How to Develop Your Team’s Emotional Intelligence


Emotional Intelligence

As a leader, you’re probably aware of the term “emotional intelligence” (EQ) by now—the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

This applies to individuals, but what about EQ at the team level? Is there a similar EQ-based theory that can help teams better handle their groups’ emotions and relationships?



In, Team Emotional Intelligence 2.0: The Four Essential Skills of High Performing Teams, Dr. Jean Greaves and Evan Watkins of TalentSmartEQ bring EQ know-how to the team level, focusing on the four key skill areas and a step-by-step process for increasing team EQ skills so team leaders and anyone who’s a member of a team can achieve peak performance and reach their goals.

I reached out to the team at TalentSmartEQ to learn more.



You start the book with a story about a team that lacks team emotional intelligence. What are some of the hallmarks of a team missing emotional intelligence?

Teams that are missing emotional intelligence are less likely to be as effective as those that do have emotional intelligence. Often, underlying problems may not be addressed as a team and instead of paying attention to the emotional cues that arise, forge forward to only get the tactical part of the job done. There could be impatience with each other when teams are not stepping back to see their bigger picture. This also leads to teams being reactive rather than proactive when it comes to challenges. When it comes to internal team relationships, a lack of EQ can lead to complaining and overreacting, rather than addressing issues head-on. Finally, external relationships can suffer as well. A lack of EQ can lead to being dismissive of the value of what another department brings to the table or adds to your team.



Let’s flip it to the positive. What does “team emotional intelligence” look like? What do you consistently notice if a team is operating with high emotional intelligence?

Teams with a high emotional intelligence tend to be respectful of each other’s emotions and understand they are a part of who we are individually and as a team. It allows the team to pick up the slack for a member who may need support. Strong team EQ leads to better internal and external relationships as well. When you understand the team’s dynamic it becomes easier to lend the support that is needed when it is needed. Overall, a team with strong emotional intelligence enjoys their job more and ultimately is more effective and successful.


We have just left a period where many teams have been purely remote. Now some remain remote, some are in-person, and some are hybrid. You talk about our social brain and mirror neurons and how we interact with each other. I’m curious how remote work impacts all of this.

Remote work has certainly thrown a new twist in the game! The first thing teams can do is simply acknowledge that whatever hybrid model is now at play, it is most likely different than what they were used to. Communication will look and feel different, but the relationships do not need to be different. It may take extra effort for some to maneuver the way a hybrid experience will affect the way you interact, but the more emotionally intelligent a team becomes the easier the new experience will be. Focus on what is now missing that once made working together easy and talk about it out loud. Use the emotional awareness skill to open up the lines of communication with your team for a more transparent and honest discussion.



How do the best teams cultivate emotional awareness in self and in others?

There is a bit of vulnerability that is needed to cultivate emotional awareness. The best teams allow themselves to explore what motivates them and what keeps them moving forward. They also acknowledge where they tend to get stuck or even derailed so that when it comes to managing these emotions, they understand not only what the emotions are, but also why they are having the emotions. Cultivating a team’s emotional awareness does not happen overnight.  With trust and open discussion, a team can open up and start to understand the dynamics of what really makes the team tick. A few key strategies to consider when building a team’s emotional awareness are to understand each other, especially under stress; notice and acknowledge discomfort to allow everyone to understand where each other is coming from; visit your team’s values and discuss them out loud.



Let’s turn to emotion management. What are some strategies to accomplish this?

Emotion management is about responding effectively to the range of emotional situations that surface during good times and during bad times. The goal is to learn how to get out of your own way. A few key strategies for more effective emotion management include focusing on healthy reactions to the change that is happening around you; allowing the team to vent briefly but with a purpose; and considering how the team takes a step back or takes a break when the going gets tough and needs that pause to come back to the table to a more effective discussion.


Everyone should read this book and the relationships (internal and external) which we don’t have time to cover, but I’m curious about leadership succession. What are the best ways to ensure that a successful, emotionally intelligent team stays that way?

The important reminder about team emotional intelligence is that it is everyone’s responsibility. This is not the time to wait for the boss. Internal relationships grow when everyone understands the team’s emotional makeup and how the team, as a whole, works. You may be the key to helping the team bond or bringing fun to the group when it is needed. And when it comes to external relationships, anyone can build bridges for more effective interactions with others.


Where can we learn more about your work?

Visit our website to learn more about emotional intelligence (EQ) training and development, certification, assessments, and coaching.

For more information on team emotional intelligence, see Team Emotional Intelligence 2.0: The Four Essential Skills of High Performing Teams.



Image Credit: Alan De La Cruz








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