Published date: January 21, 2019
Last modified: February 21, 2019

5 ways to improve team dynamics

 Team Building, Learning & Development, Experiential Learning

It’s not enough to simply put the best people in the room to achieve the desired outcome, you also need constructive team dynamics so your employees feel comfortable expressing their skills and experience.

Team dynamics are at work whenever two or more people are grouped together to meet a specific goal or purpose. In this group setting, people often take on distinct roles and behaviours, which causes a ripple effect on the team, both individually and as a collective. These unconscious, psychological forces that influence the direction of a group’s behaviour and performance are known as team dynamics.

It’s fair to say, then, that team dynamics are central to organisational success. In a group with poor dynamics, people’s behaviour can cause friction or blockages, which can result in the team coming to an unsatisfactory or wrong decision. Factors that lead to poor dynamics include weak leadership, people adopting obstructive roles and lack of self-awareness.

So, what can be done to improve team dynamics? Or better still, how can you foster constructive group dynamics from the off?

Get to Know your Team

Observe your team at work, making observations about how well they seem to function as a group, particularly noting unhelpful behaviour such as aggressive, negative or recognition-seeking attitudes. In addition to group observations, talk to team members on an individual basis in a private and confidential environment.

These notes of observations and responses won’t be that beneficial, however, without a knowledge of the wider context of what makes a good team. So, make sure you have an understanding of the phases that a group goes through as it develops, as well as the impact that different individuals have on the team.

WEB Team meeting-517180-edited

Deal with Problems in the Moment

Often, it’s just one or two people that are holding the group back with their behaviour. If you see a team member engaging in disruptive behaviour. Take time to explore with the individual their awareness of the impact they are having on other team members and try to get them to consider what they are currently doing and ask them if there is a way of engaging more effectively with other team members. Help them to explore the views of others and then agree with them what they will try to do differently in order to create a better working environment.

Provide Some Direction

Not every team member will slot into a predefined role within the group. Sometimes you need to provide the focus and direction so that people understand where they fit into the group. Be aware that this is not a static situation, and that the team members should take responsibility depending on their areas of expertise. Trust within the team is essential in order for this to be effective.

Creating a team charter, where everyone’s roles and responsibilities are listed alongside the group’s mission and objectives, will go a long way to bringing out the best in individuals and, in turn, the team.   Identify the right team behaviours that should exist within the charter.

WEB Team with colourful jigsaw-723259-edited

Foster Open Communication

Breakdowns in communication can hamper group trust and togetherness, so it’s essential that everyone is able to voice their opinion in an open environment. It’s easy for the stronger personalities to dominate discussions, which means you’ll often need to create an awareness within the team for everyone to contribute ideas in a safe collaborative environment.

It could just be as simple as giving somebodythe role of ‘Chair in meetings so that everybody has their say, or making the group use shared documents, which would mean nobody can make any changes without the rest of the group knowing about it.

Break Down Team Barriers using Experiential Learning

There are few better ways to foster constructive group dynamics than team building activities. Having fun together whilst breaking down any barriers, will build trust and encourage stronger relationships between team members.

WEB Team holding hands

However, team building activities need to actively engage your employees in the right way, otherwise they won’t bring those benefits. We’ve found that experiential learning is the most effective method for creating environments for open and honest discussion, with participants encouraged to reflect on their experience without fear of recrimination. By enabling the team to discover for themselves and exploring ways of improving their performance together, the outcomes can drive the change you’re looking for back in the workplace


Published date:
Last modified: January 21, 2019

Can we learn to be more emotionally intelligent?

Few would disagree that the presence of emotional intelligence (EI) plays a key part in the success of an organisation. The impact of improved working relationships on productivity, efficiency and innovation are widely recognised, and it is generally acknowledged that empathy and self-awareness are essential attributes in effective team players.t

Can emotional intelligence be learned?

Opinion is split on this point, with some psychologists firmly taking the view that our level of emotional intelligence is pre-determined and that, in simple terms, some of us are born with abilities that others lack.  

