What makes globally-acclaimed brands from around the world successful is not because they implement the best practices, or have a secret formula hidden from everyone else. Rather it is because of the teams working behind the scenes that turn dreams into reality.
The secrets to effective team management are not rocket science. Studies featured in Charles Duhigg’s “Smarter Faster Better”, and Jack and Suzy Welch’s “The Real-Life MBA” show us crucial points that most people take for granted, but are actually the winning solutions that make teams successful.
We’ve outlined below the incredible insights you’ll find from these studies – from hospital wards, Ivy League teams, to worldwide eCommerce giants.
Psychological Safety in Teams
Studies from Google’s ‘Project Aristotle’ and Amy Edmonson’s research on hospital wards highlight the importance of psychological safety in teams. Psychological safety is a “shared belief, held by members of a team, that a group is a safe place for taking risks.”
Edmonson wrote in a 1999 paper that psychological safety is a “sense of confidence that a team won’t embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up. It describes a team climate characterised by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.”
Google found Edmonson’s papers as they were researching norms upheld by teams. The following are the norms that Google surveys state as the most effective:
- Allowing others to fail without repercussions
- Respecting divergent opinions
- Feeling free to question on others’ roles but also trusting that people aren’t going to undermine you
What Makes a Team Superior
In another study conducted in 2008, a group of psychologists from Carnegie Mellon and MIT studied which kinds of teams are superior than others. The researchers concluded that excellent teams are successful not because of individual qualifications or talents. It is mainly because of how the members of a team treated one another. Social sensitivity to each other truly matters for an entire team to mesh well together.
It was also found that individual intelligence doesn’t affect team performance. Take for example how groups of highly intelligent people were often outperformed by groups who scored lower on intellect tests but seemed smarter as a group. For this matter, the collective efforts of a team far outweigh the accomplishments of an individual.
Laszlo Bock, the head of the People Operations department at Google, said “You can take a team of average performers, and if you teach them to interact in the right way, they’ll do things no superstar could ever accomplish…It’s important that everyone on a team feels like they have a voice.”
Bock also indicates 5 key norms that will help teams achieve their goals:
- Teams need to believe that their work is important.
- Teams need to feel their work is personally meaningful.
- Teams need clear goals and defined roles.
- Team members need to know they can depend on one another.
- Most importantly, teams need psychological safety.
In Jack Welch and Suzy Welch’s section on “It’s About the Team” from the book The Real-Life MBA, they tell you to let go of whatever you’ve heard about leadership over the course of your education, and learn the lessons from where it all happens – in your job’s daily grind.
Leadership is essential to keep a group aligned. Alignment happens when “people are rewarded for embracing the mission and furthering its success with their behaviors.” The authors outline 5 essential activities that make a group more effective, productive, efficient and collaborative.
- Getting in everyone’s skin – caring passionately about your people and understanding what makes them tick.
- Serving as the Chief Meaning Officer – using words and deeds to give your team’s work context and purpose.
- Removing blockages – clearing bureaucracy and other nonsense out of the way of your team’s path to results.
- Demonstrating the generosity gene – going over-the-top in your desire and effort to reward people for great performance, using money, promotions, and praise.
- And making sure the work is fun – creating an environment of enjoyment and celebration.
Do you employ these strategies in your teams? How do you plan to apply these insights from the top leaders of team performance? Don’t forget to keep yourself updated with the latest findings on professional development and team management. Continual improvement of your teams will help your business succeed in the long term.
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