Do You Have a Dysfunctional Family?

Teams are like families, whether that’s a sports team or you and your colleagues working on a project together or in the same function.

And, teamwork makes the dream work. Yes, cheesy. But, also very true.

How do you encourage collaboration and cooperation, promote productivity, and create and sustain motivation?

You practice EQ-based teamwork. EQ or EI (if you prefer) trumps IQ in my view. You can have all the IQ you need in a room but if people can’t work together, share ideas, resolve conflict, work cross-functionally, or communicate effectively — then good luck.

What is EQ?

There are many variations on the definition; however, there are 5 widely accepted traits of people with a high EQ identified by Daniel Goleman.

1. Self-awareness

2. Self-regulation

3. Internal Motivation

4. Empathy

5. Social Skills

These are about the individual (will leave for another day). How about team EQ. Well, yes, it does start with a leader with a high EQ who can model behavior that supports development of team EQ. It also asks that your team members continually work on themselves to improve their own EQ. So, yes, individual EQ matters in the equation.

How Do You Build Team EQ

You create a set of norms — ground rules written or implicit — that govern interactions. They are the little things that have a big impact (say “thank you” or recognize accomplishments — shout-outs go a long way).

The everyday habits of team members. These norms create your culture. Culture is all about how work gets done. So be intentional.

There are nine social norms associated with team EQ from the Group Emotional Competence (GEC) Inventory. I won’t list them all, you can look them up.

These are only as good as your manager’s attention to, and enforcement of, them. It’s easy to let them slide to a point of dysfunctional when you are heads down execute, execute, execute. So, what can managers do?

Let’s take a look at two.

Interpersonal Understanding

Understanding your team members, not only their strengths and weakness, but also understanding, valuing, and respecting different perspectives and character traits. How people operate. Step into their shoes. Seek to understand who they are as people not on paper.

You can do team building exercises. Go beyond the ice breakers. One I think I mentioned before, but I think is interesting, is to have everyone draw an image of one wish they have and let the team guess what it is. Escape the room if you really want to know how people think and operate.

Encourage interactions outside of work (not saying spending 24/7 with work colleagues is a great idea but social interactions are key). Today, smart companies are providing opportunities to interact socially virtually. Happy hours, game nights, or scavenger hunts, etc.

Help develop communication skills. Promote active listening. Maybe you randomly call on someone and ask them to sum up what they heard in a meeting. Or, in small groups have everyone ask a follow up question. Play that kids’ game where someone start a story and the next person continues the story. Have them start by repeating (in so many words) what has been said. Eliminate distractions in meetings, prohibit phones in meetings.

Help members to read body language better — 93% of communication is non-verbal. Host a workshop with an expert. Yes, Zoom fatigue is real but Zoom calls do allow members to key into visual cues you can’t get from emails, slack messages or phone calls.

Team Self-Evaluation

Feedback about the team as a whole. Major wins, productive processes and delays, emotional states, setbacks, and successful interactions. Look at how the team functions as a group. How the team executed on a project or in meeting strategic objectives. What worked, what didn’t work.

Create ways to manage stress. Encourage people to disconnect from work and find some balance. Today, the lines between work and home life are definitely bleeding into each other, potentially turning into a 24–7 work expectation. Make sure you encourage members to carve out personal time.

On the other hand, flexible work arrangements make it easier for some members to manage their own schedules with other responsibilities. Make sure you support this flexibility by taking the view that as long as the work gets done well and on time, and they are available to participate actively when needed, how and when the rest gets done is up to them.

Team breaks — inject some levity and humor into the mix. Are you sending around GIFs in your slack channels?

Encourage casual feedback among the team. I met a founder who holds a mistake meeting every Friday. Everyone has to say one from the week. Make sure members don’t blame or attack each other.

How do you know if your team is not practicing these norms? What does dysfunction look like? People taking everything personally, communications are highly emotional — frustrations boiling over, bickering and blaming, members are unmotivated, or members feel alienated, so they retreat preferring to work alone.



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Kate Carney

I help women entrepreneurs scale businesses. I am a business consultant and legal advisor.