Improve Team Effectiveness in Two Steps

Not long ago I answered a question on Quora.    The original question was: How can I improve my team’s communication?.  Here is the longer answer to the question asked. 

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 Communication is a trait of team effectiveness. However, rather than focusing on just communication, one must try to understand what makes a good team and in the process of improving your team effectiveness, communication will also get better. Communication is driver of engagement and by improving it will also improve engagement.  However, at the end of the day, the key to improving communication and make the team better is the relationship the team members have with their leader.  After all, it has been very well known that the biggest driver of employee engagement is the direct manager.  Teams with good leaders, by default, will be very effective.   Not long ago Google released a very interesting finding regarding their teams.   First, they identified successful teams, and then they found out what made them successful.   

They had two very fascinating  findings:

First, on the good teams, there was roughly an equal distribution of “air time,” members spoke in roughly the same proportion if everyone got a chance to talk, the team was more productive. ‘‘But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.”   So if you are the team lead, you have to make sure you give everybody the same air time and allow them to express their opinion.   Even if you have to ask for it, as some people are not willing to share on their own.  Team leaders could potentially schedule a weekly walk with each member (Like Steve Jobs did)

Second, the good teams all had high ‘‘average social sensitivity” —way of saying they were skilled at intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions, and other nonverbal cues. 

The Google team agreed that a team with a psychologically safe environment was more likely to be successful,  so that is what companies must do.   To improve team effectiveness, they must create a psychologically safe environment for their teams, an environment where everybody feels safe about sharing their opinions.  At the end of the day, it was communication and empathy the two most important components of a great team. 

In the NY article, there were a couple of stories of two team leaders that understood this concept and practiced them with their teams;   as a result, team effectiveness got better.  These stories, corroborate and support what we have always known,  the direct supervisor is the biggest driver of employee engagement.   The Great finding, of course, is that Google’s extraordinary data collection and number crunching have led it to the same conclusions that good managers have always known. In the best teams, members listen to one another and show sensitivity to feelings and needs. The question is how do we make sure every manger in the organization does it? How do you inject these two behaviors in your teams? 

Coaching and training managers are the short answer, also using a high impact and novel team building approach, (Not a traditional team building activity).  This will help leaders to insert communication and empathy in their team. 

 

 

Luis Velasquez MBA, PhD

Luis is a leadership coach, employee engagement expert, and management trainer. Formerly a University professor and research scientist, Luis holds a dual Ph.D. from Michigan State University; and an MBA in Organizational Leadership.

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