How To Optimize Your Team For Productivity

August 5, 2016 - 5 minute read - Posted by

As a manager, the ultimate goal is to build trust within a team and facilitate higher levels productivity.

But how do we go about optimizing our teams for maximum productivity?

Previously, we discussed the key to building a high-performing team and trust was arguably one of the most important connections to facilitate between team members.

This is not only true for team members but also managers overseeing productive teams.

In Margaret Heffernan’s TED talk Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work, she argues that social cohesion is what builds the greatest teams. She demonstrates the issue of companies running “the superchicken model” that essentially means encouraging competition and only rewarding top performers:

Chickens live in groups, so first of all, he selected just an average flock, and he let it alone for six generations. But then he created a second group of the individually most productive chickens — you could call them superchickens — and he put them together in a superflock, and each generation, he selected only the most productive for breeding.

After six generations had passed, what did he find? Well, the first group, the average group, was doing just fine.

They were all plump and fully feathered and egg production had increased dramatically. What about the second group? Well, all but three were dead.

They’d pecked the rest to death. The individually productive chickens had only achieved their success by suppressing the productivity of the rest.

—Margaret Heffernan

She follows this example by referencing a recent MIT study that found the most high performing and productive teams to not necessarily consist team members with the highest I.Q. Instead, the three tell-tale traits of productive team members are:

  1. High degrees of social sensitivity to other team members, measured by the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test.
  2. Equally distributed contributions and sharing time where no team member is dominating.
  3. Teams that consisted of both men and women.

Reading The Mind In The Eyes Test

The “Reading The Mind In The Eyes” test is widely used to measure social sensitivity and empathy levels. It is used frequently build effective teams.

The test provides participants with various descriptive words describing personal thoughts and feelings where they are then matched with photos.

This test has been found to be a strong indicator of how effective teams work together, with those scoring higher at an advantage.

Collective Intelligence Builds Stronger Teams

According to researchers at MIT and Carnegie Mellon, collective intelligence is a major influencer of how productive teams are.

In their study, 192 teams of various sizes were studied for their collective intelligence.

Participating teams were asked to engage in tasks like brainstorming and decision making together.

The results found collective team intelligence to be an entirely separate entity to that of individual intelligence regardless of team size. And as it turns out, social sensitivity and trust are key indicators to high levels of collective intelligence.

Team Productivity Hacks For Managers

Organize team building activities

Take a little time outside of work and organize some team building activities.

By encouraging social interactions between team members, strong collaborative relationships are built and team members are happier.

Create inclusiveness in discussions

In order to have an effective and productive team, all members need to feel comfortable in sharing their thoughts.

Taking turns to speak and giving everyone a similar amount of time to share creates more inclusiveness in the workplace.

Facilitate Peer Recognition

Don’t underestimate the power of peer recognition in the workplace. Team members have a great understanding of great work that deserves recognition around them.

Leverage a culture of peer recognition where employees are able to frequently recognize one another for their efforts.



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