Leading Organizational Change in a Divided World

April 28, 2017

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. Nelson Mandela

Effective leadership across an organization is the key differentiator to maintaining competitive advantage and organizational performance. Creating organization culture that supports ease in communication, dealing with conflict, collaboration and mutual respect establishes success for the organization and loyalty from leaders and their staff. Yet, creating a cohesive culture is harder now than ever given that our 24/7 news cycle and polarized politicians seem to be scaring everyone to one side or the other of value-laden issues.

Organizational culture is impacted by society’s brewing fear and discord.

Today’s leaders are challenged when members of their workforce view change and tasks from very different lenses resulting in increasing fear and discord.

Leaders who have grappled with these challenges include Abraham Lincoln, Angela Merkel, Nelson Mandela and Sheryl Sandberg. Every leader faces cultural challenges, these four leaders demonstrate the strategies that differentiate those who can surmount cultural hurdles and build engagement thus preventing the organization from sinking into divisiveness. Success requires building emotional intelligence, managing change and influencing in a manner that creates a sustainable environment where people can and will communicate and build bridges.

Four strategies that differentiate successful leaders are:

  1. Intentional & Positive Strategy
  2. Accountability
  3. Common Language – Unified and Integrated Use of Assessments
  4. Inspiring Purpose

Intentional and positive strategies call for evaluating your organizations state with honesty and clarity. What’s really going on? What are the first level staffers, seeing, feeling and hearing? State your intention to the workforce to pay attention and continue to build a positive

and engaging workplace. A positive outlook opens new neuronal pathways so unexplored opportunities become available. With hope, new energy and creativity is invited. Keep your eye on the ball and on any initiatives. Show the staff this is a reliable change, not a flickering thought that will be gone by next week.

Accountability to the change at all levels of the organization is essential. This is often the most forgotten step, perhaps because it can be uncomfortable to hold people accountable. Ignore it at your peril! You and your change will be tested multiple times. It’s key to notice and respond to those challenges to show you mean business.

Common Language follows from a unified and integrated use of assessments. When leaders and employees are using development and engagement language in a common way, there’s tremendous power to calibrate workplace engagement. This language comes from trainings and from the assessments used. We suggest you carefully chose the assessments to be applied in your organization and then intentionally work to build language that’s used in common. Assessments to consider include:

    • Personality – such as MBTI or Emergenetics, and consider topic specific personality assessments such as the Change Style Indicator and the Influence Style Indicator.
    • Skills – in terms of managing yourself and responding effectively to others, there’s no substitute for the EQi!
    • 360 for leaders. To build personal and interpersonal awareness and expanding skills the EQ 360 is powerful. Other good assessments include CCL’s Benchmarks. Additional specific value can be gained from more targeted 360s such as the Discovery Leadership Profile and the Emerging Leaders Profile.
    • Change – the Change Style Indicator, CSI, serves organizations powerfully by helping people understand their personality differences in how they respond to change and then being able to adjust their approach and expectations realistically.
    • Influence – the Influence Style Indicator

The Change Navigator focuses on the emotions of individuals as they navigate change and the stages of transition. It’s a powerful way for a team to take their pulse and understand how they’re doing individually and together. Different emotional responses show-up when Resisting change and to emotions that lead to Resilience.

Emotions that lead to Resistance Emotions that lead to Resilience
Anxiety Purpose
Confusion Enthusiasm
Frustration Optimism
Fatigue Confidence

Source: McKinsey Quarterly

Change Navigator © 2013, 2015 Discovery Learning International – All rights reserved.

Inspiring Purpose is supported by giving super respect to all involved in your organization. Super-respect introduces new awareness and connectivity.

Successful leaders will use their skills to understand the diversity of their workforce and how to approach change and influence their staff and co-workers. Then they will apply emotional intelligence skills to accomplish the desired behavioral change.


Emotional Intelligence: A Leader’s Prime Asset

March 29, 2016

leadership-upIsn’t it wonderful that one of our most important assets as a leader is something which we can improve? Emotional Intelligence (EI) predicts between 27% and 45% of job success, while IQ predicts only 1% to 20%, with the average being 6%. With a healthy combination of awareness and positive intention, we can improve our emotional smarts in the workplace – and in our personal lives. Research shows that one of the most valued assets sought in employees is common sense – and that’s the stuff EI provides. The five key categories of emotional intelligence are: self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal, decision-making, and stress management. Each of these five areas includes three skills for fifteen skills at the heart of the model with an additional skill of happiness is added as an overall barometric indicator of EI. Thus 16 skills are measured to find the details of one’s current emotional intelligence. An action plan can be developed once an individual has this information, supporting growth in any desired area. Performance in these skills drives effective performance and predicts job and life satisfaction.

