The Emotionally Intelligent Team

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This week we are talking about the Emotionally Intelligent Team with James Terrell. I’ve known James for probably the last 8 years or so through different emotional intelligence conferences. He is definitely a thought leader and a thought producer around products and books for emotional intelligence.

He is the Vice President of Collaborative Growth, where James applies his expertise in developing emotional programs to help public and private sector leaders expand the depth of their influence, anticipate change, and respond to it resiliently, which we need in today’s climate.

He is the co-author of Emotional Intelligence in Action, also The Emotionally Intelligent Team, which we are going to talk about here, A Coaches Guide to Emotional Intelligence, and The Handbook for Developing Emotional and Social Intelligence.

He and Collaborate Growth help assess your emotional intelligence; they have some proprietary tools; the TESI: The Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Inventory which he’ll talk about. It’s the world’s first scientifically validated assessment of team emotional intelligence.

James tells us that in his previous life he was the owner/operator of Integrity Building Systems, a residential/commercial renovation company. In the future, he also tells us, he is certain to be a rock star. So he has got big aspirations here and we’ll hear about that.

Dr. Relly Nadler: James, welcome to the show.

James Terrell: Hi Relly, how are you today. Hi Cathy, it’s a real pleasure to be here.

Dr. Relly Nadler: It’s great having you. You use a lot of EI assessments; the Bar-On EQi, the EQi 360, and today you are going to be able to tell us a little bit about one that you created, which was the first validated emotional intelligence assessments for teams.

Why don’t we start off James, with our first question? We like to know about the people that we are talking with and who has been most influential for your life and maybe shaping some of your thinking about being a leader?

James Terrell: There’s an interesting story as I reflected on this. I went clear back to my childhood when I was reading Humor in Uniform, or Life in the United States, in the Readers Digest. I recall the story about a Lieutenant, probably serving in World War II who was highly decorated and a reporter who came up to interview him after he just received all of these awards for heroism and bravery.

The reporter asked him, “Lieutenant why is it that you have such a reputation for always being at the very front of the advances that you led and never hanging back, never seeking safety and cover?” The guy said, “Well, did you ever try to push a string?”

Even as a young man that made quite an impression on me, that leadership is something where people have to be willing to show up. They have to be willing to identify themselves. When it comes to emotional intelligence and specifically working with the Bar-On assessments, there is one scale called Self-Regard. If self-regard isn’t high enough and if it isn’t bright enough, the people that need to follow us aren’t going to be able to really identify us and have the confidence that they need. We have to be exuding that kind of emotional energy in order for them to want to follow.

Another individual whose quote I have actually over my desk is Max de Pree, you might know of. What he said is, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” This also draws right back into the 15 skills in the Bar-On assessment with reality testing. We’ve got to have a good cognitive sense of what is real and be able to match that with our emotional participation in such a way that we are not dreaming. We are not getting off into such positive thinking that we are unable to act effectively and end up having a lot of unpleasant surprises.

Defining reality and leadership by example; those are two of the things that I feel are most important.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Outstanding. You know one of the things that I was thinking about as you were talking are the experiences we all share around emotional expectations; I think you used the word cognitive sense. Given our economic stress right now, a lot of us have different emotional expectations of the market and we have a different cognitive sense for ourselves of how well we’ll do in that market. Can you talk a little bit about what some of the emotions might be that you speak about in the Emotionally Intelligent Team and maybe that will be a foundation for us to build on as we go forward?

James Terrell: Absolutely. We’ve got seven different categories that we explore pretty carefully and we assess all of these in the TESI. But the one that comes to mind right off the bat is stress tolerance. Because the level of uncertainty that we are experiencing certainly brings a lot of stress to people. They don’t know what the most intelligent way to act is and as a result of that sometimes feel paralyzed, sometimes they may feel rushed into making decisions that they regret later.

So one of the things emotional intelligence is really good for is helping us kind of slow down. Ghandi said something pretty powerful to this point, he said, “There is more to life than increasing it’s speed.” I think that a lot of the fall-out that we are seeing in the economic market is the result of having ramped up the speed of economic behavior to the point where it’s not really sustainable anymore.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I wrote those down, those are some great quotes from Ghandi and then Max de Pree. I wanted to mention, just with that idea, that our first responsibility as a leader is to define reality and I think as we talk about the emotional intelligent team and talk about the leader who is emotionally intelligent, then being able to manage themselves and how do they direct people’s thinking. I really like to think about great leaders—give people a target—which sounds like some of this reality of what should we be thinking about. What should we be focusing on? How are we going to move forward? If a leader doesn’t give people that target, they are going to be all over the place with some of the uncertainty and stress that we are having.

