Do you want your team to consistently perform well? Of course yes! That’s a redundant question. However, is there a magic recipe to ensure steady performance? Maybe. We don’t know all the ingredients that go into it. But, we know a key one: communication – the exchange of information and connection with others.

Alex Pentland, Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, conducted detailed research about how great teams communicate. And not surprisingly, his data revealed that high-functioning teams have similar data patterns, when it comes to their interactions. Some quick insights are:

  • Everyone on the team talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping it short and sweet.
  • Members face one another, and their conversations and gestures are energetic.
  • They connect directly with one another—not just with the team leader.
  • Most members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team.
  • They periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back.

These are great practices, if you’d like to implement them. And, there are more that lie beneath these behaviors. The MIT research identified three aspects of communication that affect team performance:

  1. Energy is defined as the number and the nature of exchanges among team members – a nod, a smile, verbal acknowledgments, etc. These are most felt in face to face or phone conversations. Not so much over email. Such energy bonds people.
  2. Engagement reflects the distribution of energy among team members. If all members of a team have equal and reasonably high energy with all other members, engagement is strong! Teams that have smaller groups who engage in high-energy communication, while some others don’t, make less profitable decisions.
  3. Exploration involves communication that members engage in outside their team. This is an important one. High performing teams seek more connections beyond their known people. This helps with creativity, problem solving, fresh perspectives, and innovation.

Wondering if they really matter? 35% of the variation in a team’s performance can be traced to the number of face to face exchanges within the team. So, we know we want teams that interact well. And the starting place is simple:

  • Express more gratitude and appreciation, in public. Such positive energy is contagious.
  • Initiate hangout time, like lunches. Or make it a practice for the team to take a break together.
  • Consistently level the playing field such that even the quieter voices share their opinions.

If you feel overwhelmed by all this, remember that with us humans, it always boils down to one good conversation/ connection. Just create that.

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