Of the prominent EI measures available, the EQi (Emotional Quotient Inventory) has the greatest body of scientific data supporting that it is an accurate and reliable means of assessing emotional intelligence. Thus, it was the measure used by the Center for Creative Leadership in its research that documents the importance of emotional intelligence in leaders. They also found the reverse – that low EI is related to career derailment and difficulty in making changes. EI predicts 40% of the variance in effectiveness in teams. Clearly, this is an asset worth growing! Application of the EQi by the U.S. Air Force demonstrates the financial power of this information. The exceptionally high turnover rate of recruits was changed by finding that recruits who scored well in 5 skills on the EQi – assertiveness, empathy, happiness, self-awareness and problem solving, were 2.7 times more likely to succeed. By using this instrument to find those who are right for this position, the Air Force retention rate has been increased by 92%, saving an estimated $2.7 million in 1998 dollars. Needless to say, when Congress got wind of this success they said “Do more!”


Coaching Leaders & Teams to Grow Conflict Resolution Skills

May 1, 2014

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

We are often asked to work with leaders, staff and organizations to guide them in improving their conflict resolution and communications skills. It is an honor to have this opportunity, one we don’t take lightly. Our intention is to facilitate a transformative process that results in sustainable behavior change. Reaching that long term goal requires investment by the individual, team or organization and the coach/facilitator.

Make no mistake about it; this is about making significant change and usually from deeply imbedded habits. Change is Hard Work – it’s possible yet it requires focused commitment and practice. Coaching individuals & teams to change, grow and produce requires:

  • Understanding (the cognitive part)
  • Commitment (the inspirational part)
  • Practice (the determined part)
  • Feedback (the collaborative part)

Success is built through following our four step process to improving conflict resolution skills. If sustainable change is desired, none of these steps can be missed and the dimensions of understanding, commitment, practice and feedback must be interwoven throughout the engagement.

Step One: Diagnosis and Willingness

The first step is making the decision to seek coaching and facilitation to help an individual or team to improve their conflict resolution and communication skills. You’ve heard the maxim that a stitch in time saves nine. However, it’s likely that by the time this decision is made there’s considerable challenge. Nevertheless, build these skills as soon as possible, the earlier you can intervene the better, even if you only save four stitches instead of nine.

At the beginning we normally ask the participant(s) to take one or two assessments, the EQi for individuals and teams will take the TESI or both the EQi and the TESI. All individual responses are confidential and used only to support development. This allows the participants and the coach to have data on the current state of skills and competencies and to highlight both areas that need to be improved as well as existing strengths that can facilitate the change process. The EQi2.0® reflects one’s overall well-being and ability to succeed in life. It explores the role that sixteen different elements of emotional well-being play in one’s life, by applying the fifteen skills in this model together with happiness as an indicator of emotional and social well-being. How one uses skills such as assertiveness, empathy, impulse control and optimism significantly influences their communications and conflict resolution success.

The TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) is an internal 360 which measurers the team’s performance on seven team competencies including communications, conflict resolution and stress tolerance. Team members rate the team’s performance and then the aggregated results are presented to the team, with each individual’s scores remaining confidential. This allows team members to speak frankly with one another and quickly advances the discussion to building a successful action plan.

Willingness to honestly review current behaviors and results is central to making meaningful change. Fortunately, we don’t need 100% willingness at the beginning. There needs to be agreement to participate, however the vigor with which the participant(s) engage usually expands over time. As they perceive the possibility that they don’t have to stay stuck in this uncomfortable pattern and gain a sense of safety and trust in the process, willingness to make change usually grows significantly.

Step Two: Recognition and Ownership

Before a person buys into making personal change, he/she must recognize that the current way isn’t working. They need to take ownership of their own behavior and how that contributes to the difficult situations. At first it seems much easier to blame someone else – “It’s my bosses fault” or “It’s my team member’s fault” or “My organization doesn’t give us enough resources or time to do it right.” There could well be some truth in any of these statements, but they are not the point of the individual’s power. We can only change ourselves. Yet, fortunately, our changed behavior often leads to different responses. If an individual who used to create difficult conversations instead responds with collaborative invitations to work together, they are likely to receive a different response, although it may take a few times before the change is trusted.

