Studies repeatedly show that teams tend to innovate, solve problems, and spot mistakes faster than individuals—and that people working in teams report higher job satisfaction. But what kind of team do you think performs best?
A. A team whose members—each an expert in their own area—speak strictly on their area of expertise, eschew sidebar chitchat, and part right after meetings; or
B. A mixed team of executives and middle managers whose members contribute an equal amount, who are attuned to one another's communication nuances, and who hang around after meetings to chat about their personal lives.
Five years ago, Google became focused on constructing the ideal team. Its “Project Aristotle” scrutinized everything about the interactions of a vast number of the company’s teams and reviewed a half-century of academic studies. In the end, Project Aristotle researchers concluded that understanding and influencing group norms were the keys to improving Google’s teams—and that successful teams shared the norms of “conversational turn-taking” (over time, everyone speaks an equal amount) and high “social sensitivity” (members were skilled on intuiting how one another felt based on voice tone, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues).
Long story short: If you have a chance to create or participate in a team, opt for Team B. Team A may be filled with high performing individuals, but the problems is that they remain individuals. Their team norms discourage equal speaking, and there are few exchanges of the sort of personal information that let teammates pick up on what people are leaving unsaid.
We want to hear: Are you part of a team that resembles Team A or Team B? What do you see as its advantages or disadvantages? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.