Team Performance: How to Improve Group Effectiveness
December 17, 2021
Team Performance Guide
Unlike subatomic particles that cannot be reduced into subcomponents, companies are complex entities with many moving parts. These moving parts include a variety of people with complementary skills and abilities, and companies benefit when their employees work together cohesively. Just as there is scientific literature describing the correct way to split atoms and harness the power of photons, there is a wealth of research prescribing how to improve team performance and team effectiveness.
The physicist who has studied the relevant literature in her field and who applies its precepts meticulously will have the most success. Similarly, managers and coaches who understand how to encourage optimal team performance will tend to experience the greatest outcomes. Companies such as Tilt 365 help managers and coaches do exactly that: They help you understand what it takes to maximize the performance of the teams that you oversee.
Some Terms: Performance, Effectiveness, and Efficiency; Groups and Teams
When people think about how to improve team effectiveness, one minor barrier can be the terminology involved. Should the focus be on improving team performance or on improving effectiveness? What is the difference between, say, group effectiveness and team efficiency? Briefly stated, effectiveness entails producing a high-quality product, while efficiency refers to a task being completed with minimal resources (time, money, additional people, etc.). Just because a team performs does not mean it performs well. But if a team is effective, it is inherently performing well.
But what exactly are teams? Is a foursome of friends a team? When we use the term “team,” we are referring to a group of people working together toward a common goal. Some of the largest teams include armies and companies. A company is made up of many individuals who are all trying to help their respective organizations flourish. If five coworkers get together on the weekend to play a board game, they are no longer a team—instead, we then refer to them as a group. In short, all teams are groups of people, but not all groups are teams.
Having worked our way through some of that terminology, let’s turn to the main focus: how to improve team performance.
One major antecedent of team effectiveness is a shared notion of trust. Relatedly, two authors explain that information sharing is a critical part of improving team performance. When team members are in what we at Tilt call a “generative” or “agile” mindset, they are going to be more open to hearing ideas from others on their team. An agile mindset is unique in that there is a belief and practice of using all of the four mindsets (see this blog for a description of the four Tilt mindsets) and patterns of behavior and shifting as the content calls for it. Instead of leading to a certain tendency (like being open or closed to input from others), people using the agile mindset consciously think about their view of the context of a situation and then actively choose which of the other mindsets is most appropriate and should be used.
A generative mindset is similar to an agile mindset because it allows the person to consciously choose which of the four mindsets is most beneficial in each situation. But it goes beyond an agile mindset because it becomes wired into the brain over time, training and expanding the ways one can think and choose to act. Thus, the main difference between agile and generative mindsets is that a generative mindset operates subconsciously or unconsciously, while someone who is operating in an agile mindset has to be more intentional about flexing those mental muscles.
If we can remove barriers to information sharing, we can expect to improve team performance. By using strengths assessments such as Tilt’s Positive Influence Predictor (PIP), we can gather ongoing feedback on how well we use Tilt’s 12 key character strengths. This character-based strengths assessment tool gives us the feedback to be more agile and generative, thus inspiring better communication within the team. Research supports these assertions. One article explains that collectively-minded individuals tend to incorporate and value the suggestions of teammates to a greater degree than egocentrically-minded individuals.
Improving information sharing may lead to team improvement, but not all information sharing is equally advantageous. If a team is trying to build a car, hearing some completely irrelevant information about planetary motion or carpentry is unlikely to help. Rather, what helps team effectiveness and efficiency is when a team member is able to uniquely contribute to the shared knowledge of the team with information that they possess alone. Returning to the example of building a car, the car will never run unless the team member skilled at installing car batteries speaks up. In order for that team member to provide a potential change in their project, they need to have a clear understanding of their specific role.
Another predictor for team effectiveness is conflict: Past research has posited (and confirmed) that team performance is mitigated when greater degrees of conflict are present. Conflict achieves this by means of tension and distraction from the duties at hand. But like small amounts of salt on food for enhanced flavor, lesser degrees of conflict can have a beneficial impact. Similarly, having a “devil’s advocate” can help people think through a task with better results. Two types of conflict (task and relationship) equally degrade the output of teams. Task conflict includes clashes relating to who gets what and what must be done, while relationship conflict involves clashes relating to personal attributes such as political leanings and personality types. One way of protecting satisfaction within a team involves reducing relationship conflict.
An antidote for past failure is risk-taking, and a prescription for team inventiveness is also risk-taking. Behaviors that enable risk-taking include making it easy for team members to have open discussions about areas of disagreement. The likelihood of teams achieving great advances increases when teams are intentional about getting comfortable with risk. However, it is important that teams are given enough autonomy if we are focusing on how to improve the effectiveness of teams. When a team goes from being face-to-face to being virtual (or vice versa), we can expect the amount of risk-taking by team members to remain about the same.
A lot of these topics are related to how to elevate team effectiveness using the Tilt Framework and the battery of Tilt assessments. Tilt’s assessments were created to help people find their strengths so that they can better understand themselves and the people around them. This, in turn, mitigates conflict and simultaneously enables constructive communication. The extensive library of Tilt blogs, coaching tools, and coaching classes provides extensive methods for improving effectiveness.
Many of us can easily recall instances from our own lives where team performance was obstructed by conflict or finger-pointing. When we can instead talk through differences in an effective manner, we are in a position to return to the tasks at hand since constructive dialogue allows us to focus on producing high-quality work. Reports generated after completing Tilt assessments deliver access to insights regarding the best manner to talk through our differences with teammates.
Enhancing team effectiveness and team efficiency are not endeavors exclusively important to upper management. We will all be part of teams throughout our lives, and most of the time, we personally benefit more and more as those teams perform better and better than before. While this blog explains many ways in which team performance can be augmented, it is certainly not a full list. Even if it were, an exhaustive summary of studies and methods for augmenting team performance lacks the insights that can be provided by team assessments, such as Tilt’s Team Climate Profile™ (TCP).
For example, it is possible to know that constructive communication benefits team performance but to be concurrently unsure of what constitutes “constructive communication” to different individuals. The TCP (and other Tilt365 strength assessments) enable team members to find their strengths and understand each other. When it becomes crunch time and a lot is on the line, such awareness can be almost priceless, fueling team efficiency. If you like what you read, please feel free to share this and any linked articles with a team member and email us with any teamwork, individual development, or team goals questions.