Others, such as the team or organizational system likely contribute to the challenges. Often one person is treated as the Identified Problem yet it’s really a systemic issue. Frequently, the individual does contribute significantly to the difficulties occurring; however, they are very seldom alone in creating the difficulties. Thus in individual coaching we need to work with the individual to take full responsibility for their behaviors and to embrace learning to be more successful. Additionally, it is very useful when we also work with the team leader, the whole team or other key individuals to address how they are working together. Nevertheless, even if the others in the process won’t participate in recognizing and making changes, the coaching can be significantly beneficial for the individual. They will still gain skills that improve their engagement, are likely to enhance their productivity and reduce the negative feedback they receive. Sometimes these benefits play out more effectively in new situations rather than the on-going challenge area. The benefits of these behavior changes are certain to impact both their professional and personal lives as conflict shows up everywhere.

As a part of the recognition, the participant(s) need to understand what their challenges are as they respond to conflict. Are they avoiding, aggressive, or unreliable in that they don’t follow-through? These can be challenges for anyone, however, the problem to the team and organization is multiplied when these are challenges are held by the team leader. Then many people suffer the consequences of their poor conflict management.

Step Three: Learning New Behaviors

This is the role up your sleeves and build new habits time. It involves are four components of understanding, commitment, practice and feedback. As the cognitive awareness is developed of what occurs when their responses are curt and perfunctory, and the participant(s) become curious about what else they could do, we are starting to build commitment, the inspirational part. This is quite important to supporting the determination needed to start practicing the new ways. Finally, feedback will help to in fine tuning their approach, learning the right nuancing and getting it right. Both introverts and feisty people may not want to respond to feedback. This reluctance comes from different reasons, but can have the same consequences of not building the new relationships needed. Thus part of the coaching we do focuses on how to work with feedback as they begin using their new skills.

Key skills from the EQi that particularly influence conflict resolution skills are: impulse control, empathy, assertiveness, problem solving, flexibility and optimism. All 16 skills are influential because of the complexity of working with conflict, but these 6 are at the core of effective functioning with conflict. Let’s say that Jill has taken the EQi, which reports lower scores in impulse control and empathy. She talks over people, responds hastily, is highly judgmental and will tell her direct reports abruptly how they are failing, but seldom offers solutions or helps them make changes. She seldom recognizes their successes. You can imagine that it’s hard working on her team.

Circle-of-EmotionShe has come to us for coaching on how to improve her work with her direct reports because her performance review calls out these ineffective behaviors. First, we will help Jill understand the process of working with emotions as reflected in this graph that shows the circle of emotions. We would work with Jill to understand the consequences of her approaches, build her optimism that she can change and help her understand how valuable that change will be. Next we will work with her to articulate specifically how she is interacting with her direct reports. Together we will diagnose the trouble spots so new approaches can be identified and practiced. For example, if a direct report is speaking she needs to not rudely interrupt, but listen and then respond. Jill can create reasonable boundaries up front to let them know she only has five minutes before her next meeting if necessary, and then set a better time to fully deal with the matter. There are many specific and concrete skills that she can begin applying that can greatly change her success.

If Jill’s team is also involved we will have them take the TESI and work with them on how they are participating in resolving conflict, which will necessarily include other competencies, especially communications. Through this process we can build enhanced resourcefulness throughout the team. As everyone gets better at working through difficult issues, the team’s success will improve and Jill’s changes can be more effective and likely will be more appreciated.

Step Four: Implementation – Practice, Fine Tune, Practice

PIE color whole tagThis is the follow through stage that requires diligence and has the most positive payoffs. It involves the components of commitment, practice and feedback. A key part of coaching is to help pace the process of change so that her work builds her success and isn’t so overwhelming that the changes aren’t practiced. In our example of Jill we will encourage her to practice some changes, get feedback and then fine tune her approach. As a few changes start working and become natural, we can work on new and perhaps more transformative changes. Deliberate steps and managing the magnitude of what she is asked to do will promote and anchor her success.

Overall, investing in leader, staff and team improvements in working through difficult challenges can be quite effective. Building effective buy-in to the process from all parties greatly contributes to success. It is valuable to make a sufficient investment so that all four stages are implemented.


Communicating Around the Team Table

January 6, 2014

team_hugAsk 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.


