Tag: Happiness

Emotional Intelligence and Teams

Posted on 11/07/15 by Aidan

autonomy1For the past twenty years, important research has been done in organizations that backs up the claims made in the nineties relating to Emotional Intelligence and its importance by Goleman and many others. Research has shown that feelings and emotions have a direct impact on effectiveness, efficiency and ultimately the bottom line.

Emotional Intelligence has been shown to lead to better customer retention and long term customer relationships, and improved: Trust, Engagement, Influencing, Collaboration, Communication, Decision Making and Change Capability it also leads to Reduced Conflict.

Numerous studies explore the financial implication of emotional intelligence; particularly how higher EQ leaders produce more powerful business results. One such study tested 186 executives on EQ and compared their scores with their company’s profitability; leaders who scored higher in key aspects of emotional intelligence (including empathy and accurate self-awareness) were more likely to be highly profitable.  Leadership and Organization Development Journal 2009

Looking at the emotional intelligence of teams is important because most of the work in organizations today is done by teams. Leaders have a pressing need today to make teams work together better.

Modern businesses thrive when using teams to organize the work. Teams have more talent and experience, more diversity of resources, and greater operating flexibility than individual performers. Research in the last decade has proven the superiority of group decision-making over that of even the brightest individual in
the group. But the exception to this rule is when the group lacks harmony or the ability to cooperate. Then decision-making quality and speed suffer.

The important difference between effective teams and ineffective ones lies in the emotional intelligence of  the group. Teams have an emotional intelligence of their own. It is comprised of the emotional intelligence of individual members, plus a collective competency of the group. Everyone contributes to the overall level of emotional intelligence, and the leader has more influence. The good news is that teams can develop greater emotional intelligence and boost their performance.Teamwork performance improved by 25% in terms of goal achievement over standard functioning teams.

Most research has focused on identifying the tasks and processes that make teams successful. But just learning a script won’t make a good actor great; the actor has to be able to deliver the lines with real feeling. A piano student can learn the music of Bach, but she has to be able to play with heart to be really good. Successful teams can apply the principles of effective task processes, but they must also work together wholeheartedly.

Trust, Identity and Efficacy

In an article entitled “Building the Emotional Intelligence of groups,” Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff (Harvard Business Review, March 2001) identify three conditions essential to a group’s effectiveness:

  • Trust among members
  • A sense of group identity
  • A sense of group efficacy

To be most effective, the team needs to create emotionally intelligent norms — the attitudes and behaviors that eventually become habits — that support behaviors for building trust, group identity and group efficacy. Group identity is described as a feeling among members that they belong to a unique and worthwhile group. A sense of group efficacy is the belief that the team can perform well and that group members are more effective working together than apart.

Group emotional intelligence is not a question of catching emotions as they bubble up and then suppressing them. It involves courageously bringing feelings out into the open and dialoging about how they affect the team’s work. If emotions are avoided, there is a false or superficial tone that “everything’s just fine.” Groups cannot work together without having personalities that butt up against each other. Admitting to this is the first step in clarifying and finding common ground upon which to move forward.

Group emotional intelligence is also about behaving in ways that build relationships both inside and outside the team. Building relationships strengthens the team’s ability to face challenges. In order to strengthen relationships, the group must feel safe to be able to explore, embrace and ultimately to rely on emotions in work. Emotions must be considered for the good of the group. Feelings count, but then there are the tasks at hand and the work that needs to be done. Team leaders must constantly balance harmony with productivity.

A team’s effectiveness can depend on how well it works together in harmony. A leader skilled in creating good feelings can keep cooperation high. Good team leaders know how to balance the focus on productivity with attention to member’s relationships and their ability to connect. There is even research that shows that humor at work can stimulate creativity, open lines of communications and enhance a sense of trust. Playful joking increases the likelihood of concessions during a negotiation. Emotionally intelligent team leaders know how to use humor and playfulness with their teams.

Creating good moods in employees may be even more important than previously thought. It is common sense to see that workers who feel upbeat will go the extra mile to please customers and therefore improve the bottom line. There is research to show that for every 1 percent improvement in the service climate, there’s a 2 percent increase in revenue. New research from a range of industries now reaffirms the link between leadership and climate and to business performance. According to Daniel Goleman in Primal Leadership (2002), how people feel about working at a company can account for 20 to 30 percent of business performance.

