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Smith Business Insight Podcast | Series 2 . Episode 4 Teams Work

Building High EQ Teams

Smith Business Insight Podcast

We know how important it is for people to have emotional intelligence to thrive in the workplace. The same goes for teams. Here’s a road map to build team-wide EQ


You can bring together a collection of highly talented individuals but if they’re at each other’s throats or misinterpreting their colleagues’ words, their output will be useless or worse. Teams whose members have emotional intelligence are not riven by factions or infighting. They are able to deal with the inevitable negative emotions productively and contribute to a psychologically safe work environment. A disciplined approach to building team-wide EQ incorporates assessment tools and savvy leadership that sets the right tone.

This episode, our guest is Dane Jensen, CEO of Third Factor, a company that studies the science of performance in order to build better leaders and more resilient teams. Jensen works with organizations such as Royal Bank of Canada, Uber and Twitter, and with athletes, coaches and leaders across Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic sports system. He also teaches in the full-time and executive MBA programs at Smith School of Business.

Dane Jensen is joined in conversation by host Meredith Dault.

Also in this episode, Smith Business Insight’s Alan Morantz looks at what the evidence shows about delivering great feedback.



Meredith Dault: Twenty-two-year-old Nicolina hated the fact that her overbearing boss watched her every move at work. That’s why the content writer, who is based in Prague, was delighted when the pandemic moved her office into her bedroom. But it turned out that being away from her boss’s toxic behaviour didn't make things better. Things only got worse. Nicolina's badly-behaving boss became a micro-manager, monitoring her team virtually using software, and not being afraid to hold back his criticism.

Yeah, stressful. Unsurprisingly, thanks to her bosses’ dysfunctional leadership, it's fair to assume that Nicolina's team had low EI, or low emotional intelligence. And you guessed it, a low EI team is not a high functioning team. Well, today, on TEAMS Work, we're talking about how to build high EI teams. We'll also hear a few more ideas about how to ask for feedback that's actually useful.

I'm Meredith Dault, and I'm your host for this series of podcasts, brought to you by Smith School of Business, at Queen's University. Stay tuned.

01:16: Dane Jensen knows a thing or two about how to make good teams great. For one thing, he's the CEO of Third Factor, a company that studies the science of performance in order to build better leaders and more resilient teams. It's a role that sees him delivering development programs all over North America, including with companies like RBC, Uber and Twitter.

Dane also works with athletes, coaches, leaders and boards of directors across Canada's Olympic and Paralympic sports system, all in a bid to make them better at what they do. We're fortunate that he also teaches in the full-time and executive MBA programs at Smith School of Business. And so, when I wanted to talk to someone about the importance of drawing on emotional intelligence, or EQ, to boost team resilience, I knew who to call. Here's our conversation.


MD: Dane, thank you so much for being with us. You have so much knowledge about a variety of things when it comes to working in teams. I'd love to know if you can give us some high-level thoughts around the importance of being able to work with emotional intelligence in a team.

Dane Jensen: Yeah, I think, where I start with this topic is that every team is really a combination of three things. It's a combination of the individuals on that team. It's combined with the ability of those individuals to collaborate, combined with some of the expertise on the team. And I think a lot of the times when we're building teams, we really optimize for expertise, right? What is the unique expertise that each person on the team is here to bring. When you look at the design of an exec team, it's like, well, we need an HR person, we need a marketing person, we need a revenue person, we need a product person. So we start with expertise, typically.

EQ is about my ability to be a strong I, to bring the best of myself to understand what is likely to be misinterpreted about me, and to make sure that I'm really clear about that upfront with folks to be able to be self-aware and self-regulated. And then, also, for us collectively, to have the kind of social and relationship awareness that allows us to collaborate effectively, to get the best from each other.

Because I think all of us know, you can put the world's leading experts around a table and it's not necessarily going to produce tremendous work consistently if those people are at each other's throats and constantly misinterpreting each other. You end up with factions, you end up with infighting. So expertise is part of the picture, but EQ really gets at the “we” of the team. And how we be and act as strong individuals in a strong collective.

03:59: MD: Right. So how realistic is it to build teams according to that EQ? I mean, how do you know that about someone when you're hiring them, for one thing? And then, how do you put together a team that is going to work on that level?

