Workplace Culture

Why You Should Build Your Team’s Emotional Intelligence

The impact of emotional intelligence on personal and professional wellbeing, as well as productivity, is beyond debate. It is, without a doubt, a difference-making variable. Emotionally intelligent people are able to assess their own emotions and the emotions of others, and then use that information to guide their words and actions. [1]

Did you know that emotional intelligence can also determine the effectiveness and sustainable productivity of teams? Collective emotional intelligence can even be assessed and (here’s the great news) improved. Teams that are purposeful about understanding and intentionally building their collective emotional intelligence greatly increase their opportunity for success. Taking the necessary time and effort to focus on building your team’s collective emotional intelligence is an investment that consistently pays a rich reward!

Teams that intentionally build their collective emotional intelligence greatly increase their opportunity for success.

Think of the number of times a month you work as part of a team. Any of the following might come to mind: committee work, department meetings, completing a particular task or project with coworkers, coming together with a group to make an important decision, or working collectively on updating your organization’s strategic plan. Co-author of The Emotionally Intelligent Team, Marcia Hughes, defines teams this way:

A team is a group of two or more people who interdependently seek to meet a common purpose, often through problem-solving, in order to meet their own and their organization’s goals. At a minimum, a team should be a cooperative unit and, at its best, a team is a collaborative unit. [2]

Hughes goes on to offer a framework for thinking about a team’s emotional and social intelligence competencies that encompass seven areas. In my experience of leading many teams over the years, Hughes’ framework has extended my understanding of emotional intelligence and helped me determine whether teams are effective or not. When I think about the daily work required to build, maintain, and develop a team, most of the focused effort falls into one of the following areas:

  • Team Identity: The level of pride each member feels for the team as a whole, and how much connection members feel to the team.
  • Motivation: The team’s internal resources for generating and sustaining the energy necessary to get the job done well and on time.
  • Emotional awareness: How well team members accept and value one another.
  • Communication: How well team members listen to each other, encourage participation, share information, and discuss sensitive matters.
  • Stress tolerance: How well the team understands the common stressors in their organization and the impact they can have on its members and the team as a whole.
  • Conflict resolution: How willing the team is to engage in conflict openly and constructively without negative impact.
  • Positive mood: The ability for a team to maintain a positive attitude in general, as well as when it’s under pressure.

Frameworks can serve as a powerful lever for success when they lead to deeper understanding and result in concrete strategies that promote growth and development for team members. Does this framework resonate for you in the same way it has for me?

Think about a team you are working with today – how would you measure the health of your team? Where are the cracks and potential vulnerabilities? What areas require further support and development? What are its greatest strengths? Perhaps considering these questions in terms of your team’s emotional intelligence will provide insights that will help you on your journey to sustainable productivity and to securing the well-being and committed engagement of all team members.

[1] For a great resource on emotional intelligence, check out Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence (1995). As a psychologist and science journalist, his central thesis still holds true and has transformed my understanding of effective leadership. You can find more information on Goleman’s work here.

[2] Marcia Hughes and James Terrell, The Emotionally Intelligent Team: Understanding and Developing the Behaviors of Success (San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2007), p. 14-16.

For more free resources, visit our resources page.


Mark Schinkel

Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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