Elements Consulting

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Renewal Leadership: Building a Great Team

Posted by elementsconsulting on May 27, 2016 at 12:55 AM

Building a Great Team


Central to any good leader is the ability to develop and maintain a highly successful team that produces excellent results. However, for most leaders we often struggle to clarify the reasons that one group produces excellent results while another team may struggle. When looking at metrics of a team we may find ourselves even more baffled to discover the “it factor,” that created these high performing teams. A group of researchers recently set out to discover the behaviors of teams that “click,” and they discovered that patterns of communication to be the most important predictor of a team’s success. These patterns are as significant as all the other factors—individual intelligence, personality, skill, and the substance of discussions—combined.


Energy, Engagement and Exploration


It turns out that the best predictor for a team’s success in the team’s energy, engagement and exploration outside formal meetings. Energy is the number and the nature of exchanges among team members. The most valuable conversation is face-to-face followed by phone or videoconference. The least valuable forms are e-mail and texting. Engagement is the distribution of energy among team members or the average amount of exchanges among team members. For example if all members of a team have relatively equal and reasonably high energy (exchanges) with all other members, engagement is extremely strong. Exploration is the communication that members engage in outside of their team. Higher-performing teams seek more outside connections than those that underperform.


We now know that 35% of the variation in a team’s performance can be accounted for simply by the number of face-to-face exchanges among team members. The “right” number of exchanges in a team is as many as dozens per working hour, but that going beyond that ideal number decreases performance. In a typical high-performance team, members are listening or speaking to the whole group only about half the time. When addressing the whole group, each team member speaks for only their fair share of time. The other half of the time members are engaging in one-on-one conversations. To many leaders it may seem wrong that all those side exchanges contribute to better performance, rather than distract a team, but the data prove otherwise. Social time turns out to be deeply critical to team performance, often accounting for more than 50% of positive changes in communication patterns. It should be noted that hosting social events did not increase this factor but, allowing for more informal social time like larger tables in the breakroom so that strangers can sit together, had a huge impact.


Successful Team Defining Traits:

1. Everyone on the team talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping contributions short and sweet.

2. Members face one another, and their conversations and gestures are energetic.

3. Members connect directly with one another—not just with the team leader.

4. Members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team.

5. Members periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back.

The next time you are trying to build that dynamic and successful team explore the communication patterns between team members and work to ensure that energy, engagement and exploration are built into the fabric of the team.


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1 Comment

Reply Maggak
6:12 PM on August 10, 2018