Building a great team – only as strong as the weakest link

What does it take to achieve a top team effort? A team can only ever be as strong as its weakest link whether the team’s workplace is in the sports arena or in the business arena.

Modern businesses thrive when using teams to organise 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 ability to work in teams is still one of the key requirements for employees today. Which leads to this question: does a team need to have its own EQ? If you take a number of emotionally intelligent individuals and put them together, do you get an emotionally intelligent team?

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.

How many times have you heard the phrase: “let’s leave feelings out of this” explicitly or by implication? It’s clear now that successful organisations can’t and don’t. So how can you improve your team’s EQ?

EQ has 5 broad components:

Emotional awareness

Emotional awareness is the ability to be aware of, recognise and evaluate what we are feeling and how we are reacting at any time. How well do we know ourselves? How honest and realistic are we about our own strengths and weaknesses? The ability to recognise an emotion as it ‘happens’ is the key to your EQ. Developing self-awareness requires tuning in to your true feelings. If you evaluate your emotions, you can manage them. The major elements of self-awareness are:

  • Emotional awareness. Your ability to recognise your own emotions and their effects.
  • Self-confidence. Sureness about your self-worth and capabilities.

Self-awareness of emotions enables team members to then practice self-regulation, which is the ability to use emotions to facilitate the progress of the task or the project. Let’s examine ‘regulating emotions’ more closely.

Regulating emotions

How we manage and control those feelings instead of letting them control us. How flexible are we in handling change? People take their emotional cues from those around them. Something that seems upsetting can seem not so bad, depending on whether colleagues smooth feathers or fan the flames. The ability to regulate group emotions comes from establishing norms for both confrontation and caring.

So, how can you improve your ability to self-regulate?

  • Know your values – Do you have a clear idea of where you absolutely will not compromise? If you know what’s most important to you, then you probably won’t have to think twice when you face a moral or ethical decision – you’ll make the right choice.
  • Hold yourself accountable – If you tend to blame others when something goes wrong, stop. Make a commitment to admit to your mistakes and to face the consequences, whatever they are.
  • Practice being calm – The next time you’re in a challenging situation, be very aware of how you act. Do you relieve your stress by shouting at someone else? Practice deep breathing exercises to calm yourself.

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.


Self-motivated team members work consistently toward their goals, and they have extremely high standards for the quality of their work.

How good are we at motivating ourselves, persisting, hanging in there, and gearing up – even when the going gets tough? Do we see the glass as half full or half empty? To motivate yourself for any achievement requires clear goals and a positive attitude. If you catch negative thoughts as they occur, you can reframe them in more positive terms – which will help you achieve your goals. Motivation is made up of:

  • Achievement drive. Constantly achieving goals and meeting a high standard of excellence.
  • Commitment. Aligning your personal needs with the goals of the group or organisation.
  • Initiative. Acting on opportunities on your own accord.
  • Optimism. Pursuing goals persistently despite obstacles and setbacks.

Every time you face a challenge, or even a failure, try to find at least one good thing about the situation. It might be something small, like a new contact, or something with long-term effects, like an important lesson learned. But there’s almost always something positive, if you look for it.


Team members with empathy have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s situation. They help develop others on their team, challenge others who are acting unfairly and give constructive feedback.

How good are we at sensing how others are feeling? Are we empathic? Can we `bracket’ our feelings and remain attuned and focused on the other person’s perspective? The more skilful you are at discerning the feeling behind others’ signals the better you can control the signals you send them. An empathetic person excels at:

  • Service orientation. Having the right attitude and behaviour to be able to anticipate, recognise and meet clients’ needs.
  • Developing others. Being able to identify what other people need to progress and bolstering their abilities.
  • Leveraging diversity. Valuing individual differences and utilising diversity to create new opportunities.
  • Political awareness. Reading a group’s emotional currents and power relationships.
  • Understanding others. Discerning the underlying feelings of others, and how these influences their needs and wants.

If you want to earn the respect and loyalty of your team, then show them you care by being empathic.

Social skills

Are we good at relationships? What sort of interpersonal skills do we have? Can we lead others, influence them, resolve conflicts and collaborate and co-operate with people? The development of good interpersonal skills is tantamount to success in your life and career. In today’s always-connected world, everyone has immediate access to technical knowledge. Thus, ‘people skills’ are even more important now because you must possess a high EQ to better understand, empathize and negotiate with others.

How do you handle folks who exhibit poor EQ and eat up your time and energy? This is the frustrating part because it is their poor EQ which prevents them from understanding their own issues or understanding your concerns.  By focusing on increasing your people’s emotional intelligence, you can reap many benefits from improved teamwork.

Maurice Kerrigan Africa offers a three-day ADVANCED Personal Mastery & Emotional Intelligence (EQ) course that will give you the framework to manage your own and your team’s behaviour, thoughts and emotions to ensure optimal overall performance.

You might be interested in attending their upcoming course scheduled from 20-21 & 27 August, 2015 in Johannesburg.

Click here to look at Maurice Kerrigan Africa’s training schedule or to make a booking.

To find out more about the training courses offered by Maurice Kerrigan Africa or to arrange an appointment, simply call +27 11 794 1251 or email


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