How EQ Prevents Accidents and Increases Production
At Toyota manufacturing plants, a cord is placed in each assembly line for anyone to pull at any time to stop the line for safety, errors, or broken parts. The system is simple–anyone who observes something that seems “off” can and should pull the cord.
This system is an example of how fostering emotionally intelligent behavior can prevent accidents and improve production. The cord empowers assembly teams from bottom to top, sending the message that each team member’s eyes and ears matter. It also sends the message that everyone is equally responsible—if you have the power to pull the cord and you don’t, that’s as much on you as it is on your manager.
The cord is just one example of how being aware and pushing through to taking action, two core EQ skills, positively impacts manufacturing teams. Research shows that training manufacturing plant supervisors in EQ reduced lost-time accidents by 50% and increased production by 17%, compared to untrained supervisors who saw no difference in production. EQ touches on a number of competencies that drive success in manufacturing. Here are three examples:
EQ increases accountability. Like the Toyota example, EQ gives people the tools they need to hold each other accountable and confront each other in a healthy way. For instance, if a team member is lingering in the break room when she’s needed on the floor, their team should feel comfortable calling her out. Teams operating with a high degree of EQ are not only more comfortable calling each other out, but they’re also more comfortable being called out. When the employee is called out for lingering too long, she doesn’t sweat it or take it too personally because she understands that it’s the way her team operates. Because accountability is a piece of the day-to-day work, people don’t fear it and respond irrationally the way they do on other teams.
EQ means better problem-solving. On manufacturing teams, problems are inevitable. Essential parts break, other groups hold your team up in the production line, and new technologies create unforeseen changes in the day-to-day work. The mark of a high EQ team is the ability to stay calm under pressure in order to focus on the things that they can control. When problems inevitably arise, a high EQ team will ask itself “What do we know that can make a difference?” They may need to liaison with the engineering team, speak with the team ahead of them in the line, or they may need to move to a different task entirely. Instead of letting their emotions take the wheel (causing unnecessary arguments, hasty decision-making, and impulsivity), a high EQ team recognizes and acknowledges their emotions then focuses on the problem at hand.
EQ leads to helping behavior. High EQ teams are able to see the bigger picture—their team as a piece of the organizational whole. That means lending a helping hand when they see another team is swamped is still part of their job to help the organization’s performance. It also means building rapport with other teams to improve interactions and asking for help themselves when needed.
From Insights to Action. Each of these examples show how emotional intelligence can help manufacturing teams avoid accidents and work more fluidly and effectively on a daily basis. That said, they’re also competencies that any team in any industry can learn from. Accountability, problem-solving, and lending a helping hand are important attributes for all teams across industries.
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