Measuring Team Engagement

MeasuringIn my first article, “Are you a Connected Member” I discussed how you can learn to be a better team member and help your work group be effective.  I shared that it may seem unlikely that there could be anything new to learn about what makes teams effective, but there is.  In the article I shared that every team is a unique social unit. The quality of members’ social interactions —both intra-team and inter-team — determines project success or failure. Each member contributes to group outcomes — and some more so than others.

How do we know that social sensitivity outweighs all other factors in team effectiveness? Scientists are using new technology to measure the degree of social interaction in organizations.

Professor Alex Pentland’s Human Dynamic Lab at MIT invented a sociometric badge, worn on people’s clothing. It has the technology to measure the tone of voice a person uses, whether people are facing one another while talking, how much they gesture, how much they talk, listen, and interrupt one another.

A sociometer doesn’t record the words people say, as they are determined irrelevant in measures of interactions. Here are some of their findings:

  1. Successful team members generate a large number of ideas in short contributions to conversations. No one goes on for great length.
  2. They engage in “dense interactions;” that is, they alternate between advancing their own ideas and responding to the contributions of others with “good,” “right,” “what?” and other short comments that signal consensus on an idea’s value, good or bad.
  3. Successful members contribute ideas and reactions, taking turns more or less equally, ensuring a wide diversity of ideas.

The above findings are embedded in the SEMCO Group Emotional Intelligence program offered by The Liautaud Institute, in which I am Chief Learning Officer. These three elements of interaction are more important than any other factor in explaining excellent performance of the best teams. In fact, they were about as important as all the other factors — individual intelligence, technical skills, members’ personalities and anything else — combined.

Team-Based Social Interactions

Human interaction in teams is so powerful that increasing it just a little improves group performance a lot. Here’s a case study, reported in Geoff Golvin’s book, Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will (Portfolio, 2015):

In a Bank of America call center of 3,000 employees, productivity vastly improved simply by changing the schedule of break times so that workers spent more time together socially. When the bank switched to aligned team breaks, productivity rose and turnover fell. Performance improved as workers had more time to interact with each other. The bank estimated a savings of $15 million a year.

In my work at The Liautaud Institute, I’ve seen companies spend a lot of money to try to boost performance. However, the above example of how aligning breaks so that more team members can interact socially does the trick. It didn’t cost a penny, and it saved $15 million in turnover and lost productivity.  The SEMCO group program (Systemic Empowerment Communites) serves three biogenic human needs:

Membership:  the need to be part of something bigger than oneself Connection

Empowerment:  the need to innovate and improve one’s work environment, job or careerContribution

Meaning/Purpose:  the need to end the day feeling you made a difference aligned with your Purpose

Groups that completed the SEMCO program showed an average 23%increse in group emotional intelligence, higher engagement scores and higher social attractiveness.  Yes, positive social interactions do yield bottom line results!

How can you encourage more social interaction in your company? What’s been your experience? I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here and on LinkedIn.





About the Author

Cynthia Kivland, Author and President Smart2Smarter Coaching, Training and Assessment Services has over twenty five years of accomplished career and leadership coaching experience working with very smart people, leaders and teams including MBA’s, military, scientists, CEO’s, and healthcare professionals. Join Cynthia’s Career and Workplace Resilience group on LinkedIn. To have a chat about emotional intelligence coaching, training and career resilience resources Contact Cynthia.

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Empathy in the Data Age

empathydefI’ve been thinking about my last blog post, Business Case for Empathy that discussed how workplaces need to demonstrate more empathy.  In the work I do coaching leaders and consulting with organizations, I often teach or coach on how to develop an emotionally smart and socially respectful and civil culture; especially in this “Need it Now Virtual Information Age”

Most organizations, and their leaders, spend more work time on data, than face-to-face employee or customer contact. It’s important to remember that we are intrinsically social animals, with an innate ability to sense what others are thinking and feeling.  We just need to design our leadership style and environment to engage in more people to people contact.

Late last century, four Italian neuroscientists discovered how the social brain works, and this discovery provided understanding and tools to increase and demonstrate empathy.  Giacomo Rizzolatti and his

colleagues at the University of Parma in Italy wanted to understand how our brains work when we take action.  The researchers studied the brains of monkeys.  One day as a neuroscientist picked up a peanut in the lab, a monkey watched him closely.  This monkey’s premotor neurons fired just as they had earlier when the monkey had picked up the peanut himself. This was new and the scientists could hardly believe what they had witnessed.  They called these special neurons as mirror neurons.


