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Team Players: How Social Skills Improve Group Performance

Updated: Dec 12, 2023


Overview

Most jobs require teamwork. Are some people good team players? In this paper, we design and test a new method for identifying individual contributions to team production. We randomly assign people to multiple teams and predict team performance based on previously assessed individual skills. Some people consistently cause their team to exceed its predicted performance. We call these individuals “team players.” Team players score significantly higher on a well-established measure of emotional intelligence, but do not differ across a variety of other dimensions, including IQ, personality, education, and gender. Social skills - operationalized as a single latent factor that combines social intelligence scores with the team player effect - improve team performance about as much as IQ.


Key Empirical Findings

  • In our lab, individuals can help their team by being good at the tasks the group is working on (e.g. solving number puzzles or memory) and/or being good at teamwork. Our approach allows us to identify both contributions. We find that being one standard deviation higher on teamwork causally increases team performance by 0.13 standard deviations. This equivalent effect for being good at tasks is 0.2 standard deviations. In other words, teamwork skills are worth about 65% as much as being good at the tasks.

  • Our measure of teamwork skill is positively associated with a well-known measure of emotional perceptiveness: the Reading the Eyes in the Mind Test.


To read the full paper, click here.

To view our appendix, click here.

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