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 Emotional Intelligence in Teams; A look at Self Awareness.



Gillian Gathoni Mwaura



Building a team begins with understanding the task. After which, one identifies and enlists the members to give the team the best opportunity to fulfill its purpose (Griffith 2015, 29). In his book titled Good to great, Collins (2001) argues that the “who” question comes before the “what” question. Great leaders begin by getting the right people on and the wrong ones off the bus (Collins 2001, 63).

The author of this paper’s team formation experiences has not presented her with opportunities to choose the right people for a team; on the other hand, most of her teams are coincidental. The author is mainly involved in Sacrifice Reliant Organizations (SRO). SROs are organizations whose structures are oblivious and ambivalence of calling. They are primarily under-resourced, therefore unable to attract talent-based people but attract people who generally feel “called” (Anastasiadis & Zeyen 2021,13). The leadership of such coincidental teams may not involve throwing wrong people out of the bus but perhaps developing individuals and a team that can work together. Instead of turning away from others who are “wrong,” members must turn towards each other and believe they can form the right team.  This paper explores self and group awareness as an essential part of Emotional intelligence (EQ). The author will also dialogue with one of the healthy teams she has observed lately.

Emotional Intelligence 

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to perceive and express emotions, use emotions to facilitate thinking, understand the reason with emotions, and effectively manage emotions within oneself and in relationships with others (Salovey, Meyer 1990 189).

Goleman (2002) refers to EQ as one’s competence in understanding their own (self) and other people’s emotions (social) and the ability to cope effectively. He argues that EQ has four domains (Goleman 1995, 43):

a)     Self-awareness- This is one’s ability to know their own emotions.

b)     Self-management- This is the ability to hold one’s feelings appropriately.

c)      Social awareness: This is the ability to be more attuned to subtle social signals that indicate what others need (empathy).

d)     Relationship management -This is one’s ability to manage emotions in others.

Goleman (1995) argues that EQ and other intelligence are not opposing competencies but rather separate ones (43). Mason (2012), on the other hand, argues that managing a team requires greater EQ than other cognitive intelligence (Mason 2012, 5).


 Unlike cognitive ability, Mason (2012) says that testing EQ has not enjoyed much support over time but is considered “elusive,” and there has been considerable debate surrounding the psychometric properties of existing measures. Even amidst their reservations, he states that researchers seem to agree that a critical component of EQ involves self-awareness of moods, emotions, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses (Mason 2012, 5). 


Griffith argues that one of the main influences on interpersonal dynamics is the emotional and social maturity of the team and the leaders. He suggests that emotional intelligence is critical to teams, just like cognitive intelligence. Griffith demonstrates how the most effective team members are those who can recognize and regulate their own emotions in turn for others (Griffith 2015, 60–61)

Goleman introduces the term self-awareness in the sense of ongoing attention to one’s internal state. He argues that self-awareness is not attention that gets carried away by emotions, overacting and amplifying what is perceived. Rather it is a neutral mode that maintains self-reflectiveness even amidst turbulent emotions. Self-awareness acts like our guide in fine-tuning work-related social skills and team management. One becomes self-aware when they have clarity about emotions that undergird them and are in a good psychological state to tend to the situation. (Goleman 1997,46- 48). At the formation stage of a team, members must discover who they are and who others are in a team. Katzenbach (2005) argues that team performance is a function of what its members do as individuals (Katzenbach 2005, 164). 

One of the strategies in developing EQ is exposing members to Emotional Quotient (EQ) tests which measure an individual’s ability to recognize their own emotions and others which influences their behavior and speech. Emotional Quotient tests are usually personality-based. Research has argued that personality differences are not measurable (quantitative) but primarily qualitative. Mason (2012), therefore, argues that personalities should be studied and described but not tested (Mason 2012, 6).

