3 Steps to More Emotionally Intelligent Teams

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Self-awareness is not easy. In fact, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, it is among the top things that are hard in life, along with diamonds and steel.

Some advisers have learned this the hard way.

“They question my strategies and don’t trust that I know what I’m doing,” said one such adviser with exasperation. This adviser I was coaching had fired a client that month and had lost two more over the course of the year, over what he described as “irreconcilable differences” regarding his advisory process. “Do they have their CFA designation? Did they spend years following the markets and learning this craft? If they could do it themselves, why waste time with me?” he posed.

Reflection is the First Step

In my experience with Knowledge Labs™, and as a coach to thousands of advisers over the better part of two decades, I’ve learned to recognize when to pause and re-evaluate a situation. I couldn’t break through in this moment; my client was too triggered by what he was feeling to be able to reflect. When we are triggered—often due to past experiences—we don’t act in accordance with our values. Fortunately, I was able to get him out of his own head by asking, “What do you think they are not getting that is causing them to question your approach to investing?”

The adviser loves his clients and wants more of them, but he loses patience when they seem to question his responses. What he had misidentified as his clients’ lack of confidence in his advisory skills actually had more to do with emotional intelligence (EQ). I’ve long valued EQ and use it constantly in my work with Janus Henderson’s Professional Development Team on research and curriculum development. This adviser’s clients needed more clarity and involvement, which can sometimes be elusive but are reachable through self-management of emotions that result in an alignment of behavior and values.

Reflection is the first step in the journey to greater EQ. When you feel like you’re up against a wall in a conversation, ask two questions:

  • What are they really asking for?
  • Why is it eliciting such a dramatic reaction from me?

Once we recognize our triggers through reflection, we can start to reframe. Reframing seeks to change the way we perceive events to avoid triggering. Other EQ boosters include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), journaling, meditation and Kolbe (a provider of assessments identifying the natural way that people take action).

Emotional Intelligence in Team Settings

Our frustrated adviser was in need of a refresher on the benefits of EQ, but he’s not alone. Emotional intelligence is an all-too-common blind spot in many people’s self-awareness that affects individual performance. In this case, it was beginning to seep into his team’s performance as well.

Knowledge Labs™ recently partnered with The Investments & Wealth Institute and Cerulli Associates on a study that identified qualities shared by elite advisory teams, and self-awareness is a critical component to knowing what you need to build an extraordinary team.

Three steps to emotionally intelligent teams:

  • Reconsider “majority rules.” Even if there’s only one dissenter, hear them out and make sure all possibilities have been properly considered.
  • Put your team members in each other’s shoes. Cross-training won’t make everyone an expert in everything, but if teammates understand the complexity and time requirements of everyone else’s task load, they’re more likely to give each other a break.
  • Speaking of breaks, encourage your team to take them and do the same yourself. Go for a walk. Get away from email, even if only for a few minutes. Take regular vacations. Burnout is both unhelpful and contagious.

Putting the Pieces Together

The adviser, who took some very helpful walks around the leafy neighborhood surrounding his office, was already seeing changes. He learned to label his own behavior and understand what he could control about himself, rather than the opinions of his clients. His team’s revamped attitude was showing as he spoke about better relationships with clients and colleagues at a follow-up meeting six months later. Without making any drastic changes to his core principles, he was able to shift his interactions to the positive.

What we can learn from his positive experience is that, more often than not, hard things are worth the effort.

Learn more about elite teams in Knowledge Labs™’ Attributes of a Top Performing Advisory Team.

Editor’s note: A version of this blog post appeared on the Janus Henderson Investors blog. See it here

Michael Futterman

Michael Futterman is an assistant vice president, Knowledge Labs™ Professional Development at Janus Henderson Investors. In this role, Futterman works with the Professional Development team on research and curriculum development for the professional development programs. He is a frequent speaker and coach to adviser and client audiences. Futterman leverages his experience with Outward Bound, management consulting firms and the financial services industry to bring innovative, engaging and thought-provoking content to his clients.

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