Updated: Oct 13, 2018
by Shayan Azhar
Building dynamic and innovative teams is not always easy and often seems unplanned
and spontaneous. If someone were to look at a team that “clicks”, a buzz and
excitement would be running through the team, even if that person did not know what
they were talking about. The best teams thrive through not what they communicate, but
how they communicate.
In the Harvard Business Review, Alex Pentland wrote about the research findings when
MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab conducted multiple studies into what these teams do that
make them surpass all the others. They identified the group dynamics that varied very
little over industry, type of team, and goals. Not only that but it was also found
individual reasoning and talent do not count towards team success as much as
expected. Best of all, teams can be taught on how to strengthen these dynamics.
Everyone within the team talks an equal amount – keeping contributions
short and sweet
Members face one another with energetic conversations and gestures
The team members connect with each other as well, rather than just the
Members carry on side conversations with the team
Members take periodic breaks to go beyond the team, explore, and retrieve
What are the elements of communication a team should focus on?
While it is easy to dismiss this as obvious, the findings build upon conventional wisdom. The data was quantified and emphasis is placed on these elements. In an example with regards to energy, 35% of team performance was observed to vary depending on simply the number of face-to-face exchanges within a team.
In regards to engagement, members listen or speak to the whole group only about half the time, and when addressing the group, each member speaks for only his or her fair share of time, using short, to-the-point statements. The other half of the time members are engaging in very brief, relevant one-on-one conversations. It may seem illogical that all those side conversations contribute to better performance, rather than distract a team, but the data proves otherwise.
Lastly, in an example of exploration, managers of one company thought they could promote better communication among employees by hosting “beer meets” and other events. This however had little or no effect. In contrast, the data revealed that making the tables in the company’s lunchroom longer, so that strangers sat together, had a huge impact.
How do we make the team members become a functioning dream team?
It is not enough to tell team members how to communicate. The team needs to be coached into becoming cohesive and effective. Best-selling author, Patrick Lencioni, and Wiley Workplace Solutions partnered up to created a team development tool called the Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team™, using the science behind Everything DiSC®. Getting the right people together and guiding them on communication is easy enough, but what about other factors that come into play, such as trust or accountability? Without the other side of the equation taken into account, the team members may not become a real team. The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team™ model ensures this is avoided. Here is what the model looks like:
The model is based on trust. When team members are genuinely transparent and honest with one another, they are able to build vulnerability-based trust. After trust comes conflict of ideas or opinion. When there is trust, team members are able to engage in unfiltered, constructive debate of ideas. This in turn effectively increases energy and engagement. Third in the model is commitment. When team members are able to engage with each other to exchange opinions and debate ideas, they will be more likely to commit to decisions. Once they reach a decision, accountability comes next and they will be more willing to hold one another accountable over their actions. Lastly, results! The ultimate goal of building greater trust, conflict, commitment, and accountability is one thing: the achievement of collective results.
Team members gain insight into themselves as well as other team members in order to communicate better and build stronger relationships. Here at Global Management Consultants, we are authorized partners of Everything DiSC® and Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team™. Global has run many successful workshops and training interventions, using the tools to create strong and dynamic relationships within teams.
So who are the best team members?
They are the people who circulate actively, engaging people in short, high-energy conversations. They are democratic with their time—communicating with everyone equally and making sure all team members get a chance to contribute. They trust one another and are not afraid to communicate their opinions and ideas. They commit to the team’s decisions as a whole and take responsibility for their actions. They’re not necessarily extroverts, although they feel comfortable approaching other people. They listen as much as or more than they talk and are usually very engaged with whomever they’re listening to. They also connect their teammates with one another and spread ideas around. And they are appropriately exploratory, seeking ideas from outside the group but not at the expense of group engagement. Lastly, they focus on creating results through their collective ideas and actions.