Team self-awareness

Emotional intelligence is not only beneficial for individuals. Much research has been done on EQ on performance in teams. The premise for linking EQ to team performance argued that high EQ enables team members to manage and be aware of their own emotions and the emotions of other team members.  When team members begin to practice self-awareness, noticing the group’s mood and needs, members respond to one another with empathy. Goleman (2002) argues that showing empathy leads the team to create and sustain positive norms and manage its relationships with the outside world more effectively. Social awareness- especially empathy, at a team level, is the foundation that enables a team to build and maintain effective relationships with the rest of the organization. Members of a team express their self-awareness by being mindful of shared moods and the emotions of the individuals within the group. Goleman also notes that emotions are contagious, and team members take their emotional cues from each other, for better or for worse (Goleman 2002, 59). 

Team self-awareness requires team members to be self-aware and be attuned to the emotional undercurrents of individuals and the group. If a group lacks emotional intelligence, they cannot discern individual feelings, setting a chain reaction to the whole team. On the other hand, a team with group emotional intelligence can recognize and confront such individual distress and hijack the group. 


                                        A Biblical Understanding of Emotions.

This session will review  EQ through a Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration Framework. In the beginning, God created man uniquely in his image and likeness (Genesis 1: 26-27, Isaiah 64:8). Different people have different social and emotional traits, making them have specific personalities. God creates this diversity and appreciates his creation. Throughout scripture, we encounter a God who though transcendent, is personal and interacts with the created. He loves his creation, and his actions towards them are consistent with his dependence and immutability (James 1:17). Human beings deserve consistent and unconditional love (1st John 3:16) because they have value and are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:5-6). Our emotions reflect our creator, who understands them and will never change how he feels about his creation. As the creator, God’s emotions are central to his personality, not a projection of human attributes of emotions (1st Timothy 2:4, Psalms 11:5-7). His emotions are not dependent on outside forces but flow from his personhood (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). For example, Human anger is subjective and volatile, but his anger is rooted in his justice (James 1:20, Proverbs 14:19; 15:18).

 Because of sin, both our human view of emotions and our view of God’s emotions are distorted but not beyond restoration (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12). Humanity, therefore, cannot save itself through its wisdom, choice, and goodness but needs a savior (Romans 3:23; 6:23;12:2).  God is in the process of redeeming his image in human beings through Jesus Christ so we can reflect his essential qualities. Human beings whose image is restored become image bearers who participate with God in restoring His image in the distorted human beings. Their view of themselves and others is subjected to the Holy Spirit’s role, who develops them to Christlikeness. Emotions are part of what needs redemption and will be restored at the new creation. Emotions will be part of heaven (Revelations 6:10, 7:10). God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more sorrows. There will be singing, rejoicing, and tears of joy in the heavenly feast (Luke 6:21).


Self-Efficacy in Emotional Intelligence.

Bandura (1977) defined self-efficacy as an individual’s capacity and confidence to execute or control motivation and behavior necessary to produce specific performance attainments. Bandura’s social cognitive theory and social learning led him to conclude that people can control their behavior through “self-regulation.” He argues that introspection of one’s thoughts and feelings motivates individuals to achieve set goals and behavior change (Bandura 1977,193). Mayer also argues that human beings can motivate their behavior constructively when their EQ is high (Mayer and Salovey 1997, 532).

When posed with a question, “how do you maintain a healthy team”? The interviewees each mentioned their dependence on the Holy Spirit in helping them love each other well and be patient with one another. Self-efficacy seems to point us to having faith in ourselves and managing our behaviors. The interviewees all agreed that it is crucial to be self-aware and aware of others, but the ability to have a healthy team is enabled by submitting to one another. One of the interviewees quoted, “the call for Christians is to die to self and be born again- born into eternal life. We no longer live, but Christ lives in us” (Galatians 2:20). Our faith, therefore, must be Christ who enables us to become Christlike. Individuals and team members must be aware that not all personality traits they have are accurate. Therefore, individuals need to analyze the underlying assumptions of their personalities. Individuals must discern what influences their personalities and which traits need redemption. The Holy Spirit is essential in the analyzes since He is the one that sheds light on dark corners.  It will also be only through the Holy Spirit that human beings can understand the complexity of who they are and entrust themselves to the Holy Spirit’s power in shaping their personalities. This process of self-awareness is a life journey that becomes part of our formation and must be done from belonging. We belong to Him, and therefore we can take time responding to ways in which he shapes us. We do not belong because of some personal traits we carry.

