Emotional capital and remote teams

Jul 01 2016 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

Why do some teams seem to form great working relationships and use technology seamlessly to make work a pleasure and create great relationships? According to one writer, it has very little to do with the technology itself (although it’s hard to do without the tools), but with something called “emotional capital.”

Quy Huy, a professor of strategic management at INSEAD, wrote recently that the reason some people readily adopt technology and tools like social media (both public tools like Twitter and internal tools like Slack and Yammer) is simple. They want to because they are emotionally connected to the people with whom they work.

Put simply, if you actually like, respect and enjoy people, you’ll put some effort into getting and staying connected. That includes maximizing technology since it actually enhances the communication experience. If everything is transactional at best, or seen as an annoyance at worst, it’s harder to get yourself motivated to put the effort into maintaining work relationships or even bothering to use the tools that drive it. This is particularly true when working remotely… because almost every interaction happens purposefully, we need to be motivated.

So how can we build this storehouse of good will? According to Professor Huy, the “four pillars” of emotional capital building are:

Authenticity: Are you really what you say you are? Are you honest? Do people get a sense of the “real you” when they read your emails and posts or hear you speak? People engage with authentic leaders and are repelled by phonies.

Pride: Are people proud of the company they work for and the team they’re part of? When people share their “wins” with each other, we get a sense of what a quality team you really are? Never underestimate the role a healthy ego plays in motivating ourselves every day.

Attachment: Do I care if my co-worker was suddenly replaced, or are they all interchangeable? When we develop friendly, personal (okay and appropriate)working relationships, we are more likely to tolerate minor disappointments and take greater joy in our teammate’s successes. It also increases the odds of resisting entreaties from headhunters… people who like the people they work with tend to stay put. And dare we say, work can also be…

Fun: People will take part in activities, including social media and participating actively in meetings if it’s not a total drag. Even though it’s work, it can still be… you know…. Fun. Joke, get competitive, and generally lighten up.

This last point is not minor. At Remote Leadership Institute, we use Slack a lot. We tease each other, post silly pictures and use Giphy to add some levity to our discussions. Sometimes my inner grown-up winces a bit, but you know what? We like each other.

As with so much in life, if there is sufficient emotional incentive to participate, put in the work and even surpass expectations, we often do that thing. If we’re not getting any satisfaction or enjoyment, we may go through the motions, but not much more.

Remember, as leaders we need to intentionally create an environment where we are banking emotional resources that can be judiciously (and voluntarily) drawn upon when we need them. Avoiding talking about feelings, not sharing what is going on in our world, or keeping work purely transactional depeletes those accounts.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.