Some days, teamwork doesn’t feel like an easy alley-oop. No matter what you may be working on together, collaborators will bring different perspectives, different skills, and different personalities to the table. So how do you make sure those differences don’t lead to conflict or add to the grind?
Collaboration can break down if you’re pushing for a smart approach, but neglecting how your teammates feel. Or if you’re in tune with your teammates, but not thinking broadly enough. The best collaboration happens only when everything—IQ, EQ, and CQ—is working in sync. Take these steps to use all three in service of solving a problem as a team.
1. Establish trust with emotional intelligence
Though it might seem counterintuitive, try beginning your project by bonding with your teammates. At the kickoff meeting, go around the table and give each person a chance to talk about what they hope to get out of the project. What would be the ideal outcome for them? Then ask them to cite one potential obstacle or blocker that worries them.
Why talk about these hopes and fears up front? It gives you insight that can help you see their motivations and concerns empathetically when it’s deadline time and everybody’s stressed. The better you understand your co-workers’ needs, the better you can handle their feedback, even when it’s negative. And the more you’re aware of their personality types, the easier it’ll be to stay respectful and supportive when you disagree.
2. Build consensus with intellectual intelligence
After your team has established the “why”, you’re ready to to tackle the “what.” This is where logic and reason lead the way. Just as you rely on the people who excel at diplomacy to build trust within your team, you’ll lean on the analysts to provide your metrics for success. They can show the team how to look at the data and see something more than numbers. They’ll show you how it reveals stories your customers are trying to tell you and the problems they need you to solve.
That kind of deep dive into data from surveys and focus groups provides crucial context and informs strategy in ways that feedback on social media can’t fully communicate. With insights based on analysis of larger sets of data, your team will be better able to agree on who you need to talk to—and what you need to say—before you decide how to say it.
3. Solve problems with creative intelligence
When you know your team, agree on the goal, and see where you have to go, you’re more than halfway home. Now you’re ready to begin brainstorming ideas. Though CQ can also represent cultural intelligence or collaborative intelligence, in this case, we’re referring to creative intelligence. In his triarchic theory, Robert Sternberg describes creative intelligence as the ability to manage novel situations and discover new solutions through divergent thinking.
That’s a tall order for individuals, and even trickier for teams. Because as author Bruce Nussbaum points out, creativity rises from uncertainty—and most of us are more comfortable with what’s familiar. But we can learn how to break through that fear and improve our CQ by collaborating. It takes some time and practice to establish the kind of rapport that allows people to think out loud without worrying about ridicule. But it’s worth the extra effort. Because when we tap into our collective curiosity as a team, we have a deeper well of ideas to draw from.
Everyone has strengths, weaknesses, and varying degrees of EQ, IQ, and CQ. It’s tempting to leave analysis to the analysts and creativity to the creatives. But next time you’re embarking on a collaborative project, step out of your roles and silos. Stay open to possibilities. Welcome contributions from every member of your team. Because when creative energy is flowing, great ideas can come from anywhere. The important thing is knowing how to work together to catch them when they do.