Ranieri meets Aristotle

With Leicester winning the Premier League there has been a lot of talk about what makes effective teams. How does a group of albeit talented individuals triumph over a collection of highly paid superstars and why is that so unusual?

A lot of management consultancy involves improving the performance of struggling teams and whilst it might be easier to buy in a highly paid manager in the expectation that they will turn things around this is rarely the case. As consultants we have to look at how we can make teams and workgroups work more effectively together without wholesale change. There is a lot of talk around action focused teams, about ensuring meetings have strict agendas, about standing up during meetings to ensure they don’t take too long, but isn’t there more to life than that? Should business be purely action focused or is there an expectation that people expect more from work?

Google have recently published the results of a 3 year study into what makes some teams perform better than others. Project Aristotle concluded that teams are more successful when there is a high level of psychological safety in a team environment. It was found that it was less about who is on the team and more about how they work together and interact with each other. If goals and plans were clear and if team members could be relied upon to carry out their work on time and to a reasonable standard, teams performed well. Equally when people are happy to open up and share experiences with each other and take risks without fear of embarrassment, success tends to follow. Being able to open up and ask questions that may appear obvious often gives insight that other team members have also been seeking. Giving people a chance to speak and learning to spot when someone who normally speaks is keeping quiet has been found to improve group cohesion and performance.

So maybe there is something in teams sharing a pizza for keeping a clean sheet and perhaps next time your meeting is late starting because people are talking about what their kids got up to at school maybe think about going with it – allow people to feel confident interacting with each other – the investment in time allowing people to bond and turn into a cohesive unit might be the best 10 minutes you spend that day.