EQ is the new IQ: Emotional intelligence can be your transaction’s most critical success factor

By Perry Buffett, Carrie Camino and Paul Warkins 

The examples are prevalent and headline-grabbing - Healthcare.gov, being one of the most recent and high-profile project failures. While articles are quick to publicize what went wrong, few care to explain why these projects failed.

Over the past 20 years, organizations such as the Standish Group have cataloged a wealth of information around types and causes of project failure in addition to identifying project success factors. In the last few years, a new project success factor has emerged - emotional maturity.

The concept of emotional maturity, or emotional intelligence (EQ), is a familiar topic for many in today’s corporate culture. According to Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, emotional intelligence is made up of five key components - self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.


What is an emotional bank account?

An emotional bank account is a Stephen Covey metaphor for the amount of trust perceived in a relationship. When EQ components are evident, a project team will act with a high emotional bank account - the buffer or shield that can protect your team and support project success on a high risk, high engagement project. With a well-funded account balance, project team members feel secure in imagining and executing creative paths to success, and issues that arise are remediated efficiently and maturely. Take a merger or acquisition as an example; there has to be a high level of trust and relationships within the two merging organizations for the true colors to come out and to effectively realize the planned value creation. After all, research shows a more cohesive, high performing team produces better results. 

What if the emotional bank account is low?
Of greater concern is when these qualities are lacking. An EQ-deficient environment leaves employees feeling overworked, underappreciated, and unwilling to help each other. Quite simply, unhappy team members can hinder the success of a project.

When the emotional bank account is low, problems arise more easily and can cause project failure - potentially even requiring a complete project turnaround. Unhappy and unproductive teams with little change to spare in their emotional piggy banks can feel like their problems are insurmountable and will disengage.

Here are a few warning signs that your team may be lacking in emotional intelligence:
  • Team members constantly blame others for issues
  • Victim statements are prevalent (“I can’t because…”)
  • Team members are arrogant and not open to the opinions of others
  • Stakeholders stay within their comfort zones and are not willing to listen to improvement ideas or new ways to think
  • The team becomes overambitious and overextended, trying to solve problems they can’t or shouldn’t
  • Your team is consistently unavailable


So, how do you build a team's emotional bank account?

Start by gauging the emotional state of your team. A team with a healthy, robust emotional bank account that knows how to have fun, continuously learn, and give and receive quality feedback is one set up for success. If your team needs an EQ “boost,” consider the following actions:

  • Enable team members - The most effective way to ensure a healthy team is to empower resources, ensuring that they understand their roles, responsibilities, and expectations. Thriving teams allow their members to play to their strengths, focusing on the tasks they are uniquely qualified for, as this will bring them satisfaction in their everyday work and help the team achieve its overall goals.

    Here’s how: Assess the emotional intelligence and health of your team. Check in regularly to ensure the team feels supported. Targeted surveys can help, provided that there is a clear feedback mechanism. Once the results are compiled, share them with the entire team, along with an action plan to rectify the areas of concern.

  • Gain leadership support - Buy-in and engagement from leadership is a required success factor on any type of project. Through consistent advocacy, leadership makes consistent small deposits to the team bank account, and when issues and risks arise, hands on support maintains the emotional bank account when it is needed most.

    Here’s how:
    For leadership to fully support the EQ of the team, they must visibly demonstrate their commitment to project success by acting as a sounding board, encouraging creativity and calculated risk taking in execution, and garnering overall support with the organization to clear the path to success. Leadership needs to be visible, engaged and actively participating to display their support.

  • Create high visibility and clear communication - When high visibility between team members exists, communication and overall clarity of the engagement are much easier. This should include cross-functional visibility, visibility into upcoming activities, and visibility into decision making for the group as a whole.

    Here’s how: This is where a solid project manager is worth their weight in platinum. Engaging in communication channels will inform the team of their responsibilities for activities or events that are in the project timeline. And, a team with a strong and consistent decision making process that is well-communicated allows them to function with less ambiguity, time-wasting and political maneuvering.


Teams with high emotional bank accounts yield consistent success

Working on a team with a high emotional bank account is an enviable experience, one that anyone would be eager to replicate. It allows for a high functioning team, for a team that is both effective and happy - with a built-in buffer that helps mitigate any speed bumps along the way! While intelligent and competent teams are always in demand, those that exhibit the traits of a high emotional bank account will be the ones that consistently achieve success.

For more information on how to build your team's emotional bank account, please contact Perry Buffett, Carrie Camino or Paul Warkins

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