Part of understanding the emotional reality of a team is uncovering the particular habits ingrained in a team or organization that can drive behaviors. A prime example is the notion of “It’s just the way we do things here.” The team leader is effective when he or she looks for signs that reveal if such habits are working or not. It is the leader’s job to explore and expose unhealthy work habits in order to build more effective group norms.

In any group, people will eventually cross lines and confrontation becomes necessary. There must be a means for doing this that is firm yet not demeaning. The team leader sets the tone for this because of the position he or she is in. Caring confrontation is an art that can be learned and taught to both leaders and members. The use of humor can be very effective as a means for bringing errant members back into the group fold. The message is, “We want you as part of this group, your contributions are needed.”

These are the group norms that build trust and a sense of group identity for members: interpersonal understanding, perspective taking, confrontation and caring. They can be learned and developed wherever they don’t exist naturally. It may take some time and attention, but they are too important to be overlooked. Teams are at the very foundation of organizational effectiveness and they won’t work without mutual trust and common commitment to goals.

Building self-managing teams

One of the first tasks of a team leader is to build greater team awareness. This is the job of each individual member of the team, as well, but the leader’s job is to instill a sense of responsibility individuals for the well-being of the team. In order to do so, Cary Cherniss, chair of a well-known research group on emotional intelligence, puts forth ground rules for teams. Everyone on the team should take responsibility for:

  • Keeping us on track if we get off track
  • Facilitating group input
  • Raising questions about procedures, asking for clarification about where we are going and offering summaries of issues being discussed to make sure we have a shared understanding
  • Using good listening skills to build on the ongoing discussion or to clearly signal that we want to change the subject, and ask if that is okay

This is an example of how a leader can create a self-managing team. What is important for the leader, emphasizes Cherniss, is to remind the group of its collaborative norms by making them explicit. Everyone can practice them because they are upfront and repeated at each meeting.

Clearly the setting forth of core values and operating norms is important to ensure that a team works smoothly together. But like most things, they must be repeated again and again. When values and norms are clear, teams can go about their work even in the absence of the leader.
In self-aware self-managing teams, members hold each other accountable for sticking to norms. It takes a strong emotionally intelligent leader to hold the team to such responsibility. Many teams are not accustomed to proactively handling emotions and habits. And many leaders have difficulty stepping out of the role of director in order to let teams self-direct.

However, when the values and norms are clear, and self-management principles are explicit and practiced over time, teams become not only effective, but also self-reinforcing. Being on the team leads to positive emotions that energize and motivate people.

Every company faces specific performance challenges for which teams are the most practical and powerful vehicle. The critical challenge for senior managers is how to develop emotionally intelligent teams that can deliver maximum performance. Teams have a unique potential to deliver results, and executives must foster self-managing and emotionally intelligent teams that will be effective. In doing so, top management creates the kind of environment that enables teams as well as individuals to thrive. So the Organisation can thrive.

Want to feel better?

Posted on 05/19/11 by Aidan


People are suffering all over this country at the moment.  I heard a story the other day which really hit me hard. That of a teenage girl who was skipping school on Thursday and Friday because she was being bullied. The timing element was due to their being no electricity at home due to her family being unable to pay off their Electricity bill.  I hear similar stories of folks being cut off, on arrears and losing jobs – all over. Times are tough there is no doubt.  And people are suffering. Some suffering however is brought about by ones attitude. I have been speaking to lots of people and I find its surprising how useful a simple change of perspective can be for many of the people I talk to.

I can recommend three simple exercises to make yourself feel better.

The first is to let go of attachments. According to some traditions attachments are the major source of unhappiness. Attachments to the “things” in your life that are not strictly necessary – that flash car, that social scene you used to have, that high powered role you played, that group relationship you had. If you really look you will realise that you don’t NEED a lot of the things you worry about. It helps to make a list of the attachments you have and list those you could not survive without. I have met a number of people on my travels (and I’ve been there) who had to give up the flash car and the golf club membership and beat themselves up daily because of what’s gone. Rather than focus on what they do have – like health and family.

The second is to engender Gratitude. I went through some hard times in the early Noughties and was feeling miserable as a result. That was until I saw friends of mine going through suffering which involved their family which put my problems in such perspective as to almost make them disappear. I suddenly became grateful for what I had rather than mourn for what I had lost. Just that simple change in your perspective can alter your whole outlook. You should always spend a little time each day focusing on what you are grateful for. Even a minute, two or three times per day, will do it.

