10 signs of emotionally intelligent teams

Does your team show strong or weak emotional intelligence? Here’s how to gauge and improve your team’s EQ
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If there’s one word that best sums up a team that lacks emotional intelligence, it might be “cutthroat.”

“They talk over each other, vying to get the last word, or explicitly denigrate or dismiss others’ opinions and perspectives. Emotions run high,” says Halelly Azulay, CEO of TalentGrow. “They yell, express frustration often, and engage in aggressive or passive-aggressive behaviors. They don’t talk to each other and avoid interacting. They undermine and sabotage each other’s work or credibility with stakeholders.”

Unsurprisingly, this type of team sinks in the long run. Low EQ can be especially damaging to IT teams, yet many organizations prioritize hard technical skills over soft skills when hiring, notes Maxim Potomakha, program manager for Miratech, an IT services and consulting company.  

“With the growing popularity of agile and hybrid project management approaches within a changing business environment, it’s important for IT professionals to be able to work as a part of a team, manage their emotional reactions, interact with each other in the most efficient ways, have a high level of self-awareness and empathy, and build effective relationships,” he says.

[ Working on your emotional intelligence? Learn the behaviors to avoid: 10 things leaders with emotional intelligence never do. ]

Determine your own team’s strengths – and curb any cutthroat behaviors.

It’s easy to identify teams with high emotional intelligence: They are likely your highest-performing teams. They lift each other up and give everyone a chance to shine – and that translates into real results for the business.

We asked IT leaders and EQ experts to break down the top qualities of emotionally intelligent teams so that you can determine your own team’s strengths – and curb any cutthroat behaviors before they become problematic. 

1. Emotionally intelligent teams show empathy

Robert Reeves, CTO, Datical: “The number-one sign of an emotionally intelligent team is the ability to empathize, not only with one another but also with those they answer to – i.e., their bosses and customers. As a former release manager, I saw lack of empathy all the time. Developers constantly chaffed under operations demands; operations people viewed development as petulant. Neither saw the other side’s issues. Operations had to give up nights and weekends when releases went badly. Development was penalized by management when their release was delayed by operations.

“If both sides had more empathy, they could have easily built a bridge and gotten over their issues. When you find yourself asking, ‘Why are they doing this? It’s stupid!’ you have an empathy issue that needs to be addressed immediately.”

2. Emotionally intelligent teams learn from the process

“High-performing teams focus as much on the ‘how’ as on the ‘what’ in their work.”

Jim Perry, vice president, BTS: “High-performing teams focus as much on the ‘how’ as on the ‘what’ in their work. Low-performing teams tend to see only the work on their plate and focus on satisfying their immediate deliverables in the most expedient way possible. High-performing teams focus on getting the work done but also focus on process, in the sense of following sound methods as well as continually learning from, documenting, and improving those methods for the future.

“From an emotional intelligence perspective, the high-performing team is attuned to their own experience while working and will step back from the work to address experiences that are driving unproductive emotions, while low-performing teams will just plow ahead.”

3. Emotionally intelligent teams ask instead of tell

Halelly Azulay, CEO, TalentGrow“They value asking and listening over telling. To be emotionally intelligent, you must learn to empathize with and incorporate the views and needs of others. Talking a lot, and ‘telling’ instead of asking, can get in the way of that. Developing curiosity and encouraging engagement and input from others on the team creates better perspectives and improves the quality of your work by preventing blind spots and minimizing errors.”

4. Emotionally intelligent teams inspire people

Teams with high levels of soft skills prefer to collaborate when confronted with conflict.

Maxim Potomakha, program manager, Miratech: “Emotional intelligence has a profound impact on the team’s performance at work. Teams with high levels of soft skills prefer to collaborate when confronted with conflict and know how to keep each team member inspired, creating a positive environment and can-do attitude. As a result, such teams have collective focus, better deal with stressful situations, overcome conflict, and deliver better ROI.”

5. Emotionally intelligent teams give feedback 

Steve Burton, DevOps evangelist, Harness: “For DevOps teams in particular, emotional intelligence is crucial. At its core, DevOps is about CAMS – culture, automation, metrics, and sharing (collaboration). Teams with both good EQ and IQ have effective communication, which in turn leads to the sharing and collaboration required to be successful. Teams must learn to give and receive feedback if they are to improve and take each other forward. Engineers and operators are smart cookies with high IQs, but many need to improve their EQs to collaborate more effectively. Teams with high EQ will always destroy those with low EQ because they can learn and achieve more.”

Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.  


I have found much of your content very valuable in my leadership coaching and consulting with executives & managers. I want to suggest another book and relatively perspective called, “Conversational Intelligence or C-IQ (Emotional Intelligence and Neuroscience) in which I became certified last year. Check out the work of Judith E. Glaser. It takes Collaborative Intelligence to another level.