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Parlay Collective Intelligence: Through Engendering Trust & Accountability

Business success depends upon team success.

In today’s business it’s obvious…or it should be, that each of us has only a part of the expertise or information we need to get our jobs done.

However, success is not about gathering resources to you. The American independent, entrepreneurial spirit can only go so far these days. Success comes from fully leveraging the skills and attributes of every member of the team.

Intelligence does not stop at my skin.

Howard Gardner

In his seminal work, Frames of Mind, Howard Gardner discussed the importance of his network of associates ‘…office mates, professional colleagues, others whom I can dispatch electronic messages and my computer [links] are important.’

As Robert Kelley (Carnegie-Mellon University) demonstrated, the amount of knowledge needed for your role is huge, and the proportion you can retain is diminishing year on year. Across just one decade, respondents in his studies indicated that the percentage of knowledge needed to do their job, which was stored in their own minds, dropped from 75 to 15–20%.

In 21st century business, it’s evident that we need each other. Additionally, though, the collective intelligence resulting from the group mind, is frequently smarter and can generally make better choices than the individual.

Groups outperform individuals

In exam situations, students who worked in teams outscored even the very best individuals 97% of the time.

More anecdotally, have you noticed that in the television show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” that the audiences’ answer is right more often than the so-called expert that a contestant queried over the telephone?

As an executive or leader, you’re not just looking for your teams to work together, you’re looking for them to work optimally. Some groups/teams out-perform others because of some very important reasons.

Superior intellect and technical talents alone do not make people effective team members. All things being equal, the team that works better as a team will out-score and out-perform teams where the members do not function well together, regardless of the teams’ respective intellectual abilities.

Social effectiveness of the group predicted how well it would do, more than did the individual IQs of its members.

Wendy Williams, Robert Sternberg

In their group IQ study, Wendy Williams and Robert Sternberg, found that group members’ interpersonal skills and compatibility emerged as key to their performance.

Internal harmony

Team members who are socially inept and out of tune with others’ feelings, become a drag on the whole effort — especially if the group lacks the ability to resolve differences or communicate effectively.

Groups perform better when they foster a state of internal harmony. Such groups leverage the full talent of their members.

Wendy Williams, Robert Sternberg

Now, internal harmony does not equate to complacency. I’ve helped some highly motivated, assertive teams improve how they work together, and they didn’t miss a beat. In fact, they got more done because less time was spent on dealing with interpersonal B.S. that undermined how they functioned.

According to Daniel Goleman of Harvard, “lubricating the mechanism of the group mind so that it can think, and act brilliantly, demands emotional intelligence.

Engender trust

So, how do you build internal harmony and collective emotional intelligence? The primary task is to engender trust. Once you develop trust, you can work toward collaboration. Then the fun begins. Because team members who trust one another can collaborate to help each other develop.

Your team will trust you, and each other, if you lead with integrity and accountability, tell the truth, and are an advocate for your team members. Explore more about trust in my related executive briefing.

Your fellow team members are in the best position to provide developmental insight, encouragement, and reinforcement to help you, and each other. And, through mutual accountability, you can keep each other on task. The team that holds each other accountable for developmental commitments will grow together.

Books and articles cited in this briefing:

  1. Working with Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman

Carl is a business psychologist and leadership development expert who focuses on the development of high performance leaders. www.leadershipconsulting.com

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