Google studied their best teams in hopes of pinpointing what made them great. They judged teams’ “effectiveness” based on evaluations from executives, team leaders, and team members, as well as sales performance. “Psychological safety,” or trust among teammates, was the factor the most effective teams shared.
That’s why not too long ago, Google set out on a quest to figure out what makes a team successful.They code-named the study Project Aristotle, a tribute to the philosopher’s famous quote “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
To define “effectiveness,” the team decided on assessment criteria that measured both qualitative and quantitative data. They analyzed dozens of teams and interviewed hundreds of executives, team leads and team members.
The researchers then evaluated team effectiveness in four different ways:
- executive evaluation of the team;
- team leader evaluation of the team;
- team member evaluation of the team; and
- sales performance against quarterly quota.
So, what did they find?
Google published some of its findings here, along with the following insightful statement:
The researchers found that what really mattered was less about who is on the team, and more about how the team worked together.
What mattered most: Trust
So what was the most important factor contributing to a team’s effectiveness?
It was psychological safety.
Simply put, psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of taking a risk, and the response his or her teammates will have to taking that risk.
Google describes it this way:
In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.
In other words, great teams thrive on trust.
This may appear to be a simple concept, but building trust between team members is no easy task. For example, a team of just five persons brings along varying viewpoints, working styles and ideas about how to get a job done.
In my forthcoming book, EQ, Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, I analyze fascinating research and real stories of some of the most successful teams in the world.
Here’s a glimpse at some of the actions that can help you build trust into your teams:
To build trust, you must respect how others think and feel. That’s why it’s important to listen first.
When you regularly and skillfully listen to others, you stay in touch with their reality, get to know their world and show you value their experience. Active listening involves asking questions, along with concentrated effort to understand your partner’s answers–all while resisting the urge to judge. Careful listening helps you identify each individual team member’s strengths, weaknesses, and style of communication.
Additionally, you send the message that what’s important to them is important to you.