Building Emotionally Intelligent Teams

Building Emotionally Intelligent Teams

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‘Team dynamics’ is a derivative of emotions and emotional intelligence is a virtue. The ‘thoughts- action-feelings’ cycle keeps our life moving. However, to ensure we reach our goals, it is critical to find the right direction amidst the dualities of life.

Let’s discuss the What, Why & How of it.

Emotional intelligence is being aware of our emotions in operation during different situations and knowing how to utilize them to be able to ‘respond’ to the situation without getting bogged down or drifted. This maturity is a product of knowing what we stand for and what we don’t. The better we understand ourself and our priorities, the more emotionally intelligent we become.

Applying it with the team means, we being aware of our own emotions and also that of the team. The equation becomes more dynamic with more people involved in the team. However, one thing which remains a constant is the priority and the ultimate goal of the Team.

Let’s understand the importance of emotional intelligence with an example:

The training team of a BPO has four trainers who take different modules of training and educate the new hires of the company in a 1 month long training program involving Soft Skills & Process Training. The team is led by a Training Manager. In order to continue working with the company, the trainees have to get certified by passing the examination conducted by the Operations team at the end of the new hire training program. Obviously, the goal of the Organization is to ensure everyone gets certified and hits production. Hence, the company gives the incentives/appraisal to the trainers based on the ‘training throughput’ which is nothing but a yard stick to measure the training team’s performance (number of trainees getting certified from a batch). The message to the training team like any other team is very clear: Train/Perform well, ensure everyone passes and you will be rewarded.

Isn’t this a simple “bread & butter” task for the training team!

Well, it is not as simple as it appears. Let’s consider the dynamics now. Firstly, say there are 13 new hires in a batch, all in the age group of 21 to 25 years. Of these 13, say 11 are guys and 2 are girls. After the initial few days of training, the trainer observes that two guys and the two girls from the batch have struck the love chord and these two couples are losing focus. It is the usual “ Main duniya bhula dunga, tere chahat main”. They sit together, eat together and have also started taking leaves together. The certification is just 1 week away and the trainees have already shown the Trainer Ashiqui 1 & 2.  The effort of this lone trainer who is struggling to motivate them to learn is washed away by the other three trainers who have ganged up to tarnish his image in front of the Trainees. While delivering their respective modules, these trainers never miss out to very subtly speak ill about this trainer. The trainees no longer take his words seriously. The reason for this ganged jealously is that the lone trainer is more skilled and experienced and hence is getting double the salary of these other three trainers. In fact, the training team is not really bothered about the training throughput but the difference in pay.

Next, the Training Manager calls the Operations Manager to interact with the batch and set expectations about the Operational requirement. In his interaction, the Manager says that after the certification, people may be split into different teams and may also have to work in different shifts. Hearing this, the couples decide to quit and join a company where they can work together. The trainer senses this and informs the Training Manager. The Manager instructs the Trainer not to counsel/motivate them to stay back. The Training Manager has his own motives. A cold war has been brewing between the Operations and Training team for quite sometime now and they don’t miss a single chance to stone at each other. The Training Manager asks his Trainer to document the interaction of the new hires with the Operations Manager and highlight this interaction as the reason for the possible attrition/failure of the Trainees. The email has been sent to all the Senior Managers.

The Operations team in turn escalates it to the Senior Managers highlighting the attitude of the Training team and rubs some salt by recommending a ‘Train the Training Team’ program. The Training Manager is now hell bent on going for the kill and in turn pushes off the heat by blaming the Recruitment Team because he knows there is a collusion happening between the Recruitment Manager and the Operations Manager during recruitment.

Things get bloody and dirty when there is no ring master to tame such teams. Now that we have understood the importance of emotional intelligence, let’s stop this tug-of-war story here. Mind you, such incidents of ‘we vs they / me vs them’ happens in almost every company. After all, people are people where ever they are!

Think, what is that one most important thing which is missing here? That one thing which if present, will ensure everything else is present! Well, its TRUST which comes when people start feeling secure, which in turn happens when there is effective leadership.

A frank introspection will help us realize that this is how things work or rather this is why things don’t work in many Organizations. Lack of trust and leadership crisis.

So, how do we build this Trust and there by emotional intelligence in our teams?

Every behavior has a stimulus and the way we behave depends on what stimulus we are picking up from the situation around us and off course, how we feel about it. In a simple team interaction there are many stimuli like the Gender, Religion, Education, Pay, Recognition, Competition, Sense of accomplishment to name a few.

Gender for example, plays a very important role in team behaviors. When a lady is inducted into a team which has only gentlemen, the dynamics change completely. Its absolutely true vice-versa too. In such situations, it takes lot of time for the team to cool down, hold their horses and focus on the team’s goal.
If they are a bunch of folks driven by their primitive instincts, they will light up all woods: Holly, Bolly, Kolly, Tolly, you name it!. Nothing wrong though, good that they are evolving but the question is can the company afford this process of evolution at the cost of their performance?

Obviously not and that is why multiple rounds of interviews are conducted to ensure that a company gets a good resource who can be trained further to perform under pressure. True test of character is under stressful situations. Rehearsal/drill is very important to produce seasoned teams. Hence, it is extremely critical that these resources are given experiential learning during the training phase. Also, it is of utmost importance to ensure that the Training Team itself is highly competent and has the morality to walk the talk.

No matter how good an individual contributer one may be, he is and has to be a part of a team. If he is not able to contribute effectively towards the team’s decision making, then that individual is not contributing towards the growth of the organization. Remember, not a team player = not worth a player.