The ‘Hard’ Stuff is Easy, the ‘Soft’ Stuff is Hard

In any human endeavor, getting the optimum out of all these flow charts, work processes, team strategies still depends upon the confidence, tenacity, optimism and enthusiasm of the players. We all have our own thoughts on what constitutes the key attributes of successful teams and the  characteristics of effective team players.

Before you continue reading, please take a moment to make a list of those attributes that come quickly to your mind.  Your list and mine may  contain different adjectives but on one thing we’d both likely agree on is that we know a great team when we encounter it. Now complete this sentence.. ” From my experience, the key factor that most affects the performance of a team is…….”

Alex Pentland, an MIT professor, suggests from his research that the answer is just “one person.” According to Dr. Pentland, this “person” is active outside formal meetings, bringing connection and:

  • listening and asking questions of each team member;
  • picking up cues from others;
  • drawing people out;
  • moving from person to person “infecting them with enthusiasm”.

Dr. Pentland claims that in high-pressure environments, it is not the intelligence, the personality, or even the substance of the discussion within a team, but the level of enthusiasm  that occurs outside of meetings, triggered by “one person”, that makes the difference.

What’s your reaction to Dr Pentland’s claim? Surprised? Where in the organizational structure would you expect to find this “person”?

Your experiences can help us all have more productive teams. Thanks for sharing!

About Alex Pollock

Alex Pollock has been studying leadership effectiveness for more than 30 years. A former leader in environment, health and safety, and public affairs at The Dow Chemical Co., he learned that we all have leadership roles to play. He enjoys discussing new ideas and sharing practical ways we can all become better leaders.

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