DJ: So I think this is a really great question. And I think it's a question that different people would answer in different ways. I will give you my answer of how we think about balancing the need for expertise with the need for people who can work well together and collaborate effectively.

I think there is a real role to play here in using assessment tools. Like, actually, assessing people on the dimensions outside of expertise, not just relying on expertise. So we're very partial to a particular tool that we use in our organization. There are many tools out there that other folks use that I'm sure are also effective. And the tool that we tend to go to is a tool called the TAIS, which is the attentional and interpersonal styles inventory. And what we're really looking for, when we use the TAIS with teams, is first to understand, are there people on this team whose styles are just very different from each other, and are therefore going to have to have very strong systems for both the self-management part of EQ but also the relationship management part of EQ.

Because it really starts with awareness, right? You know, Meredith, if you and I are going into a team, and we are going in blind, we often are very ungenerous in terms of how we interpret the behaviour that we see from each other, right? We judge ourselves off of our motivations and our intentions. We judge other people off of their behaviour.

MD: Right.

DJ: And this leads to a real mismatch, right? I'm quite generous with myself because I know I have good intentions. But because I'm judging you off of your behavior, I tend to be a little bit less generous, right? It's easier for me to misinterpret.

Now, if I go in, having sat around the table, and having understood that — listen my profile is a very analytical profile, I'm going to want to get down to brass tacks, I'm not big on the emotional stuff, I don't have strong empathy and awareness — if I know that about myself, and I know that your profile — let's say it is a profile that is higher in interpersonal awareness, you just naturally tune in to people's emotional state, you can read a room a little bit better — I'm going to recognize that I have the potential to be misinterpreted by you as somebody who is cold and uncaring. And I can be open and honest with that to be able to start the conversation by saying, Now, Meredith, I bring a lot of analytical expertise here, you bring a tremendous amount of interpersonal awareness and acuity. How do we want to make sure that that's a strength for the team as opposed to a limitation?

My ability to have that conversation is really rooted in self-awareness, which is one of the big quadrants in EQ. And we found that it's tough for people to become self-aware in a vacuum. Right. Cultivating self-awareness, the discipline of cultivating self-awareness, it's a combination of my ability to harness feedback, to harvest accurate data from feedback.

But we do see that the best teams actually put some discipline around this by going through a process where, Let's all learn a little bit about each other. Let's share what we know about ourselves with each other. Right. Let's put our cards on the table and say here's my style, here are my strengths, here are the things that you might misinterpret about me, here are my vulnerabilities. Because once we have that information on the table as a team, now we can actually work both on the expertise channel but also on the communication and relationship channel at the same time.

07:17: MD: Yeah. Wow. So many questions because it's so complicated. I mean, yes, that sounds so ideal. But we know from living in the world that that's not always how it happens. They hire the best person for expertise, comes in, he's a bad fit with the team, it's too late. Or you've got that person who's really resistant to self-awareness. They don't want to do all that stuff. Or the self-aware people who know their type, but then they sort of throw their hands up like, well, I'm just this. Like, I just don't know how to do that other stuff. So there are so many hurdles, aren't there, on the way to building that beautiful self-aware team?

DJ: Yes. Absolutely right. This is not something that happens overnight. People are complicated. Right? And some people are quite difficult. And the people that I think are difficult probably think that I'm difficult. And everything is subjective. So I mean, there's a couple of things that I would say about this.

The first is, I think the leader has to set the tone on this. And there's obviously a lot being said right now about psychological safety, which is certainly a close cousin or at least related to a lot of the parts of the EQ conversation. And the notion of psychological safety is the leader sets the tone by inviting different opinions by encouraging people to be vulnerable by role modeling vulnerability. And then, when people are vulnerable, when they volunteer an unpopular opinion or they say something that could be misconstrued or a little bit provocative, that gets reinforced by the leader, right? Yeah, we want more of that. We don't want to all agree. We need to disagree. We need to have different points of view.

And so, I think when we talk about this ability for people to put their cards on the table to say, Here's what you want to know about me as a person, here are my strengths, that has to start with the leader, right? The leader's ability to role model their own self-awareness to indicate that it's okay to demonstrate some vulnerabilities is a really important starting point for a team.

