What Makes Some Teams Better than Others?

Some teams are definitely smarter than others. If you take some brilliant individual performance and put them on a team they might not perform as a smart team. There have been numerous studies which discovered some secret factors behind better teams.

One of the most profound discoveries has been made by professors Woolley and Malone including Christopher Chabris, Sandy Pentland, and Nada Hashmi at Carnegie Mellon and MIT Sloan School of Management who analyzed the factors which lead to high team performance at Harvard Business Review. They made several random teams and gave them standard intelligence tests. Each team was asked to complete several which included logic, problem-solving, decision making and visual puzzles. Teams were given intelligence scores based on their overall team performance.

The study has concluded that the group performance has little correlation with individual intelligence. If you have ten smart people and try to form an intelligent group from them, it won’t work. Ability to listen to each other, to share the criticism, to talk equally and to never miss any other opinion made important factors of high performing teams.

What is surprising, the researchers found that if there are more woman in the group, the better it would be for performance. A group of women is likely to perform better compared to a group of men. The study connected woman-winning groups to emotional intelligence and social sensitivity. However, extraordinarily homogeneous or extremely diverse groups aren’t as intelligent, there should be a balance of two, the researchers said.

In another social study by Alex Pentland and Nada Hashmi of M.I.T., it was found that three characteristics distinguished the smartest teams: members contributing equally to team discussions, members scoring higher on emotional intelligence tests including reading the mind and eyes, and team structure containing more women members than men. It appeared that it was not diversity problem (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team’s intelligence, but it simply had more women. The study was replicated online, and the most important ingredients for a smart team remained constant regardless of the mode of communication.

What you can do to encourage teamwork in your business right now? There are a number of things you can do to encourage team spirit among your existing employees.

Importantly, create team-based performance reward system as opposed to individual performance reward. Tintup has created team-based performance reward system for its principal sales/marketing employees as well as developers. When it comes to marketing, they are focused on finding a lot of leads. When it comes to sales, they are focused on closing as many deals as possible. Salespeople will quickly pass closed deals to some other account manager so that they can concentrate on closing more deals. After deal is closed, account manager and developers are left with lots of customer issues and problems because of poor communication and low collaboration at the time when deal was being closed. Customers are passed to someone they don’t know. They knew that this kind of traditional approach is not going to work if the company wants to concentrate on growth and improved customer service.

What they have come up is amazing. They canceled personal sales commissions on new deals, and instead, they have switched to team-wide bonus and revenue system.  Here at Tint we don’t offer personal sales commissions on new deals. Instead, we split a team-wide bonus equally between every member of the team, including developers. What were the results of such revenue system?

Firstly, everyone had changed the focus. Everyone in the company was now focused on growth since any revenue above the predefined threshold is shared equally among the team members. Everyone knew that they are contributing to shared growth structure, so everyone focused both on closing deals and making customers happy.

Secondly, the teamwork has improved dramatically. As you might know, having one common goal that the team is trying to achieve improves the unison. No one gets a huge bonus. Everyone equally celebrates each big deal since everyone is getting their own share.

Thirdly, the company has improved its customer service, because after the new performance reward system, customers were not left to someone they don’t know. Instead, the existing sales rep supported a new customer by answering their questions and up-selling.  The salespeople didn’t leave the new customer behind the new people, because they know everyone in a team will share revenues equally.

Consider hiring a business coach. Groove is one of the successful startups which values teamwork and transparency. They already have achieved a lot of results being a small business ($500K monthly revenue). And yet, in order to know where the company is going and to streamline the processes, Groove founder made a decision to hire a business coach and conducted coaching activities for three days.

Benefits of the coaching were hard to measure in value. The business coach got each and every team member accountable for whatever goals they may have set for each quarter or year. Coaching gave the transparency of processes and understanding of what they were going to achieve as a business.

If you think that coaching will not be as beneficial to you as it was for Groove, you should reconsider your decision. There are lots of companies who benefited from coaching activities. Although the benefits might not seem to be transparent and measurable, in the long run, the right business coach will provide much value for a startup, and they will make different teams actually to work together.

Alternatively, if you have several projects inside the company, you might invite one of the best performing project managers and project team members to help other projects within your own company. In this case, the role of the coach will be replaced by someone in your own organization.

There are some other techniques you can use to make teamwork effective for your business. Share how you encourage collaboration in the comments below.