Emotional intelligence and why it is important in distributed teams

Shauna Moran from Operate Remote guest-writes for Remoter about the importance of emotional intelligence, especially for globally distributed teams.

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5 minute read

As we continue to evolve through technology, the opportunities become limitless. We're able to connect with people anywhere in the world with the push of a button. This shift has allowed us to change the way we think about traditional office jobs. 

Through the opportunities that technology advancements have brought, we can now work in a team that is based anywhere around the world. We collaborate with colleagues without ever having met them in person. Businesses can scale rapidly by adding resources from a global talent pool and expanding their opportunities in international markets. 

But how important is it to continue to find the 'human connection' as we continue to grow and scale our remote workforces? We are so connected electronically, but we also need to balance that with connecting interpersonally in order to do meaningful and purposeful work. That's where emotional intelligence comes into play, empowering individuals, teams and organizations to accelerate their performance, engagement and personal effectiveness.

What really matters for success, character, happiness and life long achievements is a definite set of emotional skills – your EQ — not just purely cognitive abilities that are measured by conventional IQ tests.”
Daniel Goleman

We want to hire smart and capable people into our organizations based on their ability to do their job -  that's IQ. However, what about the ‘soft-skills’? Aren’t they equally if not more important when we rely so heavily on these skills in remote and global team working environments?

Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, is a set skill. Skills can be nurtured, and balanced once we have self-awareness as to what it is, how it relates to our lives and our work, and what areas will best serve us in developing. 

Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way. A lack of emotional intelligence is what limits some people in their ability to manage themselves, manage others, or manage situations.

As the workplace evolves, so too does the body of research supporting that individuals (from interns to managers) with higher EQ are better equipped to work cohesively within teams, deal with change more effectively, and manage stress – thus enabling them to pursue business objectives more efficiently.


Emotional intelligence consists of 5 leading composites, which include:

  1. Self-perception: self-regard, self-actualization, emotional self-awareness
  2. Self-expression: emotional expression, assertiveness, independence
  3. Interpersonal skills: interpersonal relationships, empathy, social responsibility 
  4. Decision-making skills: problem-solving, reality testing, impulse control
  5. Stress management: flexibility, optimism, stress tolerance

When we think of remote working, we shouldn't limit ourselves to believe someone will succeed as long as they can effectively do their jobs. There's a deeper level to being successful as a remote employee, manager and organization. 

In remote team environments, we primarily work alone, physically separated from our teams. Not only do remote workers need to be self-aware as to their own needs and emotions in a more isolated environment, but they also need to be able to independent enough to work on their own, optimistic about motivating themselves and others and being productive at managing the day-to-day stress that any workplace can bring.

Many companies view excellent communication skills as a 'soft skill' must-have for any new team member that comes on board. Working without in-person interactions means we need to adjust how we express ourselves online. 

When we work online, we can't always rely on body language and non-verbal cues to get an idea across. In emotional intelligence, skills like emotional expression, assertiveness, empathy and flexibility contribute to remote workers being able to deliver information in a powerful and meaningful way. 

When we look at leadership in remote teams, we need to connect with our team members in a more meaningful way when we don't naturally have the 'water-cooler' moments that would typically happen in an office. We need to be deliberate with areas such as empathy and building long-lasting interpersonal relationships to retain and engage our teams all over the world. 

Leadership responsibilities such as decision-making, problem-solving, and delegation can be more complicated when your team isn’t based in a meeting room together. Leaders need to be able to create a compelling vision, manage employees through coaching techniques, foster an innovative environment while being authentic in their approach. Having a balance across all of the emotional intelligence skills sets will enable leaders to generate the environment, and thus the results, no matter where their teams are based. 

Emotional intelligence isn't an end in itself, but the insight that you can use to help you meet your goals and objectives. 

If you've tried many strategies and have focused on learning more to reach your goals but are failing to get where you want to be, then maybe it's time to look below the iceberg. 

If you want your workforce to be more resilient and self-aware, understanding key emotional intelligence skills will help you get there. 

If you want your leaders to deal with conflict better, engage, and connect on a deeper level with their remote or in-office teams, and be stronger communicators to increase productivity. Emotional intelligence will help you get there. 

Emotional intelligence is about how we cope with pressures and demands in our lives, like stress, dealing with change, and solving problems. How often do you need to deal with those in your remote team?

Shauna Moran, OperateRemote

Shauna Moran, the founder of Operate Remote helps remote and multi-location companies improve employee performance and engagement. As an accredited coach & consultant and emotional intelligence practitioner, Shauna has unique experience in building and managing remote teams on an international level, coupled with her academic background in Psychology, Innovation Management and extensive research in remote working strategies. Contact her at shauna@operateremote.com.

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