Because what people are going to be looking for is, Am I safe in this team to share some of the things that are shortcomings or vulnerabilities for me? Is this a safe environment to me to share those things? And the more that becomes a collective experience, where everybody on the team has the process of sharing those things, the more likely it is that people will feel safe to be able to do that themselves.

09:32: MD: Right. And then, what do you do when you come up against that heart situation of somebody who's feeling emotionally disconnected from their team? What ends up happening in those kinds of situations?

DJ: Well, so there's this whole interesting thread that weaves through — certainly the relationship side of EQ but also the self-management side of EQ — which is, How do we as a team — well, how do I as an individual and then how do we as a team — work with negative emotion? And I actually think one of the things that really differentiates high EQ teams from low EQ teams is their ability to harness the positive stuff from negative emotion, right? When I'm feeling frustrated when somebody's feeling angry, what do we do with that?

And what's interesting about negative emotion is that negative emotion is powerful but volatile fuel, right? One of the things that I found very interesting, when I started down this road 10 years ago — because a little more than 10 years ago now and doing some of the work that we have the opportunity to do it with our elite athletes and elite teams in the Canadian sports system — when I started sitting down and talking to elite teams and elite athletes, one of the things that really surprised me was how frequently negative emotion came up as a source of fuel.

All right. I would talk to people about defining moments for their team, defining moments for them as individuals. And, more often than not, people would talk about a negative thing, right? You know, I remember talking to Haley Wickenheiser, and she said, Listen, I like to win. But I hate to lose. And you know what motivates me? It's the feeling that I have after I lose because I don't ever want to feel like that again.

Now, this is not the case for all teams, right? Some teams, when they go through a period that triggers negative emotion in the team, when people get frustrated, when they get angry, it actually leads down a very different path, that leads down the path of the blame game. Right. I'm feeling this way because you didn't pull your weight, right? I'm overworked, but you seem to be doing just fine over there, right?

And it leads to combustion as opposed to the positive feedback loop from negative emotion. Which is it leads us as a team to build a determination, to prove this wrong, right? To go, This is not going to define us as a team. This is not who we are as a team. And that leads to harder work and higher standards, and actually drives cohesion in the team.

And so, our ability as a team, to talk about and process negative emotion is a really critical element in when somebody is feeling excluded, when we do feel frustrated with each other as a team, to be able to surface it and talk about it.

And I think there's a really — I'm not a big fan of leaderless teams, like the whole idea that I do think there has to be somebody on the team who is ultimately driving that conversation, right? Who is able to name the negative emotion, right? Man, it seems like we're all feeling really frustrated right now. What we're going through right now really matters to us, right? I can see how much it matters to you that we get this right and it doesn't feel like we are right now, right? What are we going to do about that?

Because ultimately, it's the leader — and listen, people can be formal or informal leaders but it's somebody who's going to name that. That's high EQ right there, right? Notice the emotional tenor of the team, name it and then start to drive a conversation that feeds the team's inner-coaching voice, right? The voice that says, Okay, well what are we going to do with all the energy under this emotion? There's a lot of energy right now, right? There's a lot of anger. There's a lot of frustration. Under that is energy. And we can channel that energy in a lot of different directions, right? We can channel that energy into back-channel email conversations with our allies on this team about how the people on the other side of the table are idiots and they're not pulling their weight. Or we can channel that emotion to words, having a really open and raw conversation right now about what we want to do with this energy, right? Where are we going to park it going forward.

And so, I think that ability to make negative emotion discussable, to have a leader that is ultimately inviting a conversation, reinforcing the kind of dialogue that's coming through, and then focusing people on what are we going to do with this energy and the team right now, where are we going to put it, and that ability as a leader, like that to me is what a high EQ leader looks like. To notice that in themselves, they might be feeling frustrated, to be able to regulate that and say, Okay, what does the moment need right now for this team? Well, the moment needs us to have a conversation, to make this discussable, to talk about it and to figure out how we can channel this energy in a way that's productive for the team. So that's that combination of awareness, but also regulation and communication in the face of negative emotion.

