Emotional Intelligence for Agile Teams

Some time ago,  I had the pleasure of presenting the topic of emotional intelligence for the Agile/Lean Peer to Peer group of Kitchener/Waterloo.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein was on to something very important here.  Arguably of tremendously high IQ, Einstein also possessed a great degree of emotional intelligence. His curiosity is proof positive that even Einstein knew his intelligence could not get him where he needed to go.

Same is to be said for Agile teams.

Self-organizing, decision-making authority at the team level, high performing, quick adaption to change, required ownership and flexibility – these are not skills for the faint of heart.

Your EQ, not your IQ, is what will remove the barriers you are experiencing and propel you and your TEAM to greater success.

The Agile manifesto points to 4 principles…

  • People over processes
  • Products that work over documenting what the product is supposed to do
  • Collaborating with customers over negotiating with them
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Your environment is giving you constant feedback and from this feedback, you must:

  • Self-orient
  • Self-organize
  • Self-optimize

Basically, you need to be a Hyper-Productive Team:

  • Autonomous (self-organizing and self-managing)
  • Transcendent (sense of purpose)
  • Cross-fertilized (all skills present within the team)

Plus you have to move bloody fast. And then…our emotions show up. Someone provides feedback on a part of the process that we were involved in and what happens?

  • We shame ourselves
  • We blame others


It’s human nature to wear a shield of armour to protect ourselves from rejection. Our shields present themselves in 1 of 2 ways:



The direction, the vision, the team itself CHANGES and we have to adapt…and what happens?

  • We get frustrated, confused, shocked even
  • We enter denial
  • We dig in our heels and resist
  • Our anxiety levels rise and our emotions run wild 


It’s human nature to choose comfort over courage

Vulnerability is just that – vulnerable

This is the essence of emotional intelligence. It gives you the skills to handle these and so much more.

So where do you start???

 There are 4 primary phases of emotional intelligence
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management
This is EI put into a very simple formula. If you work on you first – your self awareness – the other 3 phases automatically get better without even focusing on them.

However, fully developed emotional intelligence does require that you look at the entire realm of EQ because when developed, and balanced, the following benefits are reaped: 

  • Overall well-being and happiness, content with life, enjoys themselves and what they are doing
  • High social functioning, part of groups and teams, get along well with others in all kinds of situations
  • Peak performance, achieving their goals, firing all cylinders, continually learning and growing and challenging
  • Optimal emotional functioning, deep relationships, stellar communicators when stakes and risks are high, high levels of empathy and understanding
What does it look like when EQ is under-developed and un-balanced? The opposite!
  • Low level of well-being or happiness; dissatisfied with life, complains about a lot of things however doesn’t take action, a lot of blame or shame dialogue
  • Low social functioning, NOT introverted (this is not the same), does not get along well with others, loads of conflict, low participation with people and groups, social uncomfortable, awkward or offensive
  • Low performance, achieving below their peak/optimal levels and capabilities, not learning, not growing, not challenging, coasting and even less
  • Emotions are unmanaged and wild, ticking time bomb, low levels of stress are unmanageable and send them into a downward spiral, poor communication, low levels of empathy or understanding



  • Ticking time bombs reacting to the slightest provocation
  • Defensive behaviours – shaming and blaming – pointing fingers or feeling under the microscope
  • Taking ownership and speaking up – assertiveness
  • Managing through change and adaptation
  • Creating safety in the workplace – psychological safety – everyone feels safe to speak up 

This is the video link to answer these questions and more:


Teresa Quinlan
Teresa Quinlan
Teresa Quinlan, Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, Speaker, Consultant. An Entrepreneur and Founder of her personal brand and the formula IQ+EQ=TQ, Teresa is passionate about emotional intelligence as the key ingredient to leveraging your IQ and personality and achieving the greatest levels of performance success. Teresa has been focused on transforming individuals, teams, and organizations to greater levels of performance since 1998 and has experienced leading teams and organizations through the highest of highs and the most challenging changes. Having spent over 25 years cultivating a rich and diverse set of skills, knowledge, behaviours, coaching and training new and experienced leaders, and mentoring, Teresa has developed shoot straight coaching, training, and mentoring techniques which foster opportunities for sustainable behavioural changes that lead to exceptional results; whether these results are to improve an individual's overall sense of well-being, a teams ability to be innovative, collaborative, self-organizing and self-directing, or an organizations ability to truly live their values throughout every uphill battle and downhill celebration. The road for Emotional Intelligence can being with the EQi-2.0 assessment; providing the baseline markers for one’s current EQ skill set. Development of EQ is done in many ways including: 1:1 Coaching, lEQdership – Leadership Development through Emotional Intelligence Program, Webinars, Speaking Engagements, Team coaching, and consultation. Listen to TNT ESQ podcast with co-host Rhys Thomas on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Anchor, and more.

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  1. Thank you Zen. I appreciate this addition, focusing on the first brain, our intuition. We often default to our young, and less experienced brain – the pre-frontal cortex which is where our intellect lives, and exclusively use that information to determine our path forward. What a big mistake! Our older, wiser, more experienced Limbic System offers us so much clarity in determining WHAT to do next and leads with more of our instinctual efforts to collaborate, share, connect, and move forward together.

    • Thank you for the share to your client Wendy! I have such gratitude for that kindness.
      Being able to see the behavioural outcomes is often where we start – it’s the boulder in the series of: pebble – brick – boulder. Often it is much easier for us to be aware of the boulder because it is quite destructive and abrasive and ‘visible’ to us. Then we can work backwards to identifying the brick and finally the pebble (the shifts in our emotional information).

  2. So where do you start???

    There are 4 primary phases of emotional intelligence
    Social awareness
    Relationship management

    Excellent article, Teresa. I included the area that means the most to me and the work I do. I made a recent statement that seems obvious: We cannot think our way through a system built on vibration. We have to FEEL our way through it. This serves to focus on the First Brain, the gut or intuition, and compels us to respond with compassion and care toward others, imho.

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