The reason it is difficult to achieve the prerequisite for team performance is because the skills involved are not valued in today’s U.S. workforce. The prerequisite for team performance is meeting the social needs of team members. Social needs, in turn, are the number one trigger of emotions according to Dr. Vanessa Druskat (Episode 24 at http://scienceofsuccess.libsyn.com/podcast). Because the upper echelons of U.S. organizations are still predominantly men (http://www.catalyst.org/), U.S. workforces value emotions according to the social expectations for men. Specifically, in the United States, men are expected to exercise emotional control, be rational, and use emotions for performance (Thory K., “A Gendered Analysis of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Issues and Concerns for Human Resource Development,” 2012, Human Resource Development Review, 12(2), 221-244). While meeting social needs correlates with team performance, the link between emotions and performance for men typically has nothing to do with social needs.
While meeting social needs correlates with team performance, the link between emotions and performance for men typically has nothing to do with social needs.
While U.S. workforces don’t value the meeting of social needs, social needs are critical to our survival. Both Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the social brain hypothesis point to the importance of social needs to our survival.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs puts our social needs right after our basic physical needs in terms of importance to our survival (https://www.simplypsychology.org). In addition, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs puts our social needs ahead of our need for growth and significance.
The social brain hypothesis shows that our brain is wired primarily for our social interactions. Specifically, the size of an animal’s brain has been found to correlate with the extent of that animal’s social interactions (Dunbar R., “The social brain hypothesis and its implications for social evolution,” Ann. Hum. Biol., Sept-Oct 2009, 36(5): 562-572). Human brains are significantly larger on a relative basis compared to all other animals because our need for social interaction is the greatest.
Because social interactions are viewed as complex enough to require a larger brain, it should come as no surprise that there are more recent theories of human needs than Maslow’s hierarchy that reveal more complexity in social needs. For example, economist Dr. Manfred Max Neef has developed a matrix of human needs and satisfiers with 36 elements of which 31 or 86 percent of the elements are social needs (http://www.alastairmcintosh.com/general/resources/2007-Manfred-Max-Neef-Fundamental-Human-Needs.pdf). In addition, sociologist Dr. Hugh Mackay has developed a list of 10 social needs that drive our behavior. There is still likely more to understand about our social needs.
Dr. Vanessa Druskat and her research team have found that there are three primary social needs in work settings (http://morethansound.net/author/vanessa-druskat/). In addition, these three social needs are universal across gender, culture, and country. The three social needs are to be included and respected, to have control in order to maintain safety, and to have a shared sense of reality for an accurate understanding of what is happening. Dr. Druskat also separately formulated nine team norms to help teams improve performance (Druskat V.U. and Wolff S.B., “Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups,” Harvard Business Review, March 2001, 81-90). Assessing these nine team norms relative to the three social needs reveals additional facets of the needs. For example, control to maintain safety is also about empowering team members to adopt behaviors that improve individual and team performance and to stop behaviors that degrade individual and team performance.
Another tool focused on improving team performance is the Team Collaboration Assessment tool (https://mkt.com/fulcrumconnection/item/team-collaboration-assessment-1). Assessing the elements of this tool relative to the three social norms above reveals even more facets of the needs. For example, control to maintain safety in a team is not only about empowering team members, but is also about transparent team process, effective conflict resolution, and intrinsic commitment of team members to the team’s goal. Furthermore, the need for a shared reality applies both within the team and within the greater ecosystem that the team is a part of both within the organization and outside of the organization. The need for a shared reality also encompasses both content and context considerations within these realms of the team’s work.
The social needs framework provided by Dr. Vanessa Druskat provides a powerful lens to behaviors that promote high-performance teamwork. The framework is not only applicable to the 9 team norms that Dr. Druskat found to promote high performance in teams but is also applicable to the Team Collaboration Assessment tool developed by Dr. Valerie Patrick who has over 10,000 hours of experience leading teams in a corporate environment.
Social needs are something we don’t typically talk about in the workplace – the proverbial elephant in the room. Having tools to assess how well social needs are being met provides a way to talk about this elephant in the room which is at the core of team performance.