Raising Team IQ

by Bob Walsh

If you are leading or managing a team, then it’s your responsibility to do help them perform the best way they can. But that’s not always easy – and the right way to do it is not always obvious.

Interestingly, it’s not so much about bigger budgets or fancier offices, than it is about how you can raise the IQ of the team.

Now what exactly is team intelligence in the first place?

Well, it is not the total sum of the IQs of each of the team members.

And it is not the IQ of the team member with the highest or lowest IQ.

A group of low IQ people could have a higher team IQ than a group of high IQ people if their interactions with each other are of a higher quality.

So what can you, as a team leader or manager, do in order to raise team IQ?

Well, there are several things.

Equal Involvement

For one, make sure that everyone is involved. Studies have shown that those teams where one person dominates the conversation and takes up the majority of time aren’t as effective as those groups where team members are more or less equally engaged. The same is true for those who do not participate in the group and just sit on the side listening. They should be encouraged to participate and bring themselves in more, while those who talk too much should be encouraged to listen more and let others contribute too.

The Right Team Members

When you build a team it’s much better to bring in the right people from the start, rather than to bring in the wrong people and try to fix them. You want people who are attuned to each other, paying attention to social cues and have a good awareness of the other team members state. On a related note – it doesn’t hurt to have a good amount of women on the team, because they are in general more socially sensitive.

Real Encounters

With todays technologies, it’s easy and efficient to get work done with emails and voice messages – but research has shown that the teams with the highest team IQ also spend a lot of face-to-face time. This is probably related to the previous point, because when you actually see someone while interacting with them (rather than just reading an email or talking on the phone) you pick up more social signals. If for some reason you can’t get your team members to spend time in the same room together (maybe because they’re in different cities), then at least set up video-conference meetings.

Talk About Process

While many team members often want to “get right to it” – this is not the best approach. It makes sense to establish how a team is going to work together – of course, not to the point where you don’t get any work done.

Split The Work

It’s also important that when you define a goal and the tasks that need to be accomplished, you have a way of breaking these tasks down and assigning them to different team members. You don’t need (and should have) all of the team members work on each of the tasks.

Think about a T-shirt factory with 100 employees. It’s not like every employee is making a T-Shirt from scratch. Instead, each one has a certain job that makes the whole team a lot more effective, because they can focus on one part of the job. Of course, the comparison to a factory might not be the most attractive, and I sure don’t mean to suggest that you should be doing “mindless factory team work”, but when it comes to assigning tasks to different people factories are probably the best example for efficiency.

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