ATD Blog

Harness the Power of a Harmonious Team

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Think about how your team member’s emotions affect your productivity. 

Is your team upbeat and helpful? If so, how do you feel about going to work, and about the work you do? Are you motivated? 

Or are your co-workers aggressive and argumentative? If so, how does it feel to be around such intense energy all day? Are you satisfied with your output? Is your manager satisfied? Do you give it 100 percent, or just do what you’re told to avoid conflict? 

Most organizations have a mix of these positive and negative team dynamics. 

Emotional Contagion 

Every person’s emotional state makes a difference in a group. States are contagious from person to person. This is a fact leaders must pay the most attention to in their group interactions. They’re more effective in establishing mood for their team, because people naturally place the most importance in the most powerful person on the team. 


There’s some objective data on this. Vanessa Druskat at the University of New Hampshire studies teams and productivity. She found in several studies that the most highly productive teams have the greatest harmony and positivity. Some key factors to these healthy connections include: 

  • generally liking one another
  • enjoying doing things together
  • viewing work as play. 

That sounds idyllic—almost too good to be true. But the studies show that they’re able to balance levity with tough honesty and no-nonsense strategizing. 
This true harmony is based on the fact that when two people on the team are having a problem with each other, they choose to acknowledge it, talk about it, solve it, and get back to work. They don’t let it hold them up. Why? Because they respect each other. 

All of these behaviors create an authentic culture of cooperation. The team doesn’t pretend to be harmonious. They don’t need to. They feel safe and protected to be themselves and to push themselves. That’s why only a harmonious team can be truly productive. 


Key Ingredients to Managing a Harmonious Team 

Provide Choices. We all want to feel we have a say. That's why leaders should offer their employees choice and power over what they can do, whenever possible. When you delegate wisely, you open up possibilities to let people shine. Additionally, creating a foundation of support often leads to explosions of creativity. 

Generate Forward Momentum.  When a work conflict isn’t resolved, backlash is inevitable. It’s important that the entire team, leader included, has a procedure in place for getting over what happened. Be a leader who speaks the truth, but speaks it with empathy. And remember: the future is the future, and the past is the past. 

Offer Coaching. Leaders can create a secure base by helping employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses, and then linking them to their personal and career aspirations. These leaders will encourage employees to establish long-term development goals and help them conceptualize a plan for attaining them. They’ll also make agreements with their employees about their role and responsibilities in enacting development plans, and they give plentiful instruction and feedback. 

Instill Positivity. Managers with a pacesetting leadership style often have a negative impact on their direct reports’ emotional state and performance. They have perfectionist tendencies. They only give failing grades—they never praise good performance. When you encounter a mistake, frame it as a lesson, rather than just another blunder.

About the Author

Daniel Goleman is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half, with more than 5,000,000 copies in print worldwide in 40 languages, and has been a best seller in many countries.

Goleman is a co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, originally at the Yale Child Studies Center and now at the University of Illinois at Chicago. CASEL’s mission centers on bringing evidence-based programs in emotional literacy to schools worldwide. And he currently co-directs the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University. The consortium fosters research partnerships between academic scholars and practitioners on the role emotional intelligence plays in excellence.

His latest book is What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters.

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