14:17: MD: Wow. That's really inspiring. That's [LAUGHS] it seems really, like, wow, anything is doable If you could just talk about it. Now the problem, of course, is so many of us can't — I mean, so many people are just like, Oh, I'll just push through. It's no problem. How do you develop, maybe for the leader, how can a leader develop that kind of EQ?

DJ: So this is one of the great debates, right? Can you become more empathetic? Can you become better at reading somebody's emotional state? Now, absolutely, there are parts of this that are kind of genetic, right? There are certain people that are just more empathic, can read people's nonverbals, just pick up on emotion a lot better. There are also lots of the components of EQ that you can absolutely develop, right? You may have a natural range, right? But you can develop within that range.

So we talked about self-awareness. You can become more self-aware. You can ask for more feedback. You can go through an assessment or a 360, right? You can build self-awareness, self-management and self-regulation. Absolutely, you can practice and learn self-management and self-regulation, right? If you are going into a career in trauma medicine, one of the things you do a lot of is simulation work. Why do you do simulation work? You do simulation work so that when the real pressure hits, you've already simulated the adrenaline and cortisol spike. And you've developed the tools that allow you to regulate yourself under pressure. You can absolutely get better and better at this stuff. The social awareness and relationship management stuff, this is about taking the leap and making an effort, right?

And I'll share a personal note on this one. One of the things that I used to shy away from a little bit was making negative emotion discussable. And the reason I shied away from it was because I actually am not a particular. . . I don't have a particular gift for reading other people's emotional states. Certainly, my wife and I can be in the same dinner conversation, we leave the conversation and she's like, Wow, I can't believe how upset so-and-so was. I'm like, really? I just don't pick up on it, in the way that other people pick up on it. And so, that gave me real pause to do the, Hey, it seems like you're really frustrated right now, because I would be worried that I was going to guess wrong.

And I'll tell you what I've learned over time is, the second you label another person's emotional state, you have it wrong, they will correct it, right?

16:29: MD: Right. So are you suggesting you should? It seems like you could be frustrated, do I have that right. And they say, Well, no I'm not frustrated. I'm actually angry.

DJ: Yeah. Often, you don't even have to add that, do I have that right? It's like, John, it seems like you're feeling really frustrated right now. If I got it wrong, John's gonna say, I'm not frustrated. I'm furious. It's like, Okay, now, I know, right? Now, I have the information that I need. I know where I'm starting as a leader. I can have the conversation because that information is on the table right now.

And so, I think sometimes we're a little bit gun shy because we worry that we won't engage the situation, or we haven't got quite the right language. If you're coming at this, if the other person believes that you have their best interests at heart, and that's a really important part of this whole thing, right? To have social awareness, to manage relationships, which is the kind of other side of EQ, as opposed to the self-side of EQ. It starts with the people around you believing that you actually care about them and have their best interests at heart.

In particular, if you're trying to lead a high EQ team, people need to believe that ultimately, at the of the day, you don't just care about results, although that's important, but that you also care about the people, right? Because that's ultimately what's going to allow them to be vulnerable. It's going to get them out of the reputation management game and into the openness and honesty game.

MD: Yeah. Amazing. Do you have a sense — you may not know this, I don't know — but whether the pandemic has changed the way people engage with this kind of stuff? Are people maybe more open because we've all been through a challenging time together? Anything like that come to mind?

DJ: Yeah. That's a great question, Meredith. I think, certainly, in talking to the clients that I consult with, I actually think people have become a little bit more reactive and a little bit less generous with each other over the past one to two years. I'm in a lot of organizations right now, where people go, everybody's just a little bit on edge. The emails are a little bit sharper or the responses are a little bit less generous. There's just a little bit less patience with each other.

And so, you go, Okay, well, what's that about? Because I agree with you. I think what's interesting has been as the pandemic has evolved, there's been a lot more discussion on. . . you've got to check in on how people are really doing. Everybody's carrying a heavy load right now. So I think that has kind of. . . that dialogue has been evolving.

I think what's been missing a little bit is just the ability to do the stuff that greases the skids on the relationship management stuff, which is informal conversations with people, a chance to bump into somebody and just have a chat, share a joke, build some sort of pure human connection that's not necessarily centered around performance.

