership has a lot to do with the responses you get. If you want happy and engaged direct reports, use positive language that supports optimism. For example, express the belief that together all of you will meet the big challenge, you just don’t know how yet. That wonderful word “yet” establishes the presupposition of success, and that helps create the outcome you’re looking for.

Pitfall: Ignore the impact of reassigning employees who have become friends and are working effectively as team members.
Better EI Option: Respond to and acknowledge relationships, notice how they support or weaken team work. When you need to make new assignments, help people process and accept the change.

Pitfall: Insist that emotions be left at the door when it’s time to solve problems.
Better EI Option: Use all your smarts in solving problems; that is both your IQ and your EQ. As we described in an earlier article, people can’t think without using their emotions. So the question becomes whether you and your team want to be aware of your emotional responses, including your intuitive awareness, and factor in all your data when resolving the problem. We suspect people seek to avoid their emotions when they are afraid they don’t have the skills to manage the emotions successfully. However, this strategy frequently backfires as the emotions will leak out in some poorly managed format. It’s better to get training and coaching and be fully in charge of your responses.

Pitfall: Blast your stress on all in your path.
Better EI Option: Learn strategies to regain your equilibrium when your buttons are pushed, then talk to others. You can breathe, use stair therapy, count to 10, any number of strategies work. Just give yourself time to avoid the adverse consequences of getting all tied up in knots! The key point is get more oxygen to your brain and give yourself a few minutes before you respond. Stair therapy is one of our favorites. When you feel triggered, tired or cranky go climb a set of stairs then come back to your office or to the situation and respond. Your renewed resilience will invite more welcome responses.

Take Your Team to the Oscars

The Help, Moneyball, and The Descendants – these Oscar nominated movies demonstrate ways of understanding team and individual emotional and social intelligence.  The Oscar nominated movies and some other great ones we highlight demonstrate interesting tips for team and individual awareness.  This is a great way to build team engagement and knowledge on how to improve skills.  It always helps to have a model so our discussion is organized around the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey® (TESI®), which includes the seven key skills we’ve found teams need for building their ESI.

We list two movies for each of the 7 skill areas and discuss the first one.  We hope you’ll comment on our blog site and contribute to this fun learning opportunity for all of us!  We thank the many people involved in making these movies for the great entertainment and the remarkable ways in which your work teaches us.  We enjoyed the movies we are reviewing here and recommend them to you.

Team Identity:  The Help and Of Gods and Men

Team identity measures the level of pride each member feels for the team as a whole, and how much connection and belongingness members feel to the team.

The Help:  The team is composed of African-American maids in Jackson, Mississippi at the dawn of the civil rights movement. A plucky new college graduate who grew up there is horrified with the way her grown-up school chums relate to their maids. So she asks one to tell her story and eventually they all get involved, and what’s been going around for so long starts to come around at last.  The maids had always given each other emotional support; this project brought them together in an act of tremendous courage to have more of a sense of pride, possibility and certainly belongingness to their team.

Motivation:   Margin Call, Albert Nobbs

Motivation is a competency that measures the team’s internal resources for generating and sustaining the energy necessary to get the job done well and on time.

Margin Call: In this case the team is made up of professionals in a financial company who have just realized they are holding tens of millions of dollars worth of worthless stock.  They decide to sell it to their clients the next day in order to save the company. This is capitalism at its worst, and the few conscientious team members cannot change the self protection trend. At the end of the day the conscientious ones are unable to shift their corporate compliance habits, the result is disaster for the company’s investors.  This is a movie your team could see in order to strike up considerable discussion about appropriate motivation and to ask when do we stick with the pack and when do we break free?  It can be a great start to discussions about ethics and how to find win/win answers.

Emotional Awareness: I Am, Iron Lady

Emotional awareness measures how well team members pay attention to one another and demonstrate acceptance and value for one another.

I Am: Tom Shadyac, the highly successful movie director for Jim Carrey films such as Ace Ventura pet detective has everything and lives like it until he has a bike wreck and his life is in peril. He discovers that he’s gotten it all wrong as has everyone around him it seems, so he takes a film crew and begins asking knowledgeable people such as Desmond Tutu the Nobel laureate, Noam Chomsky the political theorist and Coleman Barks the poet and Rumi translator: “What’s wrong with our world?”and “What can we do about it?” Their answers are a consistent formula for living sustainably in relationship with each other and the environment.  Some of the key concepts in the film are: cooperation is in our DNA; the truth of who we are is we are because we belong, technology and the human narrative are beginning to come together; we are geared at a primordial level to feel what each other feels.

