Can emotional intelligence help you collaborate better? Six practical tips will improve harmony and productivity for your team.

1. Sharing a Collective Vision that Creates Emotional Engagement

What is the basis of a successful team? It’s having a collective vision. In most leadership books you’ll read about teams, having a shared goal is the number one factor in creating high performance. I believe that having the buy-in to our vision of supporting 1 billion people practicing EQ by 2039 is a huge vision that inspires us all. My colleague, Lize, jokingly said recently that the team all work endless hours, beyond their “contractual obligations”, because they’ve bought in emotionally… that because of this Six Seconds has found a winning employment strategy. And she’s right! The shared vision drives our commitment and engagement. It also helps us weather the ups and downs that come with our personalities and our foibles.


2. Using EQ to Understand Your Own Strengths and Limitations

It’s incredibly important that we understand our strengths and limitations in leading and in collaborating. It’s not only having self-awareness, but it’s also having shared awareness. When I know my strengths are valued in a team, and my limitations are accepted, I have the courage to ask for support when necessary and know that it will be given to support our common vision.   This mutual awareness and acceptance is what creates the trust essential in the type of collaboration that creates high performance.


3. Knowing Your Own and Other Team Members’ Brain Styles

I love the brain styles. I see so much value in them, particularly working in teams to create balance; having a common language to know how we work together, and the possibilities and the relationships. For example, let’s take me and my colleague Imran, our Director of Operations. I am a “Deliverer”, he’s a “Visionary”. My brain style means that I focus on rational data, I’m innovative and I’m practically orientated. Interestingly for someone who works with EQ, I’m very task-oriented. Having a Visionary brain style means that whilst Imran is also innovative, his focus is on emotional data and he’s idealistically oriented. He connects with people and the big vision.

I need the rational data and often ignore emotional data, with a cost to myself and others. Imran gently reminds me of that. He’s also there to remind me of our vision when I get busy, busy, busy being a human doing, and I get so task focused, that I forget to be a human being. Our vision is a people vision and not just a vision of tasks that need to get done. So I see great value in having complimentary brain styles on the team, But, I can tell you boy, oh, boy, at times it’s hugely frustrating – I’m quite sure it is for him, too – and we have quite heated conversations.

Once a colleague overheard us engaged in one of these dialogs, and at first thought we were fighting and got very uncomfortable, and later told me so. Looking back, I didn’t remember any real conflict, just a normal, animated and spirited exchange that ended up with me seeing some really great new ideas. But that kind of “stirring of the pot” can only really happen because we understand, and respect, each others’ different brain styles – and know how to navigate the feelings that come up when we interact this way. I call it being “frustratingly brilliant”.


4. Recognizing Patterns Within the Team

Having a shared awareness allows us to understand each other better; to recognize how our own patterns, and our shared patterns, can foster or inhibit performance. I can think of many examples when I go into to a pattern, and it’s not necessarily a good pattern, or how we as a team develop a pattern about who speaks first or second or who speaks longer or shorter. Having an awareness of EQ allows us to talk it out. As we grow older, our patterns become cemented or not, depending on who we interact with. Because we’re pattern-making-machines, we develop this team behavior.

We’re such creatures of habit. So every time we enter a new “team” situation, we generally continue to act the same way. Past behavior is a predictor of future performance. Because our brains have developed a certain way of reacting and responding in a team, that’s what we always do. Having that awareness as a team to understand that sometimes our team behavior, just like our individual patterns, can inhibit performance… and that we have the power to rewire our brains, if we wish to create new behaviors.


5. Increasing Empathy in Stress

When we retreat into our brain styles increasing empathy is really important – regardless of individual style. Of course increasing empathy is easier for some, and not so easy for others! My experience of the brain styles, and working in teams, is when we get stressed, tired, hungry or fixated on issues we retreat into our brain styles become more evident – we retreat into our patterns – and when we do, particularly when we have a brain style which is focused on rational data, empathy is something we need to remember to exercise. If our brain style is more emotional-data focused, if we retreat into that and start to be more caring in the face of conflict, we might also lay ourselves open to be a doormat, to be trampled on. As a “Deliverer” I know that when I get busy-busy, and entrenched in my my brain style, I definitely need to increase empathy.


6. Having a Common Language

In 2015 Liana Bagworth became the Managing Partner of Dynamic Learning, the consulting company I started in 2003. This allowed me to step away to focus on Six Seconds, whilst she took over leadership and operational management of the Company. Taking on partner in a business I had previously owned exclusively was emotionally a “big deal”. Having the common language of EQ, and a common model in the Six Seconds Change Map was really, really useful. We could both identify the emotions of engagement and emotions of resistance. As we worked together, we experienced excitement, curiosity and courage – and lots of fun having a partner to share with. But at the same time each of use experienced resistance – frustration, judgement, even fear – collaborating with someone who is “different”.

During one of our meetings, I remember saying to her, “if we look at the Change Map, the red lines are literally our hands reaching across to support each other”. We were able to talk about it and smile and say, “Ah, that’s where we are in the process of becoming partners.” It underscored the value of shared language and values in developing our partnership. I still reflect on this, and recognize how I’ve spent more and more time in the cycle of engagement, experiencing less of the emotions of resistance, as our mutual trust has grown. As our partnership has evolved, so have our teams – so it’s interesting to experience the iterations of the Change Map within them, too.


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