One simple change can improve team performance

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Recently doing work with senior teams, I was again reminded of what happens in virtually every team we have ever worked with, irrespective of organisational level , when you have a mix of outgoing and reserved people around the table.

In every instance the outgoing people jump into immediate discussion and conversation and those who are reserved increasingly withdraw into reflection and being with their own thoughts.

Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI gives us some insight into what is actually going on. In MBTI outgoing styles are most associated with people who have a preference for extroversion and the reserved styles have a preference for introversion. The extroverts gain their energy from the world outside them such as interacting with others and the introverts gain their energy from within such as reflection and thinking.

In every group what we see play out time and time again is when it comes to decisions, solving problems and creating solutions, the first people to launch into creating the outcome are the extroverts. Because of their social influence – exuberance, confidence and enthusiasm, whether intended or not, this group usurp most of the time and often come across as the experts when they are not. The reality is that in order to think the extrovert has to talk; for the introvert is it the opposite, before they can talk they need time to think. In fact, in one senior team an extroverted member remarked to two people in the group who were introverted “When are you guys going to say something?” to which the response was “When you stay quiet long enough for us to get a word in.”

The outcome is that the quality of the decision or solution is often lower from those who are most outspoken, the better decisions and solutions at times do not see the light of day as they rest within the introverts.

Reading an article in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review, a simple and elegant solution was provided, based on research conducted with university students, which in part reflected the dynamic we have been seeing for years play out between extroverts and introverts. Through research, it was discovered that making one simple change early on when the group is ‘forming’ saw a dramatic change in the performance impact and effectiveness of the team. The change they made was to have the “control” group take stock of the knowledge, skill and experience group members had in dealing with the particular challenge that had been set for them before they embarked on meeting it. This one change moved the group dynamic from “social influence to informational influence” which filtered out a lot of discussion and content that added no value – so simple, yet so effective. To read the whole article in Harvard Business Review use this link

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