Two weeks ago, Stephanie Keene and Isaac Budmen, a couple from Syracuse, heard that a coronavirus testing center was set to open nearby. Together, they own and operate a 3-D printing company from their home. Knowing about the ever-worsening shortage of medical supplies, they began experimenting with a 3-D printer to try to produce a medical shield. In a matter of days, they would print 300 shields, enough to stock the entire testing center for opening.
One of the silver linings in the midst of this pandemic has been the clever ways in which people like Keene and Budmen innovate to make a difference.
On a bigger scale, Nike now manufactures face masks, Pernod alcohol distilleries now produce hand sanitizer, and fast-fashion company Zara now produces hospital scrubs.
Whether you’re a part of a two-person team operating from your garage, a team of executives at a large-scale organization, or like most of us, a part of a team somewhere in between, every team wants to stay agile and productive through this time of extreme change.
But where do you even begin when your team is newly remote, worried, or unfocused?
To help get your team moving in the right direction, we’ve chosen three emotionally intelligent strategies teams use to stay agile in the face of change.
They manage their stress. In a study looking at the effects of stress on a team, researchers found some unsettling results. Stress has the power to entirely shift people’s perspective from group-focused to self-focused. In other words, when a team finds itself under a lot of stress, individual members naturally begin to look out for themselves at the expense of the group’s performance. Emotionally intelligent teams implement strategies for managing their stress as a group. They do things like hold one-on-one meetings to check in on stressed-out members, take turns sharing how they’re feeling about a particularly high-stakes deadline, and emphasize individual self-care via breaks, exercise, and friendly conversations. All of these measures help keep the team on track through stressful periods. For an individual, this may even be the difference between negative emotions taking over and rising to the occasion to produce and adapt.
They may change course readily, but they operate from a stable center. People are quick to emphasize how agility is all about comfort with change and learning to live in a constant state of fluctuation. However, even on the fastest most innovative teams, stability plays an important role. In fact, the confidence to shift gears or experiment with new ideas that could easily fail typically comes from a stable center of values and norms. Emotionally intelligent teams establish their values and norms up front (and constantly revisit them) in order to give everyone a common ground for actions and decisions. This comes in especially handy under ongoing pressure when our emotions are more likely to hijack how we make decisions to act.
They insist on accountability. Agility doesn’t mean “do what I say, except more of it and faster.” It doesn’t mean “exist in a state of anarchy” either. Agility means empowering individuals to make decisions and test ideas by stripping away hinderances to their work. The key is that it’s a two way street. In return for freedom, those individuals are expected see their own work through, own up to mistakes, be proactive about changes to come, and communicate openly with their teammates and manager.
Bringing It All Together. Emotional intelligence at the team level is the glue that holds agile teams together. Without team EQ, even agile teams might succumb to high levels of stress, communication breakdowns, an environment where some people dominate and others are afraid to speak, and a lost sense of stability or direction. With team EQ, agility will be bolstered and thrive. Add these team EQ goals to your team’s repertoire to better navigate turbulent times.
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