Behind every great business is a great team, but fostering a cohesive group can be a challenge. Assessing your team and actively implementing change are both key to taking your returns to the next level.
From an early age we are taught the importance of teamwork (there’s no I in team!), but rarely do we delve beneath the surface to analyze the specific benefits of team versus individual efforts. Understanding team dynamics and what makes them work can lead to greater innovation, increased return on investment, and happier employees.
Why Teamwork Matters
It may seem obvious, but reminding yourself of the importance of solid team dynamics can help realign your business direction and get everyone on the same page. As a leader, it is up to you to make sure that your team stays cohesive and focused; a dysfunctional team dynamic can often be traced back to bad leadership.
That’s why it’s so important to remember that good leadership reaps tangible benefits. With well-managed, diverse teams (diversity is critical here), companies experience drastically improved organizational and financial performance, according to a report by the Australian government. Balanced and varied teams can see up to a 66 percent higher return on invested capital than homogeneous and disorganized ones.
This is because a good team, powered by diverse experiences and expertise, is inherently more innovative and driven. This is true not only in terms of sex, race, and age, but also in terms of personality and intellectual diversity. Blending teams with a range of thinking styles will lead to the most creative problem solving.
Communication is key. Alex Pentland of the Harvard Business Review measured team dynamics at MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory with electronic sensors. Pentland discovered that great teams communicate frequently, take turns talking and listening, engage regularly in informal communication, and use resources outside the team itself.
Most important, how teams communicated was far and away the best predictor of success, and just as important as all other factors combined (intelligence, personality, skill, and content of discussions). Pentland and his team found that they could predict with surprising precision how well a team would perform based only on the data from their sensors.
These findings highlight the importance of business leaders taking a proactive role in bringing the best teams together and ensuring that they continue to perform at a high level. As is often the case, even the most effective teams can find themselves in a rut, and it falls on the leadership to reinvigorate the group dynamic to produce better results.
The first step is assessing the climate and morale of your team. Meet with employees and learn what is working for them and what isn’t, and why. Discuss their ideas for improving the dynamic. Make sure that the objectives and goals of the team are crystal clear, as well as your plans for reaching them. Empower every member with respect and recognition, and stay flexible to accommodate the changing needs of a project.
Sometimes it is necessary to turn to outside resources, as Pentland and his team suggest. Inviting influential business leaders to speak to your team—no matter how big or small it may be—and to share their skills and expertise can make a world of difference. Use speakers bureaus such as ATD’s or BigSpeak to hire the best leadership and keynote speakers to reinvigorate your team.
Business leaders need to focus on creating a harmonious, productive team. Doing so will benefit your employees and your organization.