Leading Emotionally Intelligent Teams

February 25, 2013

motivation clipThe world has changed. Once we thought that an MBA and wireless technology would secure the future. It won’t. Reams of data and our work at Collaborative Growth all point to the need to work together in teams and that the strategy for sustained team success is emotional and social intelligence, or ESI, at the team level. The most influential individual in this dynamic is the team leader – and it can be a daunting job at times. That challenge is enhanced by good data, such as from the Team Emotional Social Intelligence® Survey (TESI®) for a 360 report by team members on the team functioning, an individual report on emotional intelligence skills from the EQ-I 2.0® or EQ 360® and on leadership performance from the LPI®. These 3 assessments bring a powerful level of data together to support strategic leadership by the team leader. Pre – post measurement of success also will support good data and focused leadership.

Leaders need to learn strategies for building their effectiveness in expanding the emotional and social intelligence of their teams. Discovering how to measure and strategically develop a team’s skills enhances success and sustainability. A leader’s greatest challenges in building ESI are to:

  1. Develop him or herself personally and as a leader – be honest, hold oneself accountable
  2. Learn to coach team members individually
  3. Vision the team as a whole unit and lead / coach the whole team

Let’s consider each of these.

First, individual coaching supported by EQ 360 and LPI reports will give the leader and his or her coach the opportunity to be sure strengths are recognized and used and that weaknesses are addressed. Emotional and social intelligence is built on recognition of core skills that lead to success in meeting the environmental challenges that face a leader in every part of life. The key term is skills as these can be developed. If an area is important and the leader isn’t good at the skill, he or she can enhance that skill if they truly want to. Making sustainable behavioral change takes time, attention and commitment. The pay-off is rich and a coach and good assessment data will be valuable support along the way.

Second, coaching individual team members can be a real stretch. By taking on the responsibility to be a team leader, the leader’s challenge grew significantly from just working personally to coaching members of the team individually to support their best engagement and development opportunities. Many leaders come from fields such as engineering or sales that haven’t included training in human development. If a leader is challenged with self-regard or optimism or empathy, for example, how can he or she effectively coach the team members in developing their own skills? The answer is that the leader must engage in building his or her own capacities and also seek training and coaching or mentoring on how to support staff development. Their well-being and the organization’s productivity are directly linked to the leader’s guidance. The leader should keep focusing on learning to pass on skills he or she develops. Expanding communication skills will help the leader listen effectively and notice what is truly being requested. Consciously building his or her own skills will help the leader understand specific strategies to pass on. This is a continuous learning opportunity. If treated as a central way to enrich life for the leader and the staff, it can be fun and one of the best motivational strategies possible.

Third, have your team gain from solid date on their performance. Have the team take the TESI then work with them beginning with visioning the team as a whole unit and leading / coaching the whole team to a unified sense of purposeful engagement. This means the leader needs to view the team in two ways – paying attention to the individual and to the team as a whole. By working with TESI® information, everyone gains a sense of what’s working and what needs to be strengthened. When the team as a whole experiences that the leader is seeing the team as a discrete operating system – and one that he or she can be proud of – the team will rise to the occasion. This visioning is a powerful invitation to develop a cohesive unit that operates with what we call Collaborative Intelligence™.

Building Skills with the TESI, EQ-i or EQ 360 and LPI

The scales of the three instruments we’ve discussed, the TESI, EQi and LPI, all complement one another. We see them fitting together as demonstrated by this table.

TESI® EQ-i® or EQ 360® LPI®
Identity Self-regardIndependenceInterpersonal relationships Model the way
Motivation OptimismAssertivenessSelf-actualization Inspire a shared vision
Emotional Awareness Emotional self-awarenessEmpathyAssertiveness Enable others to act
Communication EmpathySelf-regardEmotional self-awareness Model the way
Stress Tolerance Stress toleranceImpulse controlSelf-actualization Challenge the process
Conflict Resolution EmpathyImpulse controlSelf-actualization Challenge the process
Positive Mood HappinessOptimism Encourage the heart

Emotional & Social Well-Being Supports Employee Engagement

February 1, 2012

The good news about our 2.0 world is organizations are finally getting it – that is they are recognizing that if they place their top value on building emotional and social well being for their employees and teams, they will gain the business and financial values of increased and sustainable productivity, better decisions, loyalty and best of all trust among their workforce. Ok, they get it, but how do they DO it? It isn’t hard, yet it does require intentional commitment and follow through. Fortunately there is a road map, the powerful tools of the EQi 2.0® for individuals and the TESI® for teams are well researched assessments designed to measure and provide the path to building emotional and social well-being. These provide the data to implement a specific plan of action for individuals and teams.

