The past couple of decades has seen a rise in research studies exploring team dynamics, adding to our understanding about how essential components of team relationships are developed and sustained. Learn how to build and repair trust, communicate effectively and examine your team's productivity from the theory on team flow.
Relationships are built one positive interaction at a time. They are not fixed, but dependent on small behaviours - a warm smile, an expression of interest - that may seem inconsequential at the time, but which provide important feedback about whether we are trustworthy and authentic. John Gottman says trust is built in the smallest of moments. He calls them "sliding door moments". Every interaction with colleagues and people we line manage presents us with a choice: to turn into our relationships and engage empathetically with one another or to turn away, and decide not to invest.
In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Alex Pentland presents research which looks at who talks to who in a team, and who does most of the talking. In successful teams, communication is balanced, with no single person dominating conversation. Most interestingly, successful teams are a network with everyone in a team talking to everyone else, rather than all communication going via the team leader. And the team's energy and engagement outside of formal meetings explains one third of the variations in dollar productivity between teams.
Dutch organizational psychologist Jef van den Hout, has suggested ‘team flow’ – the feeling of being fully immersed or ‘in the zone’ – is characterised by a shared identity, a sense of unity, mutual trust, a sense of joint progress and a holistic point of focus. Van den Hout identifies a set of requirements for team flow including having aligned personal goals and a shared team goal, complementary skill sets, open communication, and mutual commitment. Team members should also feel that it is okay to make mistakes.