More than inviting everyone to the table—a given, learn how social networks improve team performance.

So far in this top-performing teams series, we’ve talked about how infusing timeless truths about how to be and how to treat people builds integrity and how fostering authenticity builds emotional intelligence.  While these determine how one shows up in the world and interacts with others, changes in either of them begin inside an individual and thus are not initially apparent.

The next two parts of the Trust Infusion model—inclusive networks and effective communication—are more visible externally.  It’s easy to see who is included and interactions can be observed in the moment.

In this post, we’ll turn our attention to inclusive networks and structures.  Inclusive structures consist of inviting everyone to the table with the intention of ensuring that each person has a meaningful voice.  When it is not feasible to invite everyone, such as in a large organization, all key stakeholder groups should be represented.

Inclusive networks refer to formal and informal social networks that people are invited to be part of.  Social networks consist of relationships that are built and sustained by repeated social interactions made possible by structural conditions.

Some of us are natural networkers, but many of us are not.  Thus, opportunities exist to assist people with forming networks that contain a wide variety of connections.  Social networks create opportunities for exchange of knowledge and resources.  The larger and more diverse one’s network—both inside and outside of a team or organization—the greater one’s ability to access knowledge, resources and people.

Research has repeatedly shown that the greater one’s social connections, the greater one’s social interactions.  Face-to-face encounters can build affinity, which in turn leads to trust and cooperation.  When individuals come to care about one another and when cooperation is the norm, people are more likely to extend benefits, advantages, and preferential treatment.

When networks are characterized by generosity, social connections are strengthened.  People become more altruistic in response to kind behavior, and unilateral acts of giving strengthen the bonds between people.  In fact, research has shown that solidarity is greatest in groups and networks where people freely exchange knowledge and resources.

When networks lead to joint activities, positive emotions can be generated and lead to stronger network ties.  When positive feelings emerge from associations, shared values, and a common identity, people are more likely to freely exchange their knowledge and resources.  For example, gratitude leads to the desire to maximize joint profit.

Reciprocity strongly influences positive regard for others in a group or network, which increases trust and solidarity.  Reciprocity also sends a message that the person on the receiving end is valued and that the giver is willing to invest in the relationship.

Networks characterized by generosity and cooperation reduce transaction costs and increase trust.  Things take less time and energy to get done and the resulting efficiency frees up resources that can be used for other things.  More gets accomplished with less.  That’s how top-performing teams make things happen.

Thus, if top team and organizational performance are to be realized, energy should be invested to create inclusive networks that strengthen ties between people and facilitate interactions and information exchange.

How can you apply the notion of inclusive networks to improve the performance of your teams and organization?  Whether you’re a COO, CMO, CHRO or CVO, pick the low hanging fruit and ensure that everyone who plays a role on your teams is included when at all possible—and given a meaningful voice.

Next, take some time to examine your teams’ and organization’s internal and external networks.  How large are they?  How inclusive? How generous?  Where could they be strengthened?  How might they be expanded?  Then, put some plans in place to strengthen and broaden those networks.  And remember—include everyone in the process!

To conduct an analysis of your organization’s social networks—and discover where ties are strong, weak or absent—contact us at

And to discover how your team’s culture compares to top-performing teams, click here to participate in our latest study and receive a free team profile.

Action items:

  • Think about how inclusive your teams are when seeking input, planning, and making decisions
  • Examine how large your teams’ and organization’s internal and external networks are and consider connections that could be strengthened or added
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