If you were trapped by a blizzard and your very survival depended on how well you could work together with a handful of other people, what should you wish for in your team-mates? A goodly dose of emotional intelligence.
That conclusion stems from two independent studies reported in the journal Human Performance. In both studies teams of volunteers were posed the challenge of how to survive in simulation of desperate survival scenarios, like a blizzard. Close to 20 teams were evaluated on how well they came up with solutions that would help them survive.
The champion teams, both studies found, were highest in group emotional intelligence. Intriguingly, when individuals were given the same challenge, their cognitive ability (as measured by SAT scores – these were college students) was the best predictor of survival. But once people were put in a team situation, individual cognitive ability made virtually no difference – instead emotional intelligence made the difference.
This makes sense in terms of earlier findings on “group IQ,” the ability of teams to perform well. Research with high-IQ team members found, for instance, that if they did not have the skills of cooperation, negotiation and teamwork, they perform poorly (in part because individual members competed to show who was smarter). As I wrote in Emotional Intelligence (p.160), “The key to a high group IQ is social harmony. This ability, all other things being equal, will make one group especially productive and successful.”
In teamwork, emotional intelligence is the crucial social lubricant, providing the capacity to settle disputes well, brainstorm creatively, and work harmoniously.
This is all the more true for great team leaders. It turns out that team members who scored higher on the ECI, a test of emotional and social competencies, were most likely to emerge as the natural leaders.
For details see:
- Jordan, P. J. & Troth, A. C. (2004). “Managing emotions during team problem solving: Emotional intelligence and conflict resolution.” Human Performance, 17(2), 195-218.
- Offermann, L. R., Bailey, J. R., Vasilopoulos, N. L., Seal, C., & Sass, M. (2004). “The relative contribution of emotional competence and cognitive ability to individual and team performance.” Human Performance, 17(2), 219-243.