Leadership and teamwork psychology for teams looking to excel

Estimated reading time
4 minutes
22nd June 2022
Author: Ollie Taylor
Posted in: Psychology & Science, Strategy & Planning

In the wild, turtles are solitary animals that barely ever interact with each other. They rarely have any need for leadership and teamwork.

But Turtl is a business that, just like any other, has leadership and teamwork at the forefront of our minds.

That’s why we’re taking the Turtl approach, and looking into the psychology of leadership and teamwork. Let’s look into what makes a good team player, the qualities of a good team leader, and how Turtl can help both excel.


The psychology of team environments

Frequent visitors will know that psychology is a real buzzword at Turtl, which is why we’re beginning this exploration into the psychology of leadership and teamwork by looking back into our shared past.

The way in which humans have evolved means that all sorts of instincts that ensured our ancestors survived and thrived are still embedded in our genetics. These ingrained, ancient responses crop up in 21st-century life in unusual ways.

In the case of work environments – and teamwork environments – the most important genetic reactions to understand are the responses to threats and rewards. In the past, reacting to threats appropriately would teach our ancestors how to best ensure survival and avoid harm. While benefiting from rewards taught humanity to not just survive, but to thrive.

Transferred to the modern office environment however, where life and death situations are less commonplace, the threats and rewards experienced by our ancestors are no longer transferable. Yet the psychological responses and resultant emotions still occur in all of us.

As a result, they are often now referred to as perceived threats and perceived rewards. At its most basic level, successful team environments remove or minimize perceived threats and maximize perceived rewards. 

Psychology of leadership and teamwork: Image 1. Flow chart showing responses to threats and rewards 

The psychology of a good team player 

The purpose of a team is simple; to be greater than the sum of its parts and to achieve more than an individual would ever be capable of. But this requires a certain way of thinking.

To be a good team player, a person has to have a degree of humility and empathy.

Understanding that every member of a team plays an equally important, but different, role is one of the most important concepts a good team player can realize. 

Relying on fellow team members to achieve common goals can also have other psychological benefits. Knowing that your team has your back means you’re more likely to take a risk with a new idea or innovation that could be the breakthrough market disruptor, or the big money maker. So it pays to be trusting.    

All-rounders are hard to come by, and they aren’t necessarily more productive than a well-motivated team. So collaboration is key. Having different team members responsible for different tasks can increase productivity hugely. This was the principle that underpinned the production line and revolutionized modern industry.

It is also one of the features that makes Turtl a powerful tool for teams. Read for yourself how Turtl reduced Informa Markets’ proposal production time by 90% by enabling team members to work together more efficiently

Psychology of leadership and teamwork: Image 1. Spider chart showing attributes of a team player

 

The psychology of a good leader

Next, we need to get inside the head of a team leader; the one responsible for building and maintaining a high-performing team. 

Leaders should drive the direction of their team and foster the conditions for success. But this drive won’t always look the same. Copying and pasting the leadership tactics used by the captain of an U9s synchronised swimming team into your marketing department’s strategy, wouldn’t be an effective way of achieving your KPIs.

That said, more and more studies into leadership are churning out the same results; authentic leadership, with clear channels of communication, and genuine understanding facilitate great team environments. 

This boils down once again to those instinctive threats and rewards. A leader’s words and actions can be the catalyst for a fight or flight response in a team member. Thoughtless feedback could easily be interpreted as a perceived threat. Similarly, carefully dished out positivity and affirmation can be the perceived reward team members are looking for.

One study took a sample of managers and mapped the areas of their brains that reacted when asked to recall a good leader they had worked with. They then compared these areas of activity with those seen when thinking about a poor leader they had dealt with.  

Thinking about positive leadership experiences activated 14 areas of the brain that are typically associated with excitement and positive attention.

Having to think back to the negative leader saw only 6 areas activate, and these are areas more typically associated with narrowing of attention and lowered compassion. 

It pays off for leaders to keep this in mind when forging relationships with team members. Leaders should get to know their team members and their behavioral strengths (as well as their own). As an excited team is much easier to draw results from than one with narrowed attention.

In fact, getting to know everybody you’re working with – including your audience – can have great payoffs. See for yourself the benefits that personalization can bring here.

Explore Turtl’s insight into the psychology of leadership and teamwork by surfing through our Guide for Marketers on Agile Leadership below ⤵

gif flipping through Turtl Doc

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