Magazine article Talent Development

Get the Most out of Your Team: If You Want a High-Performing Team, Follow These Principles

Magazine article Talent Development

Get the Most out of Your Team: If You Want a High-Performing Team, Follow These Principles

Article excerpt

More than 100 years ago, the French engineer Max Ringelmann conducted a famous experiment about teamwork. He placed two people at either end of a rope and told them to pull as hard as they could. After measuring the force each exerted, he added two more subjects, one at each end, and once more took the same measurement of individual effort. He continued to add participants in this way and collect data. The results showed a general pattern: As more people became involved in the activity, each person slacked off somewhat. This phenomenon, which has been confirmed multiple times since Ringelmann's initial study, has come to be known as "social loafing."

Are your teammates a bunch of loafers? Not at all. But there is a good chance that counterproductive team dynamics are reproducing the phenomenon that Ringelmann observed and creating a drag on your collective output. A simple but powerful framework can neutralize the counterproductive dynamics that Ringelmann found and help get the most out of your team's efforts.

What it is

The 3-by-3 model consists of the three foundations of effective teaming-goals, roles, and norms-and an iterative three-step process for creating them. High-performing teams do the following: establish commitments, check alignment, and close the gap between saying and doing.

How it works

The first step in creating a high-performing team is establishing its culture. In the most practical sense, culture is the set of rules-or commitments-that govern how you work together with your teammates to solve problems. A shared culture helps teams adapt and thrive in challenging environments. When a team comes together, rules will develop whether people are paying attention to them or not-rules about who speaks when, who makes the decisions, and even whether it is necessary to show up to meetings on time or at all. High-performing teams create cultures that support the work that needs to get done.

While committing to rules is an essential first step to creating a high-performing team, it is one that must be continually revisited. As a group's stated and unstated rules accumulate over time, a culture forms in ways that can be largely invisible to team members, and individuals often begin operating by new rules that conflict with the team's explicit rules in ways they are not aware of.

Comprehensive and often contradictory, all of these rules become-as we are all too familiar with-"the way we do things around here" People may not even be aware of or remember why certain ways of doing things developed in the first place. For this reason, high-performing teams make time to check for alignment with commitments and work on closing the gap between their stated commitments (saying) and their actual behaviors (doing).


The following are ways to incorporate the 3-by-3 model in your own organization by building on the three foundations, and continually working to enhance your team's performance. Make rules that matter. Our research has shown that high-performing teams target rules that fall into three major buckets, each of which prompts a question, such as: How do we resolve conflicts? How do we communicate? How do we decide?

Managing differences, sharing information, and acting on it are the three fundamental activities in which teams engage. While you might be tempted to come up with a laundry list of rules, it is best to focus on a few that will have the greatest impact.

Build in time for reflection. Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot just by watching." The best team leaders adopt an "observer's mindset" by working hard to avoid two common cognitive biases: overvaluing positive outcomes, and motivated blindness. …

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