The team had been together now for 3 months. Their meeting had started at 9am. At 11am, having flown half way around the world, in walked a stranger who took a seat claiming to be a member of the team thus rendering the rest of the room bemused and not a little unsettled. This was the first time they had any knowledge of this ‘extra team member’.
This really happened to one of our clients.
If you work in a large organisation, almost undoubtedly in cross-functional teams, you’ll know how easily this can happen.
Yet even in smaller organisations, or with, ostensibly, straightforward teams, a few simple questions can highlight ambiguity about team membership. For example,
- Is the PA on the team or not?
- Is the guy who has the broader remit than just this division on the team or not?
- Is Fred still on the team as he works through his retirement notice period?
Does it matter?
If you are investing in being a team then yes it does.
In the past, the only relationships that mattered were between the leader and individual group members.
Yet now, every relationship between every member of the team really counts.
Recent research by MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory has been equipping thousands of individuals with wearable electronic sensors and collecting data on their interactions with others. Amongst a treasure-trove of findings, they discovered that the best predictor of a team’s success was linked to:
- team-members talking in equal measure in meetings (with short and sweet contributions)
- energy and engagement outside of meetings, with team-members connecting directly with one another— not just with the team leader.
If you are not sure who is actually on your team, how can you connect? This also has some bearing on Professor Hackman’s research on optimal team size. With every member you add to the team, you increase the amount of “air-time” each person needs in the meeting and you also increase the time each individual needs to invest in relationships outside the meetings.
Hackman proposes that the ideal size is 6 – less than that and you don’t have the diversity of opinion, more than double digits and you “exponentially” increase the number of performance problems as well as needing advanced facilitation skills in meetings.
Are you brave enough to ask each member of the team “who is on this team?” to see if you share the same understanding?
Is your team leader at the centre of everything or simply one of the key roles required in the team’s spider’s web?
Should you be making changes to slim down your team for increased efficiency?
Can you see which links are missing and worth developing when you draw the spider’s web of relationships in your team?
Click here to find out more about Will Sudworth, the author of this article.
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