Leadership Solutions from Read Solutions Group: Science of Team Success

Friday, June 15, 2007

Science of Team Success

"What team members think, feel and do provide strong predictors of team success" and give insights into the design, training and leadership of team, according to "The Science of Success" in the June 2007 issue of Scientific American Mind. In a review of 50 years of research on teams, the authors found a few interesting points.

Is a team needed? Not surprisingly, we need to start with the crucial question of whether a team is even needed; can an individual easily complete the team working independently? This type of team is liable to slow progress.

The collective mind. Various experiments have shown that team members can benefit from the combined knowledge and skills of the team beyond that of individual learning. Further, team turnover hampers the ability to produce. Development of the ability to use the distributed information in a team is enhanced through face-to-face interaction.

Team climate. A shared mission or purpose has a significant effect on the impact of teams. Climate is enhanced through social interactions and positive relationships with the leader or boss of the team.

Disruptions. The emotions of the team members tend to move together. Consequently, an underperformer or an unpleasant or negative person can change the emotions of the entire team. Addressing these disruptions quickly and restoring a positive attitude to the team is a key role for the leader.

Feedback. As teams cycle through projects, their performance can be improved through interventions as above and feedback on the process. Research suggests that feedback aimed at individuals will improve individual performance at a cost of team performance. Conversely, team feedback enhances team performance to the detriment of individual performance. In the development of ongoing teams, leaders need to carefully consider the elements of feedback and whether they should be delivered to the individual or the team.

Training. Teamwork skills can be taught and improved, whether in the classroom, in simulations, or on the job.

Research continues to provide insights into the dynamics of teamwork and team performance. While giving credence to the wisdom of the years, the role of the leader stays the same - be clear on the direction, provide the correct resources, ensure the team has the necessary skill sets (individually and collectively), motivate team performance, enable social interactions, intervene when issues arise, and celebrate positive results.

For more details, see the Scientific American Mind: The Science of Team Success.

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