I think it's a little bit tougher to do the informal relationship building stuff virtually or remotely. I think earlier on in the pandemic, there were sort of these like, Let's get on Zoom and do happy hour. And it's just kind of, that stuff fell away. And I think people spend a lot of their time more in performance-oriented conversations with people. And so, there hasn't been as much opportunity to build some of the informal rapport that underpins my ability to be generous with another person, to be curious about why they might see things differently than I do.

So I think it's been a mixed bag, like I think a lot of this stuff is more discussable. People at work are having conversations about how are we carrying the load, are you frustrated, where are you at right now. And at the same time, when the emails start flying back and forth, I think the relationship piece has been a little bit whittled down by the fact that we've all been operating in our own silos a little bit for a longer period of time.

20:37: MD: Well, I guess what we are seeing, of course, is people leaving jobs where they're not getting the support they feel they should get. I mean, we are seeing that a lot more of that, right?

DJ: Well, this is an interesting piece of data. It is when — I don't have the study, the name of the study to hand — but when you look at what leaders and organizations believe are driving turnover, they consistently come back to things like pay, working hours. When you talk to people about why they're leaving organizations, it focuses much more on a sense of belonging, a sense of team cohesion, a good relationship with my immediate supervisor, like it's much more relationship-oriented than I think a lot of senior leaders kind of appreciate.

So I do think that is a huge part of what's driving some of the choices that people are making right now. It's they want to be at a place where people do care about the emotional channel, in addition to the performance channel. That they have a chance to bond with people. To feel a sense of team cohesion. When we talk about what provides meaning at work, meaning, a big source of meaning for most people is connection, right?

Contribution, for sure, provides meaning for people if you're talking to health care workers, if you're talking to folks that are really contributing to society, that can be a big source of meaning. For people that don't necessarily have such a direct line of sight in terms of what I do is benefiting society at large, connection is a huge source of the meaning that people find at work. And I think when that gets put under pressure, indirectly or directly, I do think that can drive some of the stuff that we've seen in terms of people changing jobs.

22:16: MD: Yeah, no. I think you're a hundred per cent right. I know for me, as someone who lives alone, being able to come back to work has been tremendous for me, just to feel like I'm part of something again and not alone in my house, tapping things out on my computer.

DJ: And I think if you look at EQ and it's, you've got the self and then you've got the other part of it, the self-part, the self-part requires input, right? I said earlier, self-awareness doesn't develop in a vacuum. So it's like, Okay, if I'm going to become more self-aware and self-managed, I need an ability to work alongside other people, so that they can give me good information about myself. Similarly, to develop the other part of EQ, relationship awareness and social awareness, I really do need to be able to connect with people on a pretty regular basis.

And it doesn't necessarily. . . like, I think the leaders that are doing really well through what we're in the midst of right now, they're not necessarily the leaders that are like making grand gestures. And it's like. . . I think people think that that's how you build relationship capital. It's like it's the giant bouquet of flowers that shows up on Friday, after a tough week.

The quote I always go back to, from Roy Rana, who's a wonderful basketball coach from Toronto, currently coaching in Egypt, he talks about this idea of 30 seconds for every player every day. And I think, that to me is the essence of relationship management in a hybrid world. Even if I'm physically separated from people, am I getting my 30 seconds with everybody every day, right? Am I finding an excuse to connect with people? Am I sending them a joke that reminded me of them? Am I forwarding them a news story that I think they might be interested in? Am I checking in on their kid because I know they had a basketball game the night before?

Like, am I doing just the little stuff that's going to grease the skids that says to this other person, this person doesn't just see me as a vehicle for performance, for results. They actually see me as a human being and somebody who they want to make an effort to connect with. And I think in the absence of that happening just informally because we're all sitting in the same physical location, that ability to make it a discipline is something that differentiates high EQ leaders, and therefore, higher performing teams.

MD: Oh, really good advice. That's fantastic. And that's an easy thing to implement. I think. Just. . .

DJ: I mean, it's one of the recommendations I make to leaders is literally, if this does not come natural to you — and it doesn't come natural to me so I think I speak from a position of tremendous empathy for people who this isn't just a natural thing that they just remember things about people's personal lives and they check — make a chart of everybody that you need to build a relationship with in your organization. And that can be the people that report into you. That could be teammates. And literally, make sure you're getting. . . it doesn't have to be every day, right, when we say 30 seconds for every player every day. But make sure that you're actually tracking, like, Okay, if I had a connection point with this person, like how long has it been since we checked in? Because otherwise, if you're only going out with the performance related-stuff, the requests, the feedback, that's when things can start to get a little bit transactional, and therefore a little bit less generous.