With that and today’s climate change, maybe you can speak about why it is important for teams to be emotionally intelligent.

James Terrell: Well sure, and just what does it mean to be an emotionally intelligent team. There’s a real element of sensitivity that goes into this. We have to be sensitive to the signals in our environment that are actually causing or stimulating our emotional responses.

Emotion is a much older faculty in mammals than cognitive evaluation. In fact, if we are really tuned in to our emotional awareness we are able to respond much more quickly and intuitively than we can if we have to process all of the decision-making we do in a pretty linear, deductive sort of manner.

We have been working with some of the teams that have assessed the emotional intelligence of their teamwork and found some of the dynamics that are at play there and helped them to adjust those. What we find is that they begin to operate more intuitively. Some of the turf battles that were present, some of the misunderstandings that tended to come up more often, really tend to melt away. Now that doesn’t mean overnight, because this is behavioral change and as everyone knows this means a certain amount of practice. It means really a commitment and some focused attention over time.

As teams make this sort of commitment, they begin to operate more rapidly because they can accurately anticipate the way that each other is going to be responding to the various challenges that go through the day.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Well that is really important, just because dealing with the stress and the expectations that we have, being able to kind of know how people are going to operate and know what’s next, either for your team or for the individuals, that’s really important.

We are going to get into the seven areas of the TESI Team Emotional and Social Intelligence assessment, but maybe before we do that James, I’m curious because I know your Emotional Intelligence in Action has been a great book, but then how did this one come about with team? What was some of the inception with you and Marsha Hughes as far as figuring out that it could be a good little niche that we should focus on?

James Terrell: Marsha and I were blessed with a really excellent editor at Wiley, and after it became evident that people did like Emotional Intelligence in Action, he actually approached us and indicated that we probably would do well to focus some of this particularly in the area of teamwork. It was from his initiative that we kind of got involved in doing this. It’s been a very exciting ride. Developing the assessment and working with Dick Thompson of High Performing Systems, who is our publisher, to get it validated. We have some friends in Portugal that are translating it into Portuguese. It’s all kind of come together in a pretty organic way, actually.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: You know I can’t help but think how exciting that is to not only to be asked to create a follow-up book on the subject of emotional intelligence for teams, but to also be asked to create a tool that helps all of us function better in the context of a work environment where we are always interacting with others. So I’m kind of sitting here waiting for you to talk about the seven skills area because I want to learn something.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Yes, let’s maybe talk about the seven and why those seven, and then what we want to do for our audience is to hear about it and then actually what you have in your book because I really looked through it and I think it is very well written. You have a lot of actions so that’s really what we really want to do as far as these micro-initiatives for our listeners. What are the seven skills and how did you come up with those?

James Terrell: Well, first of all, I’ll just list them and then I’ll go back and refer to them a little bit more in detail, perhaps.

  1. Team identity.
  2. Motivation
  3. Emotional awareness.
  4. Communication
  5. Stress tolerance.
  6. Conflict resolution.
  7. Positive mood.

How we came up with them: my partner, Marsha Hughes who is also my wife, has been working in team development for over 20 years. I tend to do more of the coaching side of our business. We obviously kind of collaborate both ways. But, it was through her insight into the nature of teamwork and where she saw teams struggling, that we chose to really focus on these seven areas.

Team identity has to do with how much someone feels like they really belong to the team. Are they a member or are they sort of an employee of the team. Do they have the status that makes them want to come and give their discretional effort to the work of the team or do they feel kind of marginalized and only give exactly what it takes to keep their job?

Now that obviously ties right into motivation because if we don’t have enough energy and enough excitement about the kind of vision that we are moving towards, that hopefully our leadership has been generating for us, then it’s going to be tricky to bring things to completion in a timely manner.

I think I mentioned a little bit about the next one; the emotional awareness piece. As teams communicate consciously about what they are feeling; this is kind of discouraging because we expect it to be a lot further ahead by now, but let’s see if we can really focus here for the next couple of weeks. These kinds of messages—you talked about leaders maybe underestimating their influence—are pretty serious in terms of the lack of recognition about how much their emotional messages influence the people on the team. If they are feeling optimistic, like, come on, I know this is tough and we can do it and these are the steps we need to take—is everybody on board? When that is the kind of attitude they’ve got it is so much easier for the team to really coalesce and pull together. It’s neurological. It’s because that is how we are wired. We are wired to follow kind of dramatic leader. I might be getting off the literature just a little bit.

Listen to the complete interview above, without commercials.



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