The third exercise is to look at the choices you have and the choices you make each day. I find that much bad feeling is around helplessness. It helps to understand that you are not without options and resources. When problems arise you look at them and analyze them and then you need to make a choice – what to do. We always have options open to us the trick is to find them. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the weight of what’s in front of us. The problem can usually be broken into small bits. The problem can usually be resolved over time with small steps. Small goals. When you break it into small steps then the key is NOW. What can you do NOW?  What can I do right now to start resolving the problem? What choices do I have?

The good news on these three exercises is that they cost you nothing,  they are within your power and I have seen them work on others and also used them myself. If you are feeling low, helpless and stuck, try them to shake yourself loose, get the energy back in your life and get moving in the right direction.

Aidan Higgins

Recession Rubbernecking

Posted on 10/22/10 by Aidan

When I worked in London and drove around that horrid M25 Ring Motorway with about 100 Million other cars there used to be a term you would hear on the radio – “Rubbernecking”.

An accident on the motorway in say the clockwise direction would cause those going anti-clockwise to slow down to see what was going on on the other side. This would cause a ripple effect back through the traffic and cause it to slow and stop leading to incredible delays for up to 50 miles.

A friend of mine – a very intelligent fella called Alan Brown in Brown and Root Vickers, an Engineering Consultant, used to explain it in terms of flow mechanics and to be honest I never quite understood him fully. It was something to do with too much water (traffic) in too small a space and the ripple effect backwards.

I decided to invent the term the other day – “Recession Rubbernecking” – here we are with the help of some of the media rubbernecking at Anglo-Irish Bank, at Nama, at Bond Rates and such and so forth. There are people sitting around turf fires in villages in Ireland happily prepared to discuss Bond Interest Rates and Developer “Hair Cuts” and such. We are all staring at the accident – looking for Carnage.

Well don’t !

The Accident is fascinating. But looking at it and dwelling on it is causing a backlog, a compression which is slowing everyone down and stopping the momentum needed for recovery. Businesses are not selling, banks are not lending, jobs are slow to come back. Because we all have our eye off the road in front of us.  “Lets see how the Anglo numbers affect us first”, now “lets wait for the budget”, now “lets wait to see how the interest rates…..” meanwhile six months have gone by and we are holding our breath and standing still. We need movement folks. We need energy, industry and to get where we need to go.

Turn off the radio, switch the news channel, turn over to the life and sports sections. Look past the headlines. If you do look at one of these articles – do get the facts and draw your own conclusions. Don’t look at the emotive headlines and get caught up.  Then focus on the things you CAN do to make a difference to the things that are important to you, write them down and do them.  Life is about the six inches in front of your face. Getting through this is about being here and now. In the moment if you will.  Right here Right now you have the power to affect the things you can.

Aidan Higgins

Stay Foolish?

Posted on 07/15/09 by Aidan

Steve Jobs is well known as the creator of the Apple Mac, the iPod and the iPhone. Without formal qualifications he became a world class innovator and thinker and he is someone who has made an impact on our world. I came across this speech he made at Stanford. I was taken with his 3 key points – some elements of which are developed from other angles in this blog. Have a look and enjoy – its well worth the 15 minutes.

Rediscovering Life

Posted on 01/16/09 by Aidan

If you are looking for “something else” while you ponder the impact of the global downturn on you and others around you and you are perhaps reaching for another set of values – you might do well to get a cup of coffee or two and watch this series of lectures. Here is the first of a series of videos on Youtube of Anthony De Mello which he gave in front of an audience and which was simultaeously broadcast in interactive format all over North America.

De Mellos teachings (from 1989) provide a foundation for, or use the same foundation as, a number of modern teachings on self development as he pulls from a number of the same original texts.  A thoroughly engaging character, Anthony he was a good friend to Dr Dick McHugh who I have mentioned before in terms of the work he does in NLP all over the world.

Any student of self awareness or personal mastery will get a lot from these, however any person with a sense of wonder in this area will also get much from this. From the engaging anecdotes to the wonderful ideas to the warmth of his personality it is a joy. It may even be life changing. As he says himself “I discovered something  a few years ago that changed my life, turned it upside down…let me tell you about it”

No less than the secret of happiness? – Has he got it?
Stick with it through the intro and give him some time then you can decide for yourself.

Happy New Year
Aidan Higgins