22:52: MD: Yeah. Well, fantastic advice. Back to the question earlier on, you mentioned that you have your own colleagues use a particular name for a personality test to build self-awareness? How important or useful do you think those tools are in, maybe, large organizations? Sometimes I think people feel they're just being put through a machine and they're churning out a number and they're like, Oh, I'm a D or I'm an eight or I'm, you know? But like what do you do? How do you work with those things to make them seem less of, We're just going to put you through this practice and get our results. And then, I don't know I don't know what we're going to do with them. Anything? I don't know. [LAUGHS]

DJ: Yeah, I think you're you're bang on it. It can feel mechanical. . .

MD: Yeah, mechanical. That's the word.

DJ: . . .if it's not contextualized. I think first and foremost, people have to understand that these are called assessment tools, which is a bit of a challenging name. You can use tools for selection and screening, right? Obviously, a lot of companies use these tools in hiring processes. When we're using these tools, we're using them for developmental purposes, right? It's not about assessing people. It's about helping us work better together.

But just putting somebody through an assessment tool, and going, You're a red or you're a green or you're a blue, or you're an INTJ, or whatever. . .

MD: Yeah. Yeah.

DJ: . . . I actually don't think that's where the benefit comes from using these tools. So I mean, I'll give you a very practical example of how we would use these things. We've used this tool TAIS with the last four Women's Olympic hockey teams. And we use it at the moment that the team is set. So the final cuts have been made, we know the team that's going to the games, everybody goes through the TAIS. And then they get in a room, and they have five minutes, each player on the team to share what they learned about themselves and going through this process. What the rest of the team needs to know about them, as an individual. Go around the table, and through that process, each and every player starts to develop a much deeper understanding of the people that they are sitting around, or sitting on the bench with, or playing with.

Peggy our wonderful Chief Learning Officer at Third Factor has led a lot of the TAIS work with the women's teams. And she shared the story of one player on the team who shared her profile and talked about how she was a real introvert. And one of the other players on the team, she literally went, Oh my God, so before a game, when we're in the locker room and you're sitting with a towel over your head, that's because you want space, right? You need some space. She said, Yeah. She goes, Oh my God. I've always thought you were just nervous. So I was always going over to her and going, like, Hey, don't worry about this. We got this. We prepared. Just misinterpreting behaviour because she didn't understand the motive behind the behaviour.

And so, I think the most important part of the assessment process is not actually doing the assessment. It's the conversations that get driven off of that. To actually sit and go, Here's what you need to know about me. Let's look at each other as a group, right? Wow, when we went across the room, seems like most of us, 80 per cent of us are real fast decision makers. But there's two of us who really like to think, Well, how could that be misinterpreted? Well, we start to come off as these people who are just slow. They can't keep up, right? They're not intelligent. They don't have the horsepower. And actually, we play a really valuable role in this team, right? We are the chamber of sober second thought for a team that makes decisions really quickly, right? Come back to us the day after and you're going to get some really interesting stuff that you might have missed the first time we talked about this discussion.

But until we go around and share that information with each other, we actually don't have a shared awareness of what are the things that each person on this team brings to the table. So I do think that process, Meredith, of what do we do with the data, and how does it inform a conversation is actually where the magic happens.

29:25: MD: It really sounds like it invites vulnerability, and that gets back to the crux of really building that emotionally solid team. Because you have to be vulnerable to say, Oh, I'm an introvert. Actually, I need to hide out under a towel.

DJ: You have to be vulnerable.

MD: Yeah.

DJ: You know, Haley talks about it as. . . she said it was more stressful than the gold medal game, standing up and talking about herself in front of a group of 22 people, right? It is an act of emotional vulnerability. And I think that is why the leaders have to set the tone, right. Because asking people to take that leap themselves, it doesn't always pan out that way.

MD: Right. You've given us tons of interesting stuff to think about and lots of good advice. Is there anything final you want to leave leaders with, maybe if they're thinking about trying to build a more cohesive team, especially coming out of the pandemic?

