The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Distributed Teams

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Distributed Teams

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written on October 2019 by Guest Author
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and its importance in Distributed Teams

The demand and adoption of remote working is increasing faster than before, more and more companies and startups are deciding to grow their business by hiring individuals all around the globe. With any organizational change, such as the remote model, organizations, leaders, and individuals are presented with new challenges. 

Some individuals thrive in distributed working environments and some struggle. So what is it that makes individuals efficient and effective in an online workspace? What are the fundamental contributors to an employee or manager who excels at working in a distributed environment? 

Working in a distributed environment means that human interactions are reduced, which in turn, can affect how we build trust, create long-lasting working relationships, and build genuine connections. By fostering emotional intelligence, we can establish a level of connection which is often removed when we eliminate a face-to-face connection. 

Emotional intelligence is a way for leaders to develop into exceptional people managers that focuses on their true authentic selves. In this post, I’ll discuss the role emotional intelligence plays in being an effective worker in any distributed team, and why more companies and human resource departments need to take EQ into consideration when building and growing any remote workforce. 

The importance of Emotional Intelligence in Distributed Teams
What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient (EQ) is a person’s ability to recognise and control his or her own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. It generally includes three primary skills:

  • ability to identify and name your own emotions
  • ability to harness your emotions and apply them to tasks, such as problem-solving and thinking
  • ability to manage your own emotions and, whenever necessary, helping others take control of their own emotions.
So what is it that makes EQ so important in remote working environments?

With the current state and technology in workplaces nowadays, maintaining a healthy EQ is a continuing challenge for some individuals. As more companies tend to support computer-aided jobs, we tend to spend more time in front of computers and less time communicating face to face with humans. In fact, even communications and meetings can be easily done through computers.

According to a survey of hiring managers, 75% of respondents put more value on employee EQ vs. IQ. A person with high EQ tends to be better at solving problems, keeping calm under pressure, resolving conflicts, empathizing, and responding to constructive criticism.

The importance of Emotional Intelligence in Distributed Teams
Better EQ = Better Relations in Remote Teams

With globalization in workplaces, emotional intelligence plays a very important role in helping maintain order between teams that consist of diverse cultures and backgrounds. With remote teams relying more on online communications, emails, chats, and video conferences to get their message across, we get to have less avenues in terms of practicing our emotional intelligence.

Considering that chats and emails can’t sufficiently express our true feelings, our EQ will be a great tool for us to pick up on emotional cues and help us read between the lines to better understand the message.

EQ is a major factor in developing and maintaining cultural awareness. These differences in life may increase the complexity of interactions and the way of emotional expressions. By fostering emotional intelligence, you get to promote understanding, respect, and good relationships across all teams, regardless of their locations.

The importance of Emotional Intelligence in Distributed Teams
3 Ways to Increase EQ in Distributed Teams

1. Control your self-expression and perceptions

In remote environments, we rely on written communication as opposed to working in an office when we can rely on face-to-face communications. As remote workers we not only have to collaborate on projects but we also are responsible for building relationships, trust and rapport with our remote colleagues, through a computer screen. In order to effectively build trust with a team that you’ve never met, we must first understand how we express our emotions to others through various communication methods.

2. Gauge How Your Actions Can Affect Others

In virtual environments, we rely so heavily on written forms of communication and instant-messaging tools. Written communication among remote teams can easily lead to misinterpretations, especially if some team members are not emotionally intelligent.

Being aware of what actions you need to take, choosing the right communication tools or methods and observing how your actions are affecting others can help increase the level of emotional intelligence in your remote team. For example, if you have something very important to say that you think a long email won’t suffice, then you can just invite your teammate to a video conference so that you can discuss the topic better and face-to-face online.

3. Check How You React Towards Stressful Situations

Stress when working remotely can manifest itself in different ways compared to working in an office environment. With instant messaging and heavy dependence on technology, we can often get overwhelmed by communication overload. Adding the requirement to cater to multiple time zones can mean remote workers often over-work, compared to their office counterparts.

In office environments, we often lean on colleagues for venting or conversations around our stress triggers which for some can be a very natural coping mechanism. In a remote environment, it’s important to find the time to speak to colleagues not only about work, but also about how you feel at work.

Working remotely means we often live where we work. When we work from an office, it can be easier to leave the office and the stressors of the day behind. When we work from home, it can be more difficult to leave work ‘at home’. Remote workers must find ways to switch off from work, from technology and put work situations aside in order to prioritize themselves and their responsibilities outside of work.

About the author:

Shauna Moran is the Founder of Operate Remote, a consultancy and executive coaching business working with distributed companies and teams

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