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Traits of an Effective Team: You May be Surprised

If you still have any doubt that Emotional Intelligence matters a great deal in the work place, read this article. It also says that teams with women and more diversity in general do better.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/opinion/sunday/why-some-teams-are-smarter-than-others.html?_r=0

I think what still amazes, and frustrates, me the most here in 2015 is that so few organizations act on this knowledge. I’m convinced that most leaders are well aware of the need for less homogeneity on their teams but when it comes to making selections they still gravitate towards what is comfortable and familiar. In other words, they pick people who look and sound like themselves.

After many years of working with male CEOs and pressing this issue with them I have come to a few common sense conclusions as to why they have such difficulty creating a more diverse and dynamic team.

  • CEOs are as insecure as the rest of us. They may present a formidable persona but underneath all the bravado is someone who worries about his own performance/legacy/stature as well as the company results. Without a reservoir of EQ these leaders will default to what they know: themselves. It makes them less anxious. It makes it easier to retain control of the conversation and decisions.
  • It is more challenging to manage a diverse team. This is especially true if the leader has limited interpersonal skills. Allowing breathing space and healthy dialogue with multiple points of view requires patience, great listening skills, facilitation skills, open mindedness and comfort with moments of chaos. Most of us feel personally judged when someone has a different/opposing idea. That discomfort causes us to shut it down. It takes a very confident and curious person to let the conversation meander and get messy for awhile.
  • We are herd creatures. As human beings we simply feel more adept with our own kind. We assume shared meaning and values…even if there are personal differences. We lull ourselves into a false sense of camaraderie when we are interacting within our subculture. The operative word being “false”. A great leader is someone who goes against this natural tendency. When he does, he makes it safe for the whole team to get used to differences. And in time, it becomes clear to all that more amazing things can happen when there are new ideas.

None of this is new. The notion and study of groupthink has been around for decades. In the 80s the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle was touted as THE example of the dangers of groupthink. We can see many examples in history and business since that time that let us know that we still haven’t learned the value of soliciting and paying attention to opposing views.

Maybe someday?

 

 

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