How to Improve Team Performance with Whole Brain® Thinking

recent University of Phoenix study found that less than a quarter of workers prefer to work on teams. When you hear some of the war stories of confrontations, scapegoating, blame and other forms of dysfunction, it’s not hard to see why.

As a result, no matter how talented the individual members are on their own, teams often fail to live up to their promise. Silo mentalities and single-minded thinking lead to communication breakdowns, conflict, missed deadlines and uninspired ideas. In spite of the team members’ skills and experience, their efforts ultimately result in delayed projects, second-rate solutions and a lot of frustrated people.

Team dynamics have changed. Telecommuting grew by 73% between 2005 and 2011, and estimates show more than five million workers will be telecommuting by 2016.

The challenges only intensify when team members rarely, if ever, see each other”a situation that’s becoming more common by the day. According to the Telework Research Network, telecommuting grew by 73% between 2005 and 2011, and the organization estimates more than five million workers will be telecommuting by 2016. For many of these teams, face-to-face time may be limited to a Skype screen, and its members may never actually meet in person.

All of the contemporary research on teams shows that trust among members is essential to effective teamwork. Building trust is never easy, but without the benefit of proximity, non-verbal cues and a common background or culture, the task becomes that much more difficult. A survey on the challenges of working in virtual teams bears this out: Respondents said they struggle the most with the inability to read non-verbal cues (94%), the absence of collegiality (85%), a difficulty establishing rapport and trust (81%), and a difficulty in seeing the whole picture (77%).

Organizational success depends more and more on the power of teams. Whether the members are working across the hall from each other or across time zones and countries, we need them operating at peak performance.


If you want to improve team performance, reduce team conflict and create productive project teams, you have to pay attention what drives the team’s interactions and results: its thinking.

Teams that understand how their thinking preferences affect behaviors, processes and outcomes are able to build trust faster and move past common productivity-killing roadblocks that slow others down. In fact, one study found that cognitively diverse teams that know how to manage and apply their thinking are 66% more efficient than others.

Yes, behaviors matter. But too many organizations try to address team conflict resolution or improve performance by focusing on the behaviors creating the interpersonal issues first”and they end up with only a temporary fix at best. Not only can behaviors be affected by a variety of external factors, this approach doesn’t take into account the thinking driving the behaviors.

A focus on thinking provides a clear, nonjudgmental starting point for teams to get a picture of who they are. Regardless of their make-up and whether they’re virtual or co-located, teams run on thinking. By helping members understand how they prefer to think and how those preferences affect their approaches to communication, collaboration and work flows, you give them a shared foundation they can all agree on and a common, easy-to-use language to move forward with.

That shared foundation goes a long way towards building trust. A study of globally distributed teams found that teams with the lowest levels of trust also had unpredictable communication patterns, with a few team members dominating the communications. Although everyone talks about the need for more communication, ultimately it’s the quality and consistency of the communication that really count.

More than just increasing a team’s efficiency, however, thinking is the catalyst for increasing a team’s effectiveness, too.

Once they understand the importance of different perspectives and how each person’s thinking adds value, team members can learn how to tap into their full diversity of thought to come up with and deliver on the game-changing ideas that will set your organization apart.

And capitalizing on that cognitive diversity has never been more essential: Today’s complex issues and competitive pressures demand it. Contemporary research confirms that the best solutions and most innovative ideas come from the combination of all four thinking preferences.

How Whole Brain® Thinking Helps Improve Team Productivity

The Whole Brain® Thinking system will help your teams build trust and take advantage of their best thinking and talents to:

  • Manage projects more effectively
  • Come up with more unique ideas
  • Make smarter decisions
  • Solve problems faster and more thoroughly
  • Eliminate the frustrations and miscommunications that slow down progress and get the in way of results

Need to Improve Teamwork?

Discover a different approach to building a culture of teamwork with our ThinkAbout Teams learning module

Understand How Your Team Thinks

With the HBDI® Team Profile, you can build high performing teams that can outthink your greatest business challenges