Researchers at MIT have uncovered some of the “mysteries” of team chemistry.* Not surprisingly, it is all about communication.
But just exactly “how” do the most effective teams communicate? By equipping members of a wide variety of teams with electronic “badges” that captured communication behavior – tone of voice, body language, whom they spoke with, how much, and more – the research team made some fascinating discoveries.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
*Communication patterns predict team performance more accurately than other factors including intelligence, personality, and talent – combined.
*Team engagement outside of formal meetings is an important factor in effectiveness. Creating opportunities for this engagement is important.
*Energy is important for a team. The most valuable, high energy form of communication is face to face. Next valuable is phone or video – but the effectiveness decreases as the size of the team increases. Email and texting are least valuable.
*Engagement of all team members is essential and it is the balance of that engagement that is key. When some team members are not as engaged the performance of the team suffers. Therefore, encouraging participation is imperative.
*High performing teams engage in Exploration outside of their team for new ideas. Insular teams are not nearly as creative.
*The Ideal Team Player has the following characteristics and teams are more effective when they have more of these people. They:
-Circulate actively, engaging people in short, high-energy conversations
-Communicate with everyone equally and make sure others have a chance to communicate back
–Initiate communication with others even though they may not be naturally extroverted
–Listen as much or more than they talk
-Connect their teammates with others and spread ideas around
There is still much to learn about all of the ingredients that go into a high performing team. Researchers have identified “communication” as a key factor in team effectiveness for years. This research gives us new perspectives in improving communication for overall team success.
Pentland, A., “The New Science of Building Great Teams, Harvard Business Review, April 2012, pp. 60 – 70