4 Things the Best Teams Have in Common (in 2019)

group of men from Under Armor playing Team Building Kits

Researchers at MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory have identified some of what the best teams have in common. Implementing a few of these could really take your business to the next level! Here’s a quick list of some of the most actionable and significant findings.

4 Things the Best Teams Have in Common

  1. Communication is Key
  2. Everyone Should Speak Up
  3. Teams Should be Energized and Engaged
  4. Members Should be Personally Invested in the Team’s Success

Communication is Key

You know how you just “click” with some people? The same thing can happen with teams. The MIT researchers realized that some teams got along very well even upon their first introduction. They assumed it had something to do with the way that the teams communicated with one another. So, they started studying teams in a bunch of industries, from backroom operation teams to call center teams, hospital teams, and plenty more, to see what they could find.

They gave members of each team electronic badges that collected information on their body language, tone of voice, whom they talked to, and much more. At the end of the study, they found that communication did play a role in successful team building–and it was a much more significant role than they originally thought.

It turns out how team members communicate with one another is more important than individual intelligence, personality characteristics, skills, and the content of discussion combined. The researchers told business leaders to alter their scheduling and business practices to account for these new findings and the businesses noticed significant increases in efficiency and profitability.

Everyone Should Speak Up

The researchers realized that the most successful teams shared the podium. All members spoke up in roughly equal shares and no one dominated the conversation, interrupted others, or sat in silence. Whenever these team members spoke, their input was concise, meaningful, and professional–and they always opened up the floor for someone else.

This even playing field is best seen in the way that members spoke to the entire room. They would connect with each other–not just the team leader or boss. This shows that there is a shared sense of ownership over their projects and that there is a mutual respect among all members.

Teams Should be Energized and Engaged

The researchers measured energy as the number and nature of exchanges among team members. Think of it this way: imagine that during an especially monotonous conference, you bring up the newest episode of Game of Thrones. Your team, after sitting in complete silence for the past hour, suddenly erupts in conversation. You just watched their energy spike.

Ideally, you want to get your employees energized about business-related issues, like the success of their projects or new equipment that could boost productivity around the workplace. That kind of dedication and excitement is a huge predictor of the success of teams since the members have such a deep personal connection to it.

Another factor they looked at was engagement. They describe it as the distribution of energy among team members. So, in the Game of Thrones example, you had pretty high engagement since the entire room erupted in conversation. But if only a handful of people cared about the show, then only a few would be engaged. The rest would continue to doze off.

In other words, you want to make sure your team members have responsibilities that are both important and interesting to them. This will give them the energy and engagement to see their plans through.

Members Should be Personally Invested in the Team’s Success

Another important feature of great teams is exploration–which the researchers define as the energy with which the team engages in conversations outside of their own team. This is like a team member from the sales department asking for advice from HR, reception, and advertising departments for new insights. The researchers found that more explorative teams were the best innovators since they could bring a fresh perspective back to their team.

On the other hand, they found that exploration and engagement have trouble coexisting. There’s only a set amount of energy that each team member has, so they dedicate their energy to one team at the expense of the other. The most creative and successful teams fluctuated between being explorative and engaged.

What do the Best Teams have in Common FAQ

What Makes a Team Effective?

The MIT researchers found that the most effective teams have a few characteristics in common. First, team members talk and listen for about the same amount of time. During conferences or just casual conversations, no one dominates the room or stays silent. They all share the floor and don’t give anyone special treatment. That includes the manager–the members of the most effective teams faced one another as they spoke, not just the team leader or authority. 

What’s the Most Important Characteristic of Team Building?

There’s no question about it–communication is the most important characteristic of your team. Again, the researchers found it’s a better predictor of their success than individual intelligence, personality traits, and skill combined. That’s a big deal. When it comes to the best type of communication, speaking face-to-face is best. Video conferences and phone calls can work well as long as there aren’t too many people on the line, but texting and emailing are pretty ineffective. Teams that have a lot of energy and engagement tend to hold the most effective conversations since they’re personally invested in what they’re doing, leading to high levels of productivity and success. 

Want to improve communication among your team members? Try Team Building Kits!