The notion of high performance teams was first put forward by the Tavistock Institute back in the 1950s. And since then, there has been a growing wealth of research and practical guidance published on the subject. Nobody with a serious interest in recruiting and developing successful teams can pretend that that they don’t at least know where to begin.
After all, the fundamentals are well known. Ever since Bruce Tuckman laid out his Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing model in 1965, we’ve understood the importance of establishing clear goals and fostering productive dynamics. So why do we still find it so difficult?
Two possibilities emerge from a couple of recent articles.
Dr Travis Bradberry, co-founder of TalentSmart, revealed in a recent article that an analysis of the profiles of the million-plus people on the company’s database had shown an alarming decline in EQ scores as one progressed up the corporate ladder from managers to CEOs. This is not the place to speculate on why that might be. But if it’s a general truth, is it any wonder that organisations struggle to build the teams they want when the people charged with the responsibility for building them are, to use Bradberry’s phrase, “emotionally inept”?
A situation that is exacerbated by a problem highlighted by Jacob Shriar writing about neuroscience and its implications for how best to motivate people. The essence of his argument is that not only are we naturally resistant to change, “everyone is different, and there is no standard way of dealing with everyone”. In other words, the development and motivation of any team, but particularly a high performing one, requires empathy – one of the very last qualities you would expect to find in people with low EQ scores.
So if we want to understand how to develop high performance teams, perhaps we need to start by understanding ourselves a bit better.