An organization's fitness to compete successfully depends on its social capital-the collective value of people who know each other and what they'll do for each other.

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Emotional Intelligence: Collaboration in the Workplace

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The current issue of this series on emotional intelligence in the workplace examines those factors that best promote collaborative work. Collaboration is presented as an indispensable practice for business organizations, and is founded on emotional intelligence competencies at both the individual and corporate level. As in previous issues the work of Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. provides the backbone for this article.

As you recall, the business case for collaboration in the workplace was introduced in the most recent newsletter. What we now clearly know is that in today's workplace each of us has an increasingly smaller part of the information or expertise needed to get the job done. In the twentieth century more knowledge has been generated than in all the other centuries put together. Therefore, while in 1986 people could work at their job with 75% of the required knowledge in their heads, this had dropped to between 15 and 20% by 1997. Because of this fact, organizations have come to depend on the group mind as never before. Collaborative practice is no longer a choice but a requirement in an ever competitive global market.

Many research studies have compared individual and collaborative performance. In summary, these studies have consistently shown the following:

Outstanding collaboration is not haphazardly achieved, but is carefully constructed. This point is strongly emphasized by Michael Schrage in his book No More Teams: Mastering the Dynamics of Creative Collaboration. Emotional intelligence competencies in individual team members have been shown to have central importance to achieve collaborative excellence. When these are present they promote those team characteristics that enable outstanding work. High achieving teams have the following in common:

All in all, it is the social effectiveness of the group that predicts how well a team will do, more than the individual IQs of its members. Teams that are most effective have members who are able to consistently demonstrate social competencies such as:

To these, Schrage adds the following:

So far we have described collaboration as being dependent on competencies that reside in individuals and are applied in interpersonal relationships. However, for these skills to thrive they also require an organizational culture that values collaboration and promotes positive reinforcing of it.

But who has time to grow orchids?

"Outstanding collaboration is not haphazardly achieved, but is carefully constructed."

In the previous newsletter we made reference to promoting collaboration as being akin to growing orchids. Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden in their book Contented Cows Give Better Milk: The Plain Truth About Employee Relations And Your Bottom Line argue for making it a priority. Enlightened employee relations that encourage collaborative work have nothing whatsoever to do with social or humanitarian interests, nor superficial platitudes. They involve commitment of resources and time, which are more than recovered in the budget bottom line. According to Catlette and Hagan, , best practices are those that provide employees the following opportunities:

Building better mousetraps produces smarter mice

Human beings are uniquely capable of regulating their own involvement and commitment to a given task, or endeavour. The extent to which employees fully contribute or withhold is governed more by attitude than by necessity, fear, or economic influence. Put another way, those organizations which have approached employee relations in the same manner as building better mousetraps have only succeeded in creating smarter mice.

Simply stated:

Employee's personal capability minus Minimum Requirements equals Discretionary Effort

If we follow the evidence, an employee's discretionary effort is most easily maximized through good employee relations that also encourage a collaborative culture. When this practice is achieved the work setting thrives by:

Goleman reminds us that to transform your workplace into an enduring collaborative setting, you need emotional intelligence at the individual, but also collective and organizational levels. The same competencies will permanently graft the practices to the values that guide the organization.

Whenever there is a strong team, with clarity about its mission, high standards for its product, and sense of how to do its work, you don't just see fears and uncertainty the way you do in other organizations. Members are then able to put their trust in their teammates, the organization and its leaders.

In the next newsletter we will turn our attention on how to acquire the emotional competencies presented, individually and organizationally.

"Mutual respect, tolerance, trust – as it is with competence, there must be a minimum threshold of these qualities; beyond promoting good team functioning they also serve as the fabric of creating a respectful workplace. These are qualities that are represented in the kind of language one uses in the work setting, in the attitudes that one holds towards co-workers of different personal or professional backgrounds, and in the way that one sees differences as a strength rather than a threat."

Random Thoughts

"It's impossible to learn what you think you already know." – Unknown

"Indecision may or may not be my problem." – Jimmy Buffett