Our topic this week comes to us from Kristen Van Dinter. She asked how to function as an effective team even when there isn’t a designated leader.How do we know what to do when there is no “leader”; like no one is “in-charge”. This is such a timely question as just last month new research in Harvard Business Review revealed that over 50% of work is now occurring through collaboration and on teams versus solo and that three quarters of our day could be spent communicating with colleagues. Whoa! That is a lot of collaboration and demonstrative of the way how things have changed in work. We’re no longer solo-preneurs and this is really representative of our life and the changes in our social structures too.
Additionally, studies show that people working in teams tend to achieve better results and report higher job satisfaction. In a 2015 study, executives said that profitability increases when workers are persuaded to collaborate more. Well, that’s great but how do these teams of people do it?!
Well, we need to look at two articles. The most recent one published in the NYT titled, “What Google Learned from It’s Quest to Build the Perfect Team.” The big two points that came out of this article were that empathy and building psychological safety in a group mattered the most. Psychological safety is the “shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for personal risk-taking.” And that includes being able to speak up. There were also high levels of “conversational turn-taking”. Everyone spoke an equal amount. This was really interesting in light of our previous show on interrupting. On these teams, interrupting could occur but as long as everyone got to speak the same amount, it didn’t matter as much. And the successful teams also had high levels of one area of emotional intelligence which is being able to intuit how others felt by their tone of voice, facial expression, etc…
But what about decision making and how work was really getting done? Well, the other thing that stood out on these teams was that these teams had very clear goals and knew what their role was in the larger picture. Basically, they knew the vision and they knew what they were responsible for to make the vision reality.
The good news: none of this is overwhelmingly shocking is it? So, how do we go about making decisions then? First, a decision means that we have cut off all other options. Well, there is a process of decision-rights that can be used on teams.
Being clear about when people have input but not necessarily a vote really matters.
But what do you think? How do your teams function without a leader? Is it safe for each member to speak up and are decision rights clear when a decision needs to be made on the team?