DJ: I mean, I think the thing that I would leave leaders with is the primacy of relationships. And the degree to which the relationship is the conduit through which performance EQ communication between. . . all of that flows. The strength of the relationship I have with another human being determines how honest the answer is going to be that I get to my questions. How open are they going to be to my feedback? How likely are they to be vulnerable with me?

All of these things are determined by this belief that I have a strong relationship rooted in mutual respect, trust and caring with this other human being. And so, I do think the whole game starts with my ability to make the discipline of building a relationship something conscious. And not just with the people I naturally go with, right? There's people that we just naturally get along with at work, great. It's the other people. The people that you don't necessarily see eye to eye with. It's going, Okay, what am I going to do? We're never going to be the two that go out for a coffee after drink or after drink. [LAUGHTER] Go for a coffee after work.

But how do I, with discipline, build the kind of relationship that communicates respect and trust with this other individual? And I think if you can do that with discipline and be the first who is extending that trust and building the relationship, it pays huge dividends in terms of team performance, but also morale.

MD: Wow. Amazing. Thank you so much, Dane. You've given us lots to think about today. And I'm really grateful for your expertise.

DJ: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

31:39: MD: Before I leave you, here's my colleague, Alan Morantz, with a few thoughts on how to ask for feedback that's actually useful when you're part of a team. Show me the evidence, Alan.

Alan Morantz: Consider this scenario. In team meetings, your colleague has an annoying habit of saying "like" in every sentence. It's gotten so bad, it's hard to focus on the point they're trying to make and you hope they don't have to make a presentation on the team's behalf. Here's my question. Would you correct your colleague’s speech patterns, or let them continue making the same mistake?

The evidence suggests that most people wouldn't say anything. Now, let's turn the tables. You're the one who likes "like" a little too much. Would you want someone to point that out? I'll bet you would.

You can change the scenario 101 different ways and still arrive at the same outcome. We have all sorts of reasons to avoid giving constructive feedback to team members, despite knowing, deep down, that if the roles were reversed, we'd welcome the insights.

We fear hurting a colleague's feeling or being polite or concerned about potential blowback if the colleague resents our feedback. We may think it takes too much of our time. Or as a new study suggests, we may not fully appreciate how valuable it is for the recipient, and thereby underestimate their desire for feedback.

This reluctance is not useful for any of us. And it's certainly not useful for teams with diverse memberships that struggle to stay aligned and focus on the task at hand.

Now, what if you're the one on the receiving end. You're the one who craves constructive input on your performance. I put the emphasis on constructive because surveys show that only about a quarter of employees believe the feedback they receive helps them do their work better. In fact, studies confirm a weak relationship between work feedback and performance.

So if you're looking for an honest assessment on how you're doing from a boss or colleague and you get a nothingburger in return, what are your options? The potential solution to this problem may be simpler than you realize.

Researchers recently looked at the feedback seeking and giving process trying to put their finger on why people frequently fail to get actionable input relating to their performance. They found that the answer may lie in the use of one word: feedback.

The researchers found that when managers or colleagues were asked specifically for feedback, they got stuck in past performance, rather than adopting a future-focused mindset. This mindset is a way of thinking that best enables people to generate constructive actionable insights.

Critically, the researchers identified a simple yet powerful alternative. Feedback seekers should ask for advice instead. Across four studies, they found that input from bosses and coworkers was more developmental and useful — that's more critical and actionable — when they were asked to offer advice rather than feedback.

Framing an input request as seeking advice triggers that future-focused mindset that gets people to consider how their colleague can perform even better. It's easy enough to test this finding in your own world. Next time you'd like useful input from a boss or coworker on how to improve your performance, ask for their advice rather than their feedback. If the evidence is right, you may be pleasantly surprised by the insights you get back.

I'm Alan Morantz, and I've just shown you the evidence.


35:47: MD: And that's today's episode. I want to thank Alan Morantz, Julia LeFebvre and Iryna Vivchar for their behind the scenes support in putting this episode together, along with editing support from Bill Cassidy, and technical support from Andrew Johnson. If you want more insights for business leaders, check out Smith Business Insight at