A Simple Exercise to Strengthen Emotional Intelligence in Teams

“She needs every detail before we start, and it slows us down.”

“He acts before we agree on a plan, so we make a lot of mistakes.”

Sound familiar? These are just some of the frustrations participants share when asked to give feedback on a team experience. And they’re the reasons people often prefer to work alone.

Yet it’s been shown that working as a member of an effective team can boost morale and performance. Team members get more feedback and they get it earlier. They also report learning more and feeling more motivated to work through project challenges. With virtual teamwork on the rise, the potential for ongoing learning and feedback is greater than ever before.

What that means for educators is that emotional intelligence in the form of skills like empathy and collaboration is more important than ever. That’s where a simple team-building exercise, like the one below, that can help folks get started.

Quick Preparation

This activity is based on the Compass Points protocol developed by members of the National School Reform Faculty, a non-profit professional development site for educators. This activity works well with students and with adults.

To prepare, you’ll want to create the four signs – North, South, East and West – in advance and post them on room walls before you begin. Be sure to have enough newsprint-size paper and markers for each of the four groups. Under each point, write out the traits associated with each sign, as directed by the Compass Points game:

North: Acting – “Let’s do it;” Likes to act, try things, plunge in.
East: Speculating – likes to look at the big picture and the possibilities before acting.
South: Caring – likes to know that everyone’s feelings have been taken into consideration and that their voices have been heard before acting.
West: Paying attention to detail —likes to know the who, what, when, where and why before acting.

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