Create High Performing Teams

Everyone likes to think they are part of a high performing team, and if they aren’t it’s certainly not their fault. Unfortunately for all of us, there is not one right way to ensure your team his high performing…or is there? What does it take to create a high performing team?

To find out, Google spent more than two years interviewing more than 200 employees and considered in excess of 250 different attributes of active Google teams. Their takeaway, who is on a team is less important than how those team members interact with one another, how they structure their work, and how they view the contributions they make.

The study outlines five dynamics that successful teams at Google demonstrated:

  • Psychological Safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  • Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
  • Structure & Clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
  • Meaning of Work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  • Impact of Work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?

Of these five, psychological safety is by far the most important and supports the other four. Paul Santagata, Head of Industry at Google said, “There’s no team without trust. In Google’s fast-paced, highly demanding environment, our success hinges on the ability to take risks and be vulnerable in front of peers.”

Per the study, “Turns out, we’re all reluctant to engage in behaviors that could negatively influence how others perceive our competence, awareness, and positivity. Although this kind of self-protection is a natural strategy in the workplace, it is detrimental to effective teamwork. On the flip side, the safer team members feel with one another, the more likely they are to admit mistakes, to partner, and to take on new roles. And it affects pretty much every important dimension we look at for employees. Individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave Google, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.”

If you think about psychological safety and its relation to high performance from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense. Our brains can not tell real threats from perceived threats. If we feel threatened at the office, that we’ve done something wrong or could be disciplined, the brain is going to react with a fight-or-flight response. In effect, the brain stops its analytical reasoning and perspective, limiting our ability to fully rationalize the situation and think strategically.

The Harvard Business Review wrote about the study and provided recommendations on how to create an environment in your organization to foster moderate risk-taking, openness to speak your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off, or as they note,  the types of behavior that lead to market breakthroughs.

These included the use of broaden-and-build mode of positive emotion. When you demonstrate positive emotions like trust, inspiration, humor, curiosity, and confidence, we are more creative, resilient, open-minded, and persistent.

Also recommendations include approaching conflict as a collaborator and not as a competitor, being human in your response by demonstrating respect, empathy, and autonomy, thinking about how a difficult message will be received and planning for the reactions, and being more curious about what transpired than looking to place blame.

According to the study, the following tips can help managers and leaders support the behaviors Google found important to effective teams.

Psychological Safety

  • Solicit input and opinions from the group.
  • Share information about personal and work style preferences, and encourage others to do the same.

Dependability

  • Clarify roles and responsibilities of team members.
  • Develop concrete project plans to provide transparency into every individual’s work.
  • Talk about some of the conscientiousness research.

Structure & Clarity

  • Regularly communicate team goals and ensure team members understand the plan for achieving them.
  • Ensure your team meetings have a clear agenda and designated leader.
  • Consider adopting Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) to organize the team’s work.

Meaning

  • Give team members positive feedback on something outstanding they are doing and offer to help them with something they struggle with.
  • Publicly express your gratitude for someone who helped you out.

Impact

  • Co-create a clear vision that reinforces how each team member’s work directly contributes to the team’s and broader organization’s goals.
  • Reflect on the work you’re doing and how it impacts users or clients and the organization.
  • Adopt a user-centered evaluation method and focus on the user.

To learn more about how you can create high performing teams in your organization, send us a note. Our recruiters at Sheer Velocity can provide you with additional insight from our proprietary Cultural Alignment Survey and through our partnership with Hogan Assessments.