Let’s take the case of Teresa (not her real name) who recently joined a mid-size successful law firm as a paralegal in the Environmental Division (ED). The ED has a managing partner, administrative partner, 10 attorneys and 5 paralegals. Teresa is excited, hopeful, apprehensive, and cautious. She is experiencing a normal set of mixed emotions as she starts this new position that could become a rewarding long-term career or a really difficult chapter in her life. It is very much in her best interest and that of the firm for this to work. Recognizing the investment they are making, the law firm has established a process to welcome and support Teresa’s success.

First, they used the EQi 2.0 as a part of the hiring process to hire a person who would have high potential for success in this position. Once Teresa joined the firm she was given her EQi results with a coaching session by Abigail, an external consultant to their OD team. Teresa was guided to explore all skills of the EQi and to focus on a few that would be most helpful for her. Teresa’s happiness (scored at 90) is lower than she would prefer and she recognizes that her happiness has a global effect on her life, it affects the energy she has to do her job, her ability to connect with others, and how she feels about herself. Teresa and Abigail dug in to explore the well-being indicator in her report and seek useful strategies that Teresa could put into action. Happiness was originally described by Dr. Reuven Bar-On, the creator of the original EQi, as a barometer of emotional health and well-being and as an indicator of one’s entire emotional and social intelligence. The EQi well-being indicator emphasizes that four of the sixteen EQi skills are particularly interconnected to the dimension of happiness. Teresa’s found:

  1. Her self-regard (95) was ok, but she would benefit by strengthening her sense of self-confidence. Teresa feels scared in her first position as a paralegal, but upon discussion she recognizes she has strengths to build on including her previous work experience.
  2. Her optimism (110) was likely to be a healthy point of leverage in building her goals. However, she and her coach checked her reality testing (102) to make sure she maintained good perspective and didn’t just look at the world with rose colored glasses.
  3. 3. Her interpersonal relationships (95) indicated that she longed to take time to develop more friendships. She’d focused on career and family and was truly feeling lonely for personal friends. Teresa recognized that a few close friends would make a big difference for her whole life, but she was worried that she just couldn’t invest the time. She was surprised that her coach would even suggest this was important, after all didn’t the law firm just want billable hours? It seemed like investing in friends would diminish her contribution at the firm. Teresa’s curiosity was definitely engaged.
  4. Her self-actualization (104) was fairly strong and Teresa talked about how important it is to her to contribute to making the world a better place. This is why she chose to be a paralegal and work in environmental law. She would be supporting cases focused on water quality and hazardous waste management. She talked about her passion and excitement and demonstrated why this skill and her optimism are key components of her happiness.

Teresa and Abigail discussed a strategy, with Teresa taking the lead on changes she was going to work on. First she knew it had to be small focused steps because she was already busy. She decided to build her self-regard by: 1) giving herself positive messages at least 5 times a day, 2) noticing what was going right, and 3) taking at least 15 minutes each evening to reflect and write down how she felt with the positive messages and what she did right during the day. She committed to doing this for 28 days straight, as Abigail emphasized that she’s building new habits supported by new neuronal pathways. She also decided to have a least one personal lunch or coffee break a week that was just meeting with friends, not about business. Teresa will also do this for four weeks and then decide on next steps. She was intrigued with Abigail’s confirmation that the firm recognizes that people need connections and that folks who feel that they have a full whole life are better long term contributors to the firm and support their clients and co-workers more effectively.

Teresa was beginning to get the message that her new employer believed in her emotional and social well being and was really pleased to learn that the investment wouldn’t stop with just her individual needs as she and her teammates in the Environmental Division were also supported in being a strong and viable team. The team would be taking the TESI (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey) in a few months and she’d be a part of taking the Survey, evaluating the team’s performance in skills such as motivation, emotional awareness, conflict resolution and stress tolerance. Days were marked out on everyone’s calendars for once a month team building sessions where they would use the data from the TESI, connect it with their reflections on projects that were successful or challenged and intentionally keep building their skills to work together.

After the coaching session, Teresa felt hopeful and committed to being a productive member of the firm for a very long time.


Can Virtual Teams Demonstrate Emotional & Social Intelligence?

December 30, 2011

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.