This is more a film about an individual leader than a team, but the ideas are ones the team can see and extrapolate concepts and values they want to notice and promote in one another.  Iron Lady is listed as the opposite of emotional awareness.  Margaret Thatcher is portrayed as paying primary attention to herself and unflinchingly adhering to the beliefs she developed as a child rather than learning and responding to new ideas and populations.

CommunicationWe Bought a Zoo, Beginners

Communication provides information on how well team members listen, encourage participation, share information and discuss sensitive matters.

 We Bought A Zoo: This movie tells the story of a major attempt to start over after the death of a spouse and mother. The hurting family leaves their old house, old neighborhood, old school, old job and buys a house in the country that is home to over 40 species of animals and an unusual assortment of people who take care of the animals.  The team becomes the father, the zookeepers and the two children, all learning how to work together to get this challenging small business into start up mode and to turn a profit. The father is the team leader.  He is now the employer of the zookeepers, the food and shelter sponsor for the animals, and the source of love and guidance for 2 children. Most of the movie he’s afraid he’s just about to let everybody down but he keeps taking his own advice to his lovelorn son: “20 seconds of insane courage will deliver something totally magical.”  Fortunately it works and the results are as heartwarming as humorous.

Team members can pick up lots to talk about in terms of which zookeeper or other team member they most identify with and how the different personalities help promote or challenge team success.

Stress ToleranceHappyThankYouMorePlease, Moneyball

Stress tolerance measures how well the team understands the types of stress factors and manages the intensity impacting its members and the team as a whole.

HappyThankYouMorePlease:  This delightful film will reduce your stress just by watching it. When 9 or 10-year-old Rasheen gets left on a subway by mistake a group of 20 somethings come together like an ad hoc team on his behalf. He didn’t know his parents or how old he was and was not interested in any more help from social services, but he turned out to be a great teacher of love just as life was providing some great opportunities for practice for his young adult care takers. For example, a geeky guy wants to develop a relationship with a woman who can’t grow hair because of a medical condition. She doesn’t feel worthy of his adoration but tells her friend who found the boy “Let’s be people who deserve to be loved.”  Part of the lesson is for everyone to learn to feel loved.

This is a great film to show a team with generational differences.  It’s a heartwarming way to appreciate the generation entering the workforce.

Conflict Resolution: The Descendants and Of Gods and Men

Conflict resolution measures how willing the team is to engage in conflict openly and constructively without needing to get even.

Of Gods and Men: In March 1996, an Islamic terrorist group kidnapped seven French Trappist monks from their remote monastery in Tibhirine, Algeria. They were held for two months and then killed.  At the heart of this atrocity is a tale of heroic faith, steadfastness and love, captured in the sublime film “Of Gods and Men.” It is perhaps the best movie on Christian commitment ever made.  This is a powerful movie and one of the best released in 2011 about real team work. The monks made a very difficult choice in the face of certain danger to stay together, practice their faith and be with their Muslim community.

These men were not shy with each other, they got angry, they blamed, they acted like victims, they wept, they hid, and they each eventually realized that they were expressing these emotions in response, not to the people and the world around them, but rather in response to their perceptions and judgments of that world. This recognition is what enabled them to fully surrender their lives to the service they provided the local community, and receive the spiritual grace that sustained them through the ending of their time on earth.

Positive MoodHugo, Midnight in Paris

Positive mood measures the positive attitude of the team in general as well as when it’s under pressure.

Hugo: This is an extraordinarily charming film about children and adults and how courage looks and feels and is practiced from both points of view. There are two small teams, one of children, one of adults.  Ultimately the two teams come together as one, but major challenges are faced first. It’s also a beautifully made movie.

Ask you team what elements of the movie help them have a sense of “can do” that they can bring back to their team.

Don’t forget – take your team to the movies.  Have fun and learn!

Can Virtual Teams Demonstrate Emotional & Social Intelligence?

by Marcia Hughes, Donna Dennis, James Terrell

When 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.