Recently we’ve written a lot about emotional intelligence and what it can teach both individuals and teams. We’ve also talked about different ways to increase emotional intelligence on teams. One of those ways was team building, which intersects with our own mission at Invite Japan. So here we’ll be rounding out this theme by delving into how team building can promote emotional intelligence and create healthy teams.
What is emotional intelligence?
To give a brief review, emotional intelligence stresses the importance of being aware of your own emotions and the emotions of others. This works on a team-wide level as well. Teams need to be aware of their individual members’ emotions, as the general mood of the team, plus the emotions of other teams that it’s working with.
This is all to say that emotions are important and (unfortunately) often overlooked. Our emotions motivate us and give us meaning in our work. Emotions can also alert us to danger and show us that what we value may be under threat, or bond us together with other people through empathy. So acknowledging and understanding the emotions on your team is vital to being able to move it forward towards achieving success.
But in order to be able to do this, teams need to be together, unified, and have an established basis of trust. This is where team building comes in.
How team building promotes emotional intelligence
Now we can get into the many ways that team building can promote emotional intelligence. Team building activities like the ones at Invite Japan are designed specifically to bond team members together and get them to open up and share. This is the basis for emotional intelligence on teams, but as we shall, it’s not the only way that team building can promote emotional intelligence.
1. Learn about yourself and your teammates
One of the core tenets of emotional intelligence is that awareness of emotions leads to managing them, using them and influencing them. But awareness of emotions is not as easy as it sounds. It means learning about yourself and your team members and understanding where everyone is coming from.
Team building therefore promotes emotional intelligence by providing challenges and activities that lead to greater understanding on teams. By engaging in puzzles and activities together, teams come to discover new things about its members–skills that they didn’t know about, leadership talents, values, and decision-making styles.
This creates a basis for future understanding as well. Team building opens the door and gives team members a language they can use for discovering more about each other–through shared experiences, memories and laughter.
2. Discover how to communicate effectively
Connected to awareness is communication. Part of emotional intelligence is being aware of others’ emotions and noticing and observing how people react. But as human beings, we are also capable of communicating our emotional needs as well. So communicating, and especially listening–are key to emotional intelligence.
Team building promotes emotional intelligence by strengthening these communication and listening skills. While solving the challenges in a team building activity, team members need to communicate effectively, since they can’t solve them alone. They need to use their resources to ask for help and talk about effective strategies.
But team building also helps teams listen to each other as well. Sometimes the best ideas come from team members that aren’t usually front and center (we’ve seen this happen hundreds of times). And so teams are forced to learn to listen to different views and opinions, which helps them create a more emotionally intelligent environment.
3. Gain conflict resolution skills
Part of communicating also involves conflict resolution. Rather than avoiding conflict, emotionally intelligent teams seek to manage confrontations from escalating out of control or impacting work relationships. Using their shared understanding of emotions and the mood of the team as a whole, these kinds of teams are able to deal with conflicts in ways that are geared towards problem solving and coming to a productive resolution.
So one of the ways that team building promotes emotional intelligence is by teaching teams conflict resolution skills. Through solving the challenges together, team building activities enable teams to work through problems and practice managing conflicts in a low-stakes environment.
Team building activities challenge teams to work through problems and issues as they arise, but they aren’t as high-stakes as normal work, and don’t involve any consequences that carry over into regular work lives. Therefore, they allow teams to practice managing conflict and making decisions quickly, which can lead to a more emotionally intelligent team culture that can handle confrontation.
4. Develop new norms
Another major aspect of emotional intelligence on teams is developing new norms. The reason for this is that teams often need to shape their environments in ways that move away from toxicity, and create new cultures that take into consideration the emotional needs of individual team members and teams as a whole.
Norms also help teams stay in check and continue practicing emotionally intelligent behaviors like checking in, reaching out and listening to team members. Which is why team building promotes emotional intelligence on teams–it establishes new norms on teams by breaking them out of their regular habits and behaviors.
Not only do team building activities take team members physically out of their regular schedules and offices, but they are also exciting as well as mentally and creatively stimulating, and break team members out of their normal ways of thinking.
Both of these ways of taking teams out of their established routines and habits allows them to create new norms and establish more emotionally intelligent and productive patterns of behavior going forward.
5. Share successes and failures
One more way that team building promotes emotional intelligence is through establishing shared emotions and team-wide feelings. When teams feel this sense of having team-wide emotions, they are more likely to feel unified and together. But they will also have a greater understanding of individual team members emotions and a way of bringing those individual emotions in tune with the rest of the team.
The way team building creates a shared basis for team-wide emotions is having team members share their successes and failures together. When they complete a challenge, team members feel happy and celebratory together because they have achieved something as a team. Even when they fail at a challenge, or aren’t as successful as they wanted to be, they share in that failure, which inspires them to do better and work harder as a team the next time.
In this way, the emotional awareness and development of the team, as a team, gets stronger as they go along. And as they go from challenge to challenge, this feeling of sharing in team-wide emotions only grows and grows.
6. Connection and collaboration
The last way that team building promotes emotional intelligence is by getting teams to connect and collaborate. At its core, emotional intelligence is about connection–at an emotional level, between two people–and reaching out to others. It’s also about using that connection to create a better world–in other words collaboration and teamwork.
Team building brings teams together in order to accomplish a set of tasks. The tasks are not what is important, but rather the bonds that are created in the process, which sow the seeds for future teamwork and creativity.
By creating the environment in which those sparks can be lit, team building promotes the kind of emotional engagement in each other and in projects that require collaboration that are the fuel for emotional intelligence.