Complex global business environments, and the need for agility in both decision making and execution, is driving organizations towards ever greater collaboration and teamwork as the means of resolving challenges and creating competitive advantage. Most leaders agree that one key component in ensuring effective team functioning is the content and quality of communications to, and among, team members. Interestingly, I found – in both my work with teams and my research on team performance – that few team leaders appreciate the far-reaching consequences of their communications. The content and quality of communications is more fundamental to team success than many team leaders imagine.
In an experimental study conducted by Kathleen Boies and John Fiset of Concordia University, and Harjinder Gill of the University of Guelph, 44 teams were asked to work on a creative resource maximization task that demanded high levels of communication and teamwork among team members. Early in the experiment, each team was exposed to a team leader that focused their communications on the intellectual stimulation and inspirational motivation of the team. They did this by:
- Establishing a clear vison and purpose
- Instilling the aspiration to compete and win
- Emphasizing the importance of team work
- Challenging conventional assumptions
- Thinking outside the box
The teams were then evaluated across four dimensions: internal communications, team trust, task performance, and creative performance.
Focusing leader communications on the intellectual stimulation and inspirational motivation of the team were found to be key contributors to the level and quality of communications among team members. In turn, the increased frequency and quality of team communications contributed to improved task and creative performance. The key question was why?
The research results uncovered that, by improving the level and quality of communications within a team through encouraging intellectual stimulation and inspirational motivation, team leaders triggered trust-building behaviours within the team. As trust among teammates increased, the teams performed at higher levels on measures of tasks and creativity.
Lessons for Team Leaders: The Importance of Purposeful Team Communications
The research by Boise et al., (2015) demonstrated that team leaders who are purposeful in facilitating transformational communications by inspiring and stimulating their team foster strong, trusting team relationships. That trust sets the stage for superior team performance and increased individual well-being.
The Role of Communications in Building a Highly-Effective Team
The fundamental nature of team leadership is rapidly changing, and the implications for team leaders is far-reaching. A focus on building strong, trusting relationships is essential for team success. To do that, team leaders must see purposeful communications as a key element in developing the architecture of a highly-effective team.
Building a great team is both art and science. It requires an architecture that includes solid fundamentals, a focus on individual motivation, and the development of strong, trusting team relationships. Equally importantly, it requires a transformational team leader to communicate in a manner that stimulates, inspires, and elevates the team’s performance and experience.
Boies, K., Fiset, J., & Gill, H. (2015). Communication and trust are key: Unlocking the relationship between leadership and team performance and creativity. The Leadership Quarterly, 26, 1080–1094. 10.1016/j.leaqua.2015.07.007
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