At Vantage, when we talk about high performing teams — and we’ve been talking about them a fair bit recently (for example, here and here) — we always refer to our Model:


The higher your team rates themselves in each of these five dimensions, the stronger your team will perform.  To prove our point, check out this case study from a senior team at Whirlpool.


While backed by extensive research, the model does makes intuitive sense: if you talk to each other openly and often, give and take criticism constructively, believe you have the same goal in mind, go after that goal, and like each other while doing it, your team is more likely to achieve their goal than a team made of people who don’t like each other, or don’t talk to each other, or have competing objectives.


With the Vantage HPT model in mind, this article from New York Magazine on Work Best Friends got us thinking. Having a best friend at work, it says, is one of the strongest predictors of employee productivity. Doesn’t it seem like having a best friend –someone you talk with about things not related to work – would be ultimately more distracting than helpful? We all remember being separated from our best friend by an elementary teacher in hopes of increasing our focus. Why does having a best friend at work make you a more productive worker?


On top of just generally making one feel happier, best friends working together can make great teams.  If we return to our childhood memories, we’ll remember one of the Rules of Best Friends is that they tell each other everything, good and bad. Best friends argue, but never stay angry. Best friends trust each other; best friends like each other; best friends feel responsible for and to each other. Three of our five dimensions of a great team can easily be said to define best friendship: Mutual Respect and Camaraderie, Transparent Communication, Constructive Conflict.


The work environment itself can add the remaining two dimensions that best friends are primed to embrace – Shared Accountability for Results, Shared Commitment to the Vision & Extraordinary Goal — resulting in a microcosm of a high performance team. The article referenced a study which states that best friends who work together towards a goal are “more committed at the start of a project, showed better communication while doing the activity, and offered teammates positive encouragement every step of the way. They also evaluated ideas more critically and gave one another feedback when they were off course”. Gallup, who uses this question of whether employees have work best friends as part of their Q12 engagement survey, notes that the most productive workgroups have the highest agreement on this question.


Is this to say that a high performing team needs to be made up of best friends? Not by any means. But maybe it does say that organizations should pay more attention to ‘best friendship’ characteristics, such as being mutually committed to a goal, constructively critical, transparent and respectful, when building a team for success.


What do you think?


Do you have a best friend on your team? Does it make a difference?


When your organization is building a team, what kinds of characteristics are taken into account?