Research reported by Alex Pentland in the April issue of Harvard Business Review has revealed some interesting new information on effective teams. He and his group deployed “sociometric badges” in teams in 21 organizations. These devices are able to monitor on individual team members’ tone of voice, body language, frequency of initiating and responding, plus the content of the communications.
They uncovered three aspects of communication that correlate with successful team performance:
- Energy – the frequency of face-to-face comments + acknowledgement in return (e.g. saying “yes” or head nodding in response)
- Engagement – the degree to which all members of the team are engaging in energy and doing it roughly equally. In other words, if only a few members engage among themselves and others are left out, engagement will be lower.
- Exploration – the frequency of communication that team members engage in with people who are not part of the team.
So, your team ideally should be able to engage internally, among your members, AND externally, with outsiders who can enrich your team endeavors with different ideas and perspectives. This is especially true for teams that must come up with creative solutions to projects and problems.
What does this mean for your team? Make sure everyone is engaged, at least in periodic conversation, with everyone else. Notice whenever certain members seem not to be engaged and instead are hanging around the periphery of the group. Approach them, include them, and connect them with other members. By the way, not all of these interactions need take place at work. Getting together for lunch, coffee, or corridor conversations will add to the mix.