What makes a team work?

What makes a team work?

I am an idea-carrier. I am susceptible to hearing a story on the radio, reading an article, overhearing a snippet of a discussion and allowing the topic to plant a seed of Wonder. Sometimes that Wonder germinates to a Thing. Sometimes I forget to water it and it is totally forgotten, dead.

I recently read the article “Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others” in the New York Times. Before continuing this post you should click over and read the article.

This wasn’t a dead Wonder situation. After reading what these studies discovered about the dynamics of a successful team, I decided to spend the next two weeks jotting down what I saw around me at UMarketing as we moved in and out of our daily work. While we aren’t a huge group here in Lombard, our teams do flex and change as we work on various projects for clients and the agency.

I was curious what active observation would show me. Were we hitting or missing (!) the three characteristics this study said were exhibited by the smartest teams?

Contributing to Discussions

Shortly after I started watching our team interaction, I had an opportunity to participate in, but also observe, a rather long and unplanned brainstorming session. I left the room realizing those of us accustomed to leading, drumming up ideas and then hashing out their strengths and weaknesses, are pretty much always ready to join the fray. We can quickly have a position, defend it, or yield when it isn’t viable. We are game to verbally work it out on the fly.

My takeaway: Those of us in leadership roles should be mentoring our teams on this skill. I am not 100% sure how to do that yet. But opening the door, requesting their input, and then sitting back and shutting up so others can work it out seems like a good start.

Reading the Mind in the Eyes

The second attribute of a successful group was their higher score on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test, which measures the ability to read complex emotional states when only the eyes of a person are visible.

The test is still online! I was so excited to find it since the article didn’t link to it. So, I took it. Of course I did.

And as I observed my teammates, I was watching to see who looked at others either as they spoke or as they were spoken to. How did we interact in disagreement? Did we share workload or was one person/group doing a larger portion of the heavy lifting? How attentive were we to the team dynamic? If it seemed off, did we adjust?

(In case you are wondering, my score was an above average 28 of 36.)

Women on your Team

Have more women on the team.

The article continues, “Finally, teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. Indeed, it appeared that it was not ‘diversity’ (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team’s intelligence, but simply having more women. This last effect, however, was partly explained by the fact that women, on average, were better at ‘mindreading’ than men.”

I didn’t count every UMarketing office, but I counted the team here in Lombard. We meet this requirement, too.

A month or so ago I watched an episode of Brain Games on NatGeo where two groups competed to see who could make a Rube Goldberg mousetrap faster. Long-term guy friends vs. Engineers.

Spoiler alert: The engineers won.  They were the only team with a woman on it. Hmm.

Teamwork Mindfulness

I probably owe an apology to the office for creeping everyone. But it sure was interesting to watch us against the backdrop of these study results.

A benefit of my “spying” was that now I can articulate why I enjoy and feel challenged working at UMarketing. We are a group of inquisitive, thoughtful, people that work well together. With very few exceptions we don’t rely on jargon, and we don’t overtalk. We listen and hear. It was clear that this group is inherently able to take one person’s idea and make it bigger as a group. We thrive on problem solving and applying our varied expertise.

Given how many distinct capabilities exist under the UMarketing brand, it’s a game changer to have teams work this fluidly together.

UMarketing is Unified Marketing. And not by accident.

The search for and implementation of new marketing solutions for my clients makes me happy. So does coffee, expensive yarn and tango shoes.