May 9, 2019

How to build stronger teams and better handle conflicts using emotional intelligence

Leveraging emotional intelligence can lead to better working relationships. Here are some tips and tools for managers to develop EQ and strengthen communication with their teams.

There’s a wealth of information and research supporting the idea that leaders who use emotional intelligence can create to better working relationships and positively influence their teams and organizations.

Developing your emotional intelligence is a key step to making interactions less transactional and more meaningful. In short, leveraging emotional intelligence, or RelateAbility – the ability to relate to others – can help both first-time managers and experienced leaders resolve workplace conflicts and make teams stronger.

This sounds straightforward, but can be tricky for managers to navigate without the right tools. Here, from our book, are some tips for managers to better leverage emotional intelligence in their teams.

Understand communication styles

How we communicate is a critical part of working together, but it can also be a key contributor to conflict. Team relationships are often put in conflict when a natural characteristic or communication style of a team member is perceived as being negative or unwanted.

It’s important that we understand how our natural styles can be seen by others, especially if they are being misapplied or overused in a specific situation. Even in the best use of our communication styles, there will be those who are more sensitive to certain characteristics. This can be based on previous negative experiences with someone sharing your communication style, assumptions and beliefs of cultural norms, or personal preferences for communication styles like their own.

To have more productive conversations about conflicts, how can we understand our own styles and how they can be perceived negatively? Here are three ways to evaluate them.

  • Frequency: How often a characteristic is displayed, which can create a challenge.
  • Intensity: The amount of energy behind the characteristic being displayed. While passion is great, it can be intense for others to handle in certain situations.
  • Context: The situation in which the characteristic is being displayed. Conflict can arise when our behaviors are used in a context that others may think is inappropriate.

Learn more about tools to help you understand your employees’ communication styles

Reframe conflict by finding common ground

Teams can also experience “value conflicts” between individuals who have differences in their long-held beliefs and worldviews. Value conflict can also be the result of social, cultural, political or religious differences. Because of this, value conflict isn’t resolved easily because the conflict is not necessarily fact-based.

In fact-based conflict, individuals can be persuaded to change their viewpoints. For value conflicts, logic and constructed arguments are not effective in changing a person’s core conviction. The traditional methods of conflict resolution are only effective once we can find common ground.

How do you do this? Commit to finding a value or outcome that is a high priority for all parties involved. For example, in a team experiencing a value conflict, the common ground for these individuals may be shared desire for the team to be successful in achieving the team goals.

Finding common ground doesn’t mean finding absolute agreement. Instead, it is the foundation to building trust and establishing a shared goal to reach further agreement.

Create a common language and have productive conversations

Trust is foundational to building and maintaining good relationships. Research shows that trust is essential to productive teams, and lack of trust leads to team dysfunction. Building trust is also a critical competency in leadership research.

To build trust and grow as both individuals and as teams, it’s helpful to communication in a common language. Consider these key components of trust relationships, and ask these questions of both yourself, and of others on the team.

Credibility: Have I been doing what I said I would do?  

Capability: Do I have the skills and abilities to meet the expectations set before me?

Capacity: Do I have the time, energy, and bandwidth to meet the expectations set before me?

Clarity: Do I have a full understanding of the expectations set before me, including context and urgency?

Character: Am I bringing to the relationship the desire to positively influence, and do I expect the best from others?

Connection: Do I actively seek to understand others and build relationships founded on dignity, compassion, integrity, and respect?

In doing this, we create an opportunity to evaluate our own actions and behaviors and their impact on others.

To find your primary communication style, take the TeamRelate testdrive.

Ted Malley

Ted is Ceridian's HCM Evangelist. He was previously Chief Revenue Officer and EVP, Chief Customer Officer, responsible for the health and happiness of Ceridian's growing customer base through its XOXO Customer Success Program. 

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Wade McNair

Dr. McNair is the author of The Ability Series™, including RelateAbility and AdaptAbility, with over 20 years of experience in culture and change management, talent management, corporate learning, leadership, HR, and organization development. Wade has a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership and a Doctorate degree in Organizational Management and Change. He resides in Southern California with his daughter Jordan and their miniature schnauzer, Rory.

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