There is an ineffable buzz about a good team at work. You can just sense it. Understandings between team members seem effortless, sometimes almost telepathic. The attainment of this serene team cohesion is often discussed in terms of ‘art’ rather than something we can look at through the prism of science. But what if that buzz were something that could actually be taught to a team? This Idea shows just how it can.
What we usually consider to be ‘elusive’ group dynamics that characterize high-performing teams, such as; energy, creativity, and shared commitment – are actually observable, quantifiable, and measurable qualities. And as such, teams can be taught how to strengthen them.
The key lies in understanding the patterns of communication associated with productive teams, which include; energy, engagement and exploration. Using specific techniques and formulas, leaders can actually calculate the levels of these three dynamics, and see where weaknesses lie.
Communication is the single most important thing to measure when gauging the effectiveness of a group. Looking at teams with varying performance levels across a range of industries, the research team at MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory equipped participants with electronic badges that collected data on their individual communication behaviour. For example; tone of voice, body language, whom they talked to and how much.
Consistently, the data confirmed that communication plays a critical role in building successful teams. Firms can now obtain the tools and data they need to accurately dissect and engineer high performance. As such, building great teams can be seen as a science – rather than as an intangible ‘art’, as it once was.
As a result of these findings we can see that successful teams share several defining characteristics:
Therefore, there are three critical aspects of communication that affect team performance:
In order for management tasks such as team building to be objectively analysed, there are certain formulas that have been developed through this research to calculate energy, engagement, and exploration. That data in turn can be applied in three steps:
There are also specific techniques for improving energy and engagement measurements, including simple but effective approaches such as reorganizing office space and seating. Similarly, setting a personal example, policy changes, learning to interrupt less and listen more actively can all help drive necessary change within teams.
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