Certainly genetics and early experiences will play a part in determining how we manage our own emotions and react to emotions in others. However, the good news is that even when someone lacks a natural talent, some EI skills can still be learned.

Unlike IQ, which doesn’t change significantly over time, EI can evolve and develop, so long as the desire to learn and grow as a person is present.  According to the Harvard Business Review:

“…empathy can be trained in adults. The most compelling demonstration comes from neuropsychological studies highlighting the ‘plasticity’ of the social brain. These studies suggest that, with adequate training, people can become more pro-social, altruistic, and compassionate.”

It takes motivation

As with all forms of learning, motivation is key, and this is particularly true when it comes to learning EI skills. It requires commitment and conscious practice and training to improve emotional intelligence.

It also requires the willingness to honestly evaluate your own emotions and drivers. If someone can’t, or is unwilling, to recognise their own emotions then they won’t be able to recognise and react appropriately to emotions in others.

In the same way that no two people are fully alike, employees will have different needs when it comes to developing their EI skills.

How can you support staff to improve their EI skills?

Studies have found that training can be effective in helping participants learn techniques to both identify and regulate their own emotions and become more aware of their impact on others.

One such study by cognitive scientist Delphine Nelis analysed the impact of this form of training over two groups of college students with interesting results. The study concluded that with the right training and motivation significant improvements in EI could be seen, not only immediately after the training, but also some six months later. Therefore the benefit of investing in your staff’s EI skills could have a positive and lasting impact on the business.  

So how can you put this into practice?

1. Ensure your staff understand why EI is important

Not everyone grasps how essential emotional intelligence is in the workplace. Make sure your appraisal and review systems include feedback on these softer skills, for example using 360 degree feedback to hold a ‘mirror’ up on any problem areas.

Hearing first hand that others don’t find you approachable or a good listener can be hard but it’s the first step to recognising there’s a problem and making the decision to do something about it.

2. Help individuals to recognise where they need to development

Using 360 feedback and personality tests can be a good starting point to help employees to evaluate themselves and gain the necessary self-awareness.

Most of us don’t really know how we come across to others but without this insight it’s impossible to identify and act on aspects of our behaviour that need attention.

3. Everyone’s different so vary your approach

What actually constitutes emotional intelligence is complex. In the same way that no two people are fully alike, employees will have different needs when it comes to developing their EI skills.

For some the key priority will be helping them to develop self-awareness, starting with recognising how they respond emotionally in different situations. For others they may benefit from developing interpersonal and empathy skills, enabling them to work more effectively with others.

4. Recognise that change is possible but that it will take work

Coaching on a one-to-one basis can really help to improve interpersonal skills but requires practice to ensure that newly learned approaches become embedded. It takes time for new skills to develop so be prepared to invest over the long term to really see the benefits.

5. Feedback is everything

The only way for someone to accurately know if their level of EI has increased is to seek out regular feedback from those around them. However, it’s essential that this is done in a supportive way. Otherwise the risk is that people will revert to defensive behaviours, completely undermining the development of any new EI skills.

Building the right EI foundations with the next generation

Schools are beginning to recognise the importance of EI as an essential part of building the foundations of success in later life.

As well as supporting the development of traditional learning and skills, there is now an increasing awareness that those who succeed in life are frequently those with high levels of EI. Therefore there is a clear benefit to nurturing emotional awareness and skills from a young age.

With the increasing ‘virtual’ nature of both the world of work and our social interactions, the importance of emotional intelligence has never been greater.

Working with young people to develop active listening skills, empathy for others and self-awareness are all essential components of their education.

Supporting children to widen their vocabulary of emotions has also been shown to help. Enabling them to clearly express how they are feeling allows children to better understand their own emotions as well as empathise with the feelings of others.

The future of EI training

With the increasing ‘virtual’ nature of both the world of work and our social interactions, the importance of emotional intelligence has never been greater. With much of our communications now taking place via email and social media, the need to develop and retain essential human qualities is key.

With that in mind, ensuring your staff have the EI skills that give your business the competitive edge should be a strategic priority for learning and development professionals in the coming year.