Bringing staff teams together in person after so long apart may be more challenging than you think. Here are three steps that tap into the power of EQ to tackle the obstacles to a smooth transition.
Here we are, on the edge of freedom. Doors are opening all around us, literally and figuratively. It’s time for get-togethers with more than just the neighbors in the driveway, vacations beyond the backyard, and, yes, a return to the office.
Association leaders are grappling with uncertainty about what the post-pandemic workplace will look like. This moment is a huge opportunity to rethink and reboot your team culture and intentionally design what we call a “play to win” culture—one where team members know their strengths and weaknesses as individuals and as a unit. They understand the impact of their emotions and behaviors. They identify opportunity, engage with focus, and act with razor-sharp vision. They show up with conviction, leading with confidence and calm—willing to fail, yet playing to win.
Co-creating this new work environment isn’t just about whether you should now go all in-person, remain all remote, or adopt a hybrid workplace. It’s about getting real about the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s about building on what you know works and stopping what doesn’t. Using emotional intelligence, or EQ, can help you do that.
Our EQ influences the way we, as individuals and teams, see and express ourselves, develop and maintain relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional data in an effective and meaningful way.
Consider these practical steps that use EQ skills to drive strong, productive team connections.
Step 1: Create a Foundation of Trust
When your team has the right amount of trust, it’s because the EQ skills of interpersonal relationships and self-awareness are strong. Trust allows members of the team to speak up without fear, be bold, take risks, and fail well. Here are three key things you can do to build trust on your team:
- Create rules around engagement, such as: no interruptions, leaders speak last, and using “yes, and” responses to explore new ideas instead of going directly to “We can’t right now.”
Engage the internal processors on your team. Give them time to think; they’ve got something to say.
Have honest mindset check-ins and see how people are feeling. What are their fears? What’s going well? What’s not? What could help?
Step 2: Reconnect Around Your Team’s Purpose
The most effective teams understand why they are together and who they are serving, and the individual members think bigger than themselves. To make this happen, you can draw on the EQ skill of self-actualization: setting and driving toward goals.
When your team has the right amount of trust, it’s because the EQ skills of interpersonal relationships and self-awareness are strong. Trust allows members of the team to speak up without fear, be bold, take risks, and fail well.
Step 3: Set Shared Expectations
Setting shared expectations is critical to return-to-work success. What written and unwritten behaviors will be in play in your post-pandemic workplace?
This is where the EQ skill of flexibility comes in. Everybody can't get what they want, but most people’s needs can be met when organizations co-create definitions and rules of the road in a variety of areas—for example, when people must be in the office, how staff schedules will be set, whether masks must be worn, and how office space will be used.
Start by using the EQ skill of reality testing to assess what you know about how the team works and identify what you want to keep, change, or improve. One technique is to create the following lists and allow staff to submit responses anonymously:
- As a team, pre-pandemic, we did these things well.
- As a team, pre-pandemic, we didn’t do these things well.
- As a team, while working remotely, we did these things well.
- As a team, while working remotely, we didn't do these things well.
- As a team, as we look to return to the office, we have these questions and concerns.
Then, go through the lists to find common threads and use them to ask team members what needs to stay, what needs to improve, what needs to go, and how you’re going to do it.
This is a how-do-we-walk-the-talk discussion, and it will require leaders to call on their EQ abilities to effectively problem-solve in an emotionally charged context. Your aim is to get to a shared understanding of what’s expected of team members that is as specific as possible, yet flexible enough to adapt as needed to unforeseen circumstances.
Spending time and resources now to leverage and grow EQ on your staff and engineer a play-to-win culture will help you avoid pitfalls and fuel a successful return to work.