What’s the relationship between high-powered individuals and building effective teams? New research from the Haas School of Business at the University of California suggests that it’s more intricate than many people might assume.

To explore the issue, let me take you back to June 2012, when Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy created quite a stir on the internet with a TED talk focussing on a radical new preparation technique for job interviews. She called it “power-posing”, a method that involves adopting a physical posture conveying a sense of power (e.g., standing with arms akimbo). Doing this for just two minutes, Cuddy’s research had found, could alter blood hormone levels measurable: testosterone levels increased, while stress hormones (cortisols) dropped.

The net result was that people doing this before interview felt more confident. In her study, those who practised the technique before interview were regarded as better job candidates than those who didn’t.

So far, so good. But it’s what happens next, after the interview, that really matters for those of us who are concerned with building effective teams. Is feeling powerful like in that post-power-posed ‘testosterone high’ good for day-to-day work with colleagues?

The answer from the Haas Business School researchers is “It all depends…” To put it bluntly, feeling personally powerful is great for some tasks, but pretty destructive for others. And one of the implications of this ingenious research is that team members may need to cultivate the art of knowing when to deploy their individual power, and when to “check their egos at the door”, in the words of US Air Force Tactical Air Control Party political science instructor at the United States Air Force Academy, Captain Brad DeWees.

Senior military figures like DeWees know a lot about building effective teams – the lives of their troops and the people they’re protecting depend on it.

Next time, I’ll elaborate on the Haas study to pinpoint when to ‘get powerful’ and when to leave your ego at the door.

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