Human beings require a root change for any fruit change. They require abiding in Christ and Him abiding in them to bear much fruit that will last long. We can do nothing about parts of our personalities that need redemption without abiding. When we abide, we put off the old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; and are made new in our minds’ attitude and put on the new self-created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:33-24).

Habits of Healthy Teams

Healthy teams require healthy individuals. Some of the habits of healthy teams mentioned by the interviews  

 and generated from personal experience and diverse authors are:

Listening- For any team to function well, it is essential to listen to each other.  Colwill (2015), talking about dialogue, argues that listening requires deliberately focused attention on what others are saying; it is the discipline to remain quiet while others speak and then ask follow-up questions that draw out the meaning of others.  She calls it deep listening -an act of love (Colwill 2015, 3). When team members are self-aware and have team self-awareness, they create an environment that allows each perspective to be present, including that of a lone dissenter, before a decision is made.

 Feedback- In addition to listening, team members must learn how to respond constructively to views expressed by others by giving feedback. Goleman calls it “providing feedback” (Goleman 2002,57 ). From the observations made from the interviewees’ team dynamics, there seems to be honesty with each other and a redemptive environment. Through such an environment, there is lots of formation that happens.


            Empathy- Goleman says that an emotionally intelligent team has the collective equivalent of empathy, the basis of all relational skills. Goleman explains how being empathetic does not mean being nice, but it means figuring out what the whole system needs and going after it to make all involved more successful and satisfied with the outcomes (Goleman 2002, 62). In such an environment, questions are freely asked and genuinely answered. Such teams are aware that they can be vulnerable and still loved and cared. Colwill (2015) argues that it is essential to have people speak authentically about what is important to them yet maintain awareness of others and their opinions in dialogue. She refers to it as voicing and says it requires honesty even if the view to be expressed is a dissenting one (Colwill 2015, 4). “Diversity has a seat at the table; inclusion has a voice at the table, and belonging is having that voice heard” Liz Fosslien.


Suspending- Colwill (2015) says that there has to be suspending in dialogue, which involves self-control in delaying one’s hasty judgments of other persons, their opinions, or behaviors (Colwill 2015, 4). Some EQ tests have stereotyped some traits and personalities, and teams must learn to look at each other as God looks at them. Help each other identify areas where they could prayerfully trust God for redemption.


Ground rules -Ground rules in a team include establishing norms and maximizing harmony to ensure that the team benefits from the best talents of each member. Best leaders pay attention and act on their sense of what is going on in the group, and they need not be obvious about it (Goleman 2002, 58). These norms are similar to Gratton’s signature relationship practices. Group guiding habits defining the terms of engagement Leaders have a significant role in modeling behaviors followed in the team as the norm.  Gratton shares an example that at companies where leaders demonstrate collaborative behaviors, teams collaborate well (Graton 2007,104)  

Whole Group attention - Because teams behave differently at different points, as Bruce Tackman suggests (Forming, Storming, Norming, and performing), leaders should create ways for members to talk about problematic issues in each season.


Our becoming Christlike means that we are getting clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience of Christ (Colossians 3:13) as our Lord Jesus. As a result of abiding in him, we bear much fruit ;Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self (Galatians 20:22-23). When individuals in teams bear the fruit seen above, how they relate to one another promotes an environment full of grace and believes that God changes people. These fruits are essential in understanding self and relating with others. When God places us in teams, we can participate in redeeming people’s distorted view of emotions and create environments that allow people to come with reality with their God-given emotions



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 Colwill, Deborah. 2015. “An Invitation to a Dialogue Table: Will You Come and Join Us?”         Christian Education Journal: Research on Educational Ministry 12, no. 1 (May).



Goleman, Daniel. 1997. Emotional Intelligence. Bantam trade paperback ed. New York: Bantam Books.


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