On Teams:  A Blog About Team Effectiveness

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Challenging, realistic, varied practice makes perfect.

Written by Scott Tannenbaum on .

In an attempt to become better, basketball players often stand at the free throw line during practice and take a series of shots, one after another. Free throwA study of men's college basketball players showed that under those conditions, they make an average of 69.8% of their first two free throws and 76.6% of their subsequent free throws.

But during games they typically shoot two free throws at a time, not twenty in a row. Can you guess what their average free throw percentage is during games? And what does that tell us about training teams?

A simple, powerful technique to improve communications – the “convey”

Written by Scott Tannenbaum on .

Communication is at the heart of teamwork, right? Recently, I observed the following.

A management team was trying to make a decision. Two team members kept stating information in support of their respective positions. They each dug deeper and deeper trenches around their positions, even repeating what they had already said to make their case. It was as if each person had made up his mind, wouldn't say anything that didn't directly support his opinion, and couldn't consider alternatives. Mega phone talk iStock 000012200353XSmall

I'm sure you've witnessed this type of communication pattern. I see it frequently, and unfortunately, a team can't make optimal decisions if they are communicating in this manner. The good news is there is a simple technique that can be used to help reduce this cycle of entrenchment. Let's call it the "convey."

Got my back? Backup behavior doesn’t happen by chance.

Written by Scott Tannenbaum on .

My recent 2-day business trip to Texas was unexpectedly extended due to a snow storm in the Northeast,Got my back so I needed to buy clothing. I went to a Nordstrom's because I'd experienced good service at their stores in the past. What I observed during this visit was a nice illustration of "seamless backup," a phenomenon that many high-performance teams demonstrate. So what is seamless backup and how does it happen? Read on...

Faultlines can divide your team. Be aware and be smart!

Written by Scott Tannenbaum on .

Imagine a six-person team. Three team members are in their early twenties and possess strong technical backgrounds. Two others are in early forties and trained as finance MBAs. Can you see a potential "faultline" in this team?

Crack in white iStock 000019390460XSmall

Researchers define a faultline as a hypothetical dividing line that splits a group into two or more subgroups. When team members identify more closely with some members of their team due to shared characteristics -- age, gender, ethnicity, education, occupation, physical location – the stage is set for the formation of subgroups.

Here's the bad news. Research shows that teams with faultlines are prone to problems. And in my experience, most teams have some potential faultlines. So, what do you need to know about faultlines and what can you do about them?

You can't hide a dysfunctional leadership team

Written by Scott Tannenbaum on .

How important is teamwork within a leadership team? We know that on average, teams that demonstrate better teamwork will outperform other teams. And that applies to leadership teams – teamwork can help them be more effective. But there's more to it than that.

Over the years I've noticed that the way in which members of a leadership team interact with and talk about one another sends a strong signal about teamwork to the rest of the organization. For example, when a leader disparages other units, leaders, or functions, "his people" learn that such behavior is acceptable and that cooperation is optional. When a leader squelches input or dissent, it sends the message that it is a one-man show, not a team. I've seen leaders ask members of their organization to collaborate while at the same time taking visible actions that demonstrate that teamwork doesn't matter. When this happens, their behavior trumps their words. Man Behind Hands iStock adjustedSmall

Observable behaviors and interactions among top management team members provide a visible blueprint about teamwork for the organization. But what about the way the team works together behind closed doors? Can a leadership team hide their dysfunctions? Recent research suggests that they can't...