It’s mirror neurons that let us see the world through the eyes of other people and enables you to understand the meaning of other people’s actions. Mirrored neurons are the hard wiring behind empathy.   Empathy lets leaders “get a feel” of what’s going on with other people, what they feel and what they think. When leaders establish an empathic connection, it gives them that “sixth sense” mirrored neuron learning on what matters most to people, what motivates them and what they value. .


When leaders stay in face to face contact with colleagues, peers and customers, they have a better sense of what’s going on in the world.  And often, you’ll have an “edge” on competitors at spotting new opportunities and forging deeper relationships.

Large institutions often choose to rely on data, employee satisfaction surveys or market research for information on customer or staff experiences. They choose to lessen the amount of time in face-to-face interactions, critical to creating a mirrored neuron moment to reinforce, and often, strengthen the relationship. These leaders become emotionally distant from their customers’ and employee’s day-to-day needs, wants and dreams. In the words of Polish philosopher Alfred Korzybski, the map is not the territory.

Harley-Davidson is one notable exception, its office a shrine to the motorcycle culture the company helped create. Offices display photos, memorabilia and banners from rallies. Customers and employees ride together. Engineers, accountants and administrative staff acquire an intuitive understanding of the customers who buy their products.

Harley-Davidson’s leaders mandate that company executives spend measurable time on the streets with motorcycle riders. While many employees don’t ride, the company nonetheless instills its lifestyle and values. Empathy is a key element of this corporate strategy.

In many workplaces, however, this is not the case. Instead of opportunities to mingle with customers, employees, marketing and human resource departments rely on data to identify the demographical needs of their customers or staff. . They spend money and time monitoring web browsing history and the ads people select or choose to click, and based on that data, they make product and staff decisions.

How about in your place of work? In what ways are there missed opportunities to make an emotional connection with your team or customer? I’d love to hear from you.

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Are You a Connected Team Member?

betterteamemberHow to be a Better Team Member

How can you be a better team member and help your work group be effective? It may seem unlikely that there could be anything new to learn about what makes teams effective, but there is.

More than ever before, todays’ work gets done in teams and your ability to contribute as a member is vital to your career success.

Every team is a unique social unit. The quality of members’ social interactions —both intra-team and inter-team — determines project success or failure. Each member contributes to group outcomes — and some more so than others.

But until recently, there hasn’t been much specific advice on how to improve your value as a team member. You’ve probably been advised to “display empathy,” “respect diversity,” and communicate and share openly. As a team member, you’re directed to work for common goals rather than focusing on personal success.

Sometimes team members are evaluated on factors like leadership, technical skills, vision, communication, and motivation. But although these matter, they’re not nearly as important as social skills.

Deep Human Interactions

Research using ever more sophisticated measurement and observation technology has now determined that the number one factor in making a group effective is skill at deep human interactions.

But what does that mean? How does that show up during daily tasks? Effective team members demonstrate consistent social skills, like noticing the subtlest elements of social cues: a furrowed brow, a smile, a desire to speak up.

I’ve been intrigued by social interactions from my work coaching people in companies. Researchers have studied groups for years. They’ve learned that intelligence doesn’t explain a group’s effectiveness, nor does group cohesion, motivation, or satisfaction. Stability of the team and its size matters only a little.

Furthermore, following lofty ideals doesn’t bring about a significant impact on team effectiveness although these are certainly beneficial:

  1. Having a clear, challenging, meaningful vision
  2. Specifying well-defined roles and responsibilities
  3. Giving members appropriate rewards, recognition, and resources

Such concepts are fine but don’t determine the success of teams. There is only one ability that stands out in people who are great team members: they all have great social sensitivity.

Social Sensitivity

Social sensitivity is the ability to perceive people’s thoughts and feelings based on looking at their faces and other nonverbal cues. Social sensitivity shows up when team members read body language, take turns talking and listen well. Not surprisingly, many women perform better than men in measures of social sensitivity.

My next article on effective team member will focus on the “sociometer”.

What’s your opinion? What do you notice about your most effective team members? I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here and on LinkedIn.

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Achieve More By Doing Less | Mindful

Don’t get addicted to busyness, or let it become a badge of honor. You can do less—and feel good about it. Christine Carter shows you how.


Great article and graphic to achieve manage busyness to FOCUS on what really matters to the company, the team and to you.

See on Scoop.itSMARTER Emotions Every Employer Wants

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