The Triple Crown of horse racing consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Not only does winning all three races leave the victor in an enviable cash position, it confers upon the winner a reputation of outstanding teamwork. So many individuals are involved in getting to all three finish lines – the owner, jockey, trainer, ???? Their ability to collaborate effectively is essential to their success.
Luckily, recent research discoveries point to the Triple Crown of teaming effectiveness. A long-term study done by Google researcher Anita Wooley (and her team) has identified two critical factors common to all of their successful teams. Combine this study with the ongoing work of Paul Zak on the benefits of oxytocin, and you have a Triple Crown.
1. Equal Conversational Contributions
Wooley’s research team found that on the most effective teams, members spoke in roughly equal amounts. Conversational contributions might not be evenly spaced in every half-hour segment of work, but over the course of time, all members contributed equally. When one person dominated or opted out, collective intelligence suffered and the team did not perform as well.
While it is great if team members naturally arrive at equal contributions, it is possible to develop this norm. For some individuals, simply learning about this research will motivate them to be more reflective about their own level of contributions. In addition, tracking conversational contributions with tally marks or transcribed notes can bring specific data to a team that is struggling. Discussion structures can also lead to more equitable participation. Check out The Discussion Book by Brookfield and Preskill for creative ideas.
2. Social Sensitivity
Members of the best teams have higher than average social sensitivity. In other words, they are able to discern how others are feeling from their facial expressions, body language and tone of voice. Not only are they more aware of how their colleagues are feeling, they are willing to act upon their knowledge by checking in, listening and encouraging others.
Reading the Mind in The Eyes is a simple assessment of a person’s social sensitivity. One approach might be to assess everyone on the team and discuss the results privately or openly. Another method might be to provide training on body language and the powerful impact it has on a sender’s message. Willing to try something a bit more challenging? Try videotaping your team during a collaborative work session and then watch and analyze it together.
3. Shared Vulnerability
Zak’s research has found that when someone is vulnerable with another – willing to share a personal story, a struggle, a fear – oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is a hormone that Zak calls “the moral molecule” or the trust hormone. His work has shown that trust increases between two people after sharing a vulnerable moment. This helps to create a psychologically safe environment, where people feel safe for inter-personal risk taking.
Zak recommends that leaders be especially willing to share their vulnerable side with colleagues and employees. Sharing a personal struggle will not only increase trust but may improve your approachability factor. Team members who are comfortable approaching each other with concerns or new ideas are more likely to perform effectively over the long run.
With the Kentucky Derby right around the corner, you may be tempted to place a bet. While taking a chance on a horse may be a thrilling way to increase your pocket money, strategically choosing your Triple Crown next steps can be a sure-fire way to increase team effectiveness.
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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