From shared speaking to group tea breaks. How to build a thriving team.


For navigating times of challenge or growth, teams that work well together and get results are vital. But what makes one set of people click and another, at best, just rub along?

Research across different industry sectors and countries has thrown up some interesting common factors. Here are six insights that every procurement head should know to help their team fire on all cylinders:

1. Get the basics right

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the pyramid of needs that people need to be happy and fulfilled. If the lowest levels aren’t met then they cannot move up to the next level.

A comfortable, secure and safe environment is all part of this.

Ways to achieve this could include ensuring team members are suitably rewarded and financially motivated, that good food and drink is available and the workplace is warm, welcoming and comfortable.

Part of ensuring security includes keeping everyone in the loop about changes in the workplace. If employees are not communicated properly with about redundancies or mergers, they are likely to feel insecure and less motivated.

2. Equal opportunities to speak

One striking common factor that Google discovered in its analysis of effective teams was that the members of high performing teams spoke in approximately the same proportion to each other.

Researchers noticed that in these teams, everyone spoke during each task and that even when leadership shifted among teammates on different projects, by the end of a day everyone had spoken roughly the same amount.

It was noted that when one person dominated the conversation, or if some people had less opportunity to speak, those teams performed less well.

3. Tune in

Being socially ‘sensitive’ to other team members makes a difference to performance. In teams where individuals have a high sense of awareness of how others are feeling and are, in other words, emotionally intelligent, they are more likely to let each other speak and listen to other opinions, to the ultimate benefit of the whole team.

Research has shown that successful teams have members that are skilled at understanding how others are feeling by being aware of their tone of voice, expressions and other nonverbal cues. Team members will also recognise when someone is feeling less happy or excluded and ensure they are better involved.

4. Create ‘psychological safety’

The clue to achieving much of the above is said to lie in making team members feel ‘psychologically safe.’

Psychologists report that most of the time, people do not want to be one person in the office and another at home. While productivity and efficiency are understandable organisational goals, to achieve them employers need to give people the ability to talk about relevant issues and express their views, personal and professional, without fear of these being dismissed.

Rather than let individuals feel that they have to be in ‘work mode’ when they reach the office, better results will be gleaned if they are able to talk relatively freely.

5. Set a lead

Team leaders can encourage individuals to contribute more if they set an example by explaining that they don’t have all the answers and need the group to help make the project a success. This could include opening up about their own challenges and being clear about the contribution others can make and the difference this will bring.

Team heads are said to be more likely to succeed by being explicit about any uncertainty ahead. Researchers have found that where team leaders make it clear that there is much to do that involves everyone and everyone’s brains and instincts will make a big difference, teams are more likely to work better.

6. Take a break together

Taking tea breaks at the same time and place could be a real team builder, according to one piece of valuable research, which discovered that ‘how’ teams communicated was more important than their individuals’ skills and expertise.

Badges were placed on individuals in different teams by researchers, which measured the communication patterns of about 2,500 people, for up to six weeks at a time. These badges were able to measure what tone of voice people used, whether they faced each another, their gestures and how much they talked, listened and interrupted. After analysing the data, the researchers found that the best predictors of productivity were team energy and engagement outside formal meetings.

When participating organisations encouraged less successful teams to take their coffee breaks at the same time, there was a clear and distinct rise in their productivity and profitability.

Encouraging teams to sit and chat most days, away from their desks, could make all the difference.

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