7 Ways to Make All Teams Smarter
Teams, like individuals, can be smart or stupid.*
Three factors impact team intelligence:
- Social sensitivity. Be aware of emotion. Bring it up when someone seems detached, disturbed, excited, or curious. “Barney, this idea seems to interest you. What’s going through your mind?”
- Diversity. It’s seems self-evident that heterogeneous groups are smarter than homogeneous groups.
- Turn-taking during the meeting.
Teams are stupid when one or two people do all the talking.
How to promote turn-taking:
People are afraid of saying something stupid. Get dumb ideas on the table.
- Let’s make a list of dumb ideas.
- How might a dumb idea be made smart?
#2. Keep teams small.
Engagement goes down as numbers go up. Large teams allow drifters to hide. Shoot for five or six people around the table, no more than 8.
You’ll miss the wisdom of introverts if you expect extrovertish spontaneity from them.
- Publish agendas a day or two before the meeting.
- Assign agenda items to individuals. “”Wilma, would you be prepared to speak to item 3?”
#4. Invite quiet members to speak.
- “Wilma, what might you add, if anything?” It should be safe for Wilma to say, “I don’t have anything to add at this time.”
- “Barney, what’s coming to mind for you?” This question makes space for imperfect spontaneous response.
#5. Set a social tone.
Banter creates connection.
- Begin meetings with a personal question. “What did everyone do over the weekend?” If this question seems uncomfortable, you need to ask it.
- Outlaw cell phones and email.
#6. Notice team dynamics.
- Honor participation. “I’m really glad you jumped in, Fred.”
- Notice energy. “This was a lively conversation.”
#7. Meet in the morning.
Most of us are dumb and lethargic between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Tip: Define the win. “What will be different if we succeed?”
What prevents vibrant conversations during meetings?
How might leaders get their teams talking to each other during meetings?
*Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups
*What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team
I love the very last line! “What will be different if we succeed?”; I can’t wait to use this at our next meeting and with my children!
Thanks AJ. Isn’t it interesting that we can work really hard but not know what success looks like?
Nicely framed, Dan. And I love the frog image because managing teams IS a lot like herding frogs (and cats and squirrels.
One more potential useful addition is to assign someone the role of Devil’s Advocate and make it clear that it is an assigned role, one that should also be rotated among the different individuals in different meetings.
Getting that look is often VERY useful, especially when some conclusions they may come to might have some potential negative consequences or impacts or be high risk in some way. There are some good writings about how to do this online…
Thanks Dr. Scott. Great seeing you today. Love the idea of assigning a Devil’s Advocate. It seems to fit into the general category of making it safe to disagree or offer alternatives.
This can be tricky, I find. I end up being the Devil, b/c my brain goes this way quickly. My brain tends to look for any and all potential flags, rebuttals, or conflicts, not as “Negative Nelly”, but as “Comprehensive Cary.” 🙂 I can’t help it! I’d rather assess all potential issues upfront so I or we are not surprised by things that didn’t occur to me or us at the time. People start to dread hearing what I may come up with b/c it feels like I’m shooting the idea down. But if I wait for someone else to play D. A., the issue may or may not be addressed. Even when I am clearly “pro-idea” I get the sense the team would rather not know. I suppose I need to work on my delivery.
Excellent, I believe Dr. Scott has a great point, very useful.
Wow! I absolutely love the idea of making a list of dumb ideas. We usually make lists of goals and things that are beneficial or could be. Everyone probably thinks at work or is thinking about work at some time and says “That’s dumb” about something work related. We’ve all seen dumb (or stupid) but what did we do about it? If it’s dumb, what are we doing about identifying and eliminating or modifying it? In my next class, I’m going to devote a little time to creating a list for discussion purposes and we might then work to avoid or change something dumb. I like the simplicity of this suggestion. Thanks, Dan.
Thanks SGT. Glad you enjoyed. Please feel free to drop a note to share what you learned. Cheers
I have enjoyed reading these articles as suggested by my manager. Your article on smart and dumb team meetings was a earth shattering article for me. I facilitate team meetings once a month and they do not reflect anything like the article you have written. I’m wondering are there different types of team meetings? I’m thinking our team meetings are more like informational meetings that the manager wants to do all the talking and everyone listens. Thanks for what you do and look forward to reading more of the leadership articles.
Diversity as you mentioned in your article is key. Every one will have a different point of view to share within the team, whether big or small. Love the article as it emphasises the importance of inclusion.
A very good post Dan.
I think talkative and silent people prevents vibrant conversations. Talkative people show their talkative skills and silent people prefer to keep quiet because of talkers. So, it is important to create tone where talkative people balance their talks. I appreciate your idea of allowing silent people to talk.
There are third element that can prevent vibrant conversations- maturity to understand. Effective team has matured understanding of feelings and opinions. It means, when someone is making a point, other members should not mock at it. They should understand and respect it.
Respect and understanding of each other it extremely important to get teams talking to each other.
I am in the middle of this situation right now. Well, that being a small group where one person does all the talking. The one suggestion that gives me the heeby-jeebys is the part about acknowledging “thanks for jumping in, Fred.” This one “usurper of conversation” uses that tactic FREQUENTLY and it feels extremely patronizing. It is as if he “claims” the running of the meeting when it is supposed to be a group endeavor. If you want people to feel group oriented, inspite of one’s leadership designation, they should not feel like they are being tolerated with “thanks for that, Fred.” They need to know they were heard. Actually heard. Not just, glossed over. Hopefully, if you have the best combination of team members, they will bring up valid and relevant points that are worth being flushed out. They just may have something valid that could prevent future screw ups or spark even better ideas. If they feel like they are being placated it’s a mood killer and they will very much start resenting being a member of the team.
I love the idea of canceling one team meeting to bring a smaller group together to focus on a specific team initiative. Had not thought of this. I always felt like I needed to include the entire group for discussion. Then it’s just my expressors who do the talking.
Dan, I often relate your advice to the home front, as I write from home and my family is my main team and as I’ve mentioned to you before, getting the home front working at its best, is just as important or more so.
I wanted to relate a comment my daughter made. She told me that she’s sitting there in class with her hand up and instead the teacher asks the student who doesn’t have their hand up. This made no sense to her at all, and she said that if the other student had the answer, they would’ve put their hand up. I then explained to her about trying to involve everybody but I don’t think it had much impact.
I have struggled in community groups when I’ve tried to express my opinion and people just talk straight over the top of me without any consideration whatsoever. In the end, I’ve left such groups because I decided I was redundant and wasting my time. I now attend Scout committee meetings because everyone treats each other with respect. I am more of a creative ideas person and not great on the nitty gritty, but that’s where the scouts excel. I don’t know why more people don’t realize that this pairing of opposites can be very creative, productive and see great ideas actually executed well.
YES!!! All the darn time! See my post above. I finally left that toxic group. You are a valuable mind to have on any team!!!