What’s your Team EQ?  The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Great Teams

We’ve all been on that team—the one where you keep your head down, do your work, and refrain from asking questions.  Hopefully, we’ve also been on that other team, too:  discussion flows, questioning is productive (even though it might be uncomfortable), and issues arise and get solved in a way that recognizes voices and contributions.   Without question, the second team is the one everyone wants to be on.  If you’re a manager, it’s likely the team you count on to bring you the best solutions.   So why do some teams trudge through a task and die while others become cradles for innovation and efficiency?

Environments for great teams

These “A” teams are adept at team learning: they work hard to meet goals, test assumptions, and test new ideas, all in the name of learning what works best over and over again.

However, there are risks associated with successful team learning.  New ideas and productive questioning require a level of comfort with vulnerability; challenges associated with team learning can produce defensiveness, stress, and anxiety.  Great teams learn to weather these circumstances.  They have to operate in an environment of psychological safety—in other words, people have to feel safe taking the risks they must take to form new ideas as a team (Edmonson 1999).

Emotions have an influence on this, too. A recent study, surveying a variety of teams across industries, positively linked emotional intelligence to team learning via team psychological safety. The results of the survey suggest that emotions are critical in the early stages of team development – they provide the basis for the development of trust that is tantamount to team learning (Ghosh, Shuck, and Petrosko 2012). Members of ad-hoc teams currently engaged in projects ranked measures of emotional intelligence as well as measures of psychological safety and team learning.  Statistical analysis of the results showed a positive association between emotional intelligence and the factors for team learning described above (Ghosh, Shuck, and Petrosko 2012).

Takeaways for your practice

Look back at those high-performing teams you were on — what did you do to create an environment where dissent was productive, crazy ideas were encouraged, or new information wasn’t viewed as a threat? Consider using emotional intelligence to create safe spaces for your team, in meetings, at events,  or through norms that you promote throughout your company. Below are a few easy tips for developing emotional intelligence on your team:

  • Get to know each other through team building activities
  • Institute “check-ins” at the beginning of meetings or events (even a simple “How’s everyone?” followed by your own honest answer is a great start!)
  • Ask team members to let you know how the decision-making process is going for them—is there something they need in order to communicate ideas and disagree more productively?

These days, teams are the nexus of work in many industries; high-performing teams are critical to the success of an organization. We know that building trust through emotional intelligence  leads to an environment where teams can thrive. Can you find small ways to challenge your teams in to bring emotion back into their learning at work?

Did you like this article? Share it with your network by clicking on the buttons below!

Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter to receive all the quality of scientific research in less than 1000 words!


Edmonson, A.C. (1999) “Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams.” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol 44 No. 2, pp. 350-383.

Find the original article here!

Ghosh, R., Shuck, B., and Petrosko, J. (2012) “Emotional intelligence and organizational learning in work teams.” Journal of Management Development, Vol. 31 No. 6, pp. 603-619.

Find the original article here!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.