2. Effective listening skills
Have you ever wondered why some teams produce great results while others don’t?
The successful team may not have A players, but they still get the job done better than most. They’re tenacious, unrelenting, and enthusiastic about their work. There’s a buzz of energy around them – lots of conversations in the physical presence of one another. They walk between offices with a spring in their step. Their inquisitive nature leads them to explore new ways of doing their jobs - better and faster. The team’s productive output soars and they’re having fun being in the “zone.” These are the people you want on your team.
Compare the above team to a group of superstars that aren't good collaborators. They get totally absorbed in their own work. They're not interested in sharing ideas with each other. The individuals on this team are content to work on their own “stuff.” They will only interact with others when they have to and that’s usually by email, let alone a phone call. Impromptu face-to-face discussions only happen when there is a big problem. The atmosphere is subdued, work piles up, and emails go unanswered. They are working in a self-imposed vacuum.
Introduce, Dr. Sandy Pentland, a member of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory. Dr. Pentland developed an electronic badge system that measures verbal interactions between co-workers. The sensors could predict team performance by measuring the nature of the conversations. It wasn’t the content of the conversations, but it was more the manner in which they were communicating.
This research was cited in an HBR 2012 article, “The badges measure how people interact—such as what tone of voice they use; whether they face one another; how much they gesture; how much they talk, listen, and interrupt; and even their levels of extroversion and empathy.”
This research listed five defining characteristics of high performing teams:
- Everyone on the team talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping contributions brief but impactful.
- Teammates meet in person; their conversations and gestures are energetic.
- Teammates interact directly with one another —not just with the team leader.
- Teammates engage in back-channel or side conversations within the team.
- Teammates periodically go exploring outside the team and bring information back.
DiBona & Associates has used this research in combination with other bodies of work to develop a three-step process to field highly performing teams. Whether it is an important client project, a strategic corporate change initiative, or a new business venture, this process works.
The AC/2C framework
- Activate - Accept challenges and swing into action quickly.
- Commit – A psychological commitment to the success of the team.
- Communicate – Effective communication between peers, managers, and people outside of the immediate team.
- Create – the ability to experiment, question, design, or otherwise identify ways to create additional value.
The entire solution
Step #1 – The talent selection process. There are many teams working on extremely important transformations that are doomed to failure from the start. The leader usually finds out the hard way. The failed leader would have been much better served to select his team members based on our Briefcase, Heart, and Head Selection Process.
- Often, hiring managers to focus on the contents of the briefcase, the candidate’s portfolio, resume, and work history.
- During the traditional selection process, they typically will find out what’s in their hearts. These are their values.
- However, most selection processes completely overlook the importance of the head. The head component of this process is to uncover intrinsic drives that allow the teammate to fulfill the mission of the team better than most, given the work environment, the nature of the work to be done, and the overall team dynamic.
- When we select the right behavioral traits, we identify new hires or existing employees that are going to activate and commit to the success of the team more easily.
Step #2 – Define the necessary team dynamic. Now that we have assessed our candidates, we want to see whether or not they will further improve the overall team dynamic. We want the team to be diverse with a concentration on one of the following areas based on the work to be done.
- A project management team will predominately be goal oriented to deliver projects on time and within budget.
- A quality control team will be heavily biased toward using process and be very precise.
- Whereas, a product development team will be more agile, less process dependent and willing to take on calculated risk to try new things.
- In contrast, a human resources team needs to have an affinity for developing relationships through collaboration and being able to improve the employee experience.
In addition, the team dynamic must take into consideration other aspects of getting the work done. For example, there are other groups and other kinds of individuals that the team needs to work with. I once worked with a continuous improvement team for a large, hi-tech producer of power generation equipment. They had excellent engineers except they couldn’t change the hearts and minds of the workers on the plant floor because they lacked the ability to collaborate. We helped this client pair up a tech person with a more relationship-oriented engineer and the team made great strides in implementing their improvements. Had this not been realized the team leader would have been fired.
Step #3 – Equip the team with the right skills. The final step in the process is to facilitate peer-to-peer training in the following three areas:
The four components of effective communication training:
1. Techniques to capture the attention
3. Asking the right open-ended questions
4. Exploring solutions and possibilities
Resolving conflict. This allows teammates to redefine what conflict means to them. The training also helps to remove personal barriers to healthy conflicts, such as fear and other negative self-beliefs.
Allow teammates to expand their sphere of influence by getting them to produce “micro wins.” This allows teammates to build positive momentum and further develop.
Some ideas to consider
You may be thinking that this all sounds good, but how can I do this?
Using the power of people analytics and today’s machine learning technology, any team can implement this for less that it costs to take your ten best clients out for a weekend of golf or hunting. The return on investment is staggering.
Guaranteed results in 30 days!