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

Solution

  • 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

Solution

  • 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

Solution

  • 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

Solution

  • 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

Solution

  • 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

Solution

  • 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!

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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. http://www.leadership-solutions.info.

 

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.

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.

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 http://www.cgrowth.com/articles/motivate_team.pdf.

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 mhughes@cgrowth.com or comment here on our blog!

Can Virtual Teams Demonstrate Emotional & Social Intelligence?

arrowJoin in the discussion on “Women and Assertiveness.” Recent discussions are adding to the understanding of how women use assertiveness. One, The Confidence Gap, in the May 2014 Atlantic Journal is a must read for women, coaches, mentors and leaders. We’ll write more about this in future issues. What are your thoughts?

 

Can Virtual Teams Demonstrate Emotional & Social Intelligence?

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.

 

Best Practices for Dynamic Teamwork

team_hugQuickly inventory the number of teams you serve on now; then as a stretch goal list key teams you have served on for the last five years. Is it a big list? Did you previously and do you now enjoy your team memberships? The answer is probably “It depends.” It’s more fun and rewarding to be a part of a successful and productive team, and there’s no time like the present to decide to improve your team. Teams almost always have more potential than they are utilizing. By taking the TESI 2.0 (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) team leaders and the team as a whole gain the opportunity to learn in a safe environment about what is really happening in team interactions and can strategically target the steps to take for improvement. The specifics your team gains from the TESI can be strategically focused to guide selection of one or more actions to increase the team skills and productivity.

Make this year your team’s year of success by taking these actions.

Ten Team Best Practices

  1. Be purposeful. This is number one. It’s impossible to do a good job if you don’t know what you’re supposed to do! Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Yet many teams don’t have a clearly defined purpose. The purpose statement should help you know how the team is serving the organization and it’s even better if the team has a sense of a more global contribution so the impact is bigger than to the organization.
  2. Be your individual best – set an intention for every team member. The emotional intelligence, as well as the operational skills, of each and every team member contributes to the capability of the team as a whole.
  3. Contribute emotionally intelligent leadership. It’s a big job to be an emotionally intelligent leader. It calls for managing yourself, and being able to diagnose what is happening for individuals and the team as a whole. Yet diagnosis isn’t enough. The leader needs to coach individuals and the team towards success. Use the ten practices to support leadership strategies, and apply the suggestions made for your team growth in its TESI report.
  4. Develop your team identity. Know who the team is individually as well as who they are as a cohesive unit within the organization. Survey your team and the organization to find the perceptions of your team’s identity, and then choose how you want to be known and act.
  5. Know what motivates each team member individually and what motivates the team as a whole. Intentionally embrace the diverse motivations within the team.
  6. Practice emotional awareness of team members and be aware of the emotional signals you are sending as well as those you receive. Emotionally aware teams are much more productive because they use all the data being transmitted, including non-verbal information.
  7. Communicate, communicate, and communicate. There are more ways to communicate than email! Go talk to someone. Get team members to take email breaks. For example on Thursday mornings, commit to get up and talk to co-workers or call if they aren’t nearby.
  8. Manage stress. Stress is a gift when it comes in the right dose. You need some stress to help you be fully on your game. Create challenges on the team, make them fun and meaningful. Also take time to honor work/life balance for one another!
  9. Optimize conflict. Conflict just is; it isn’t good or bad until the team takes the event at issue one direction or another. To make the most of the opportunities conflict offers, exercise patience with one another, be actively willing to see the matter from someone else’s perspective and bring your flexibility to the table. In times of conflict team members can ask themselves if they would rather be happy or be right. This can be a powerful tool for gaining perspective. It doesn’t call for compromising; rather it is important for team members to be an advocate for their perspectives if the situation calls for it, as well as to be willing to listen to others. Then when a decision is made all team members need to get behind it.
  10. Intend to trust the team as a whole. Trust is a result as demonstrated in the Collaborative Growth Team Model. http://www.theemotionallyintelligentteam.com/takethetesi.asp. Trust develops as a result of respectful, consistent and active communications and interpersonal relationship.

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.