Post by Jim Jensen
Dynamic Teams helps leaders create and maintain safe interpersonal work environments where it’s okay to be vulnerable, to take risks. We help people and teams create psychological safety. Why? Because for the past 30+ years we’ve known that psychological safety is the key ingredient, the foundational building block of an effective team. Apparently, Google agrees.
Here are a few excerpts from the 2015 re:Work article, The five keys to a successful Google Team (see link below). While the research is a few years old, the concepts are timeless.
A group of us in Google’s People Operations (what we call HR) set out to answer this question using data and rigorous analysis: What makes a Google team effective? Over two years we conducted 200+ interviews with Googlers (our employees) and looked at more than 250 attributes of 180+ active Google teams. We were pretty confident that we'd find the perfect mix of individual traits and skills necessary for a stellar team -- take one Rhodes Scholar, two extroverts, one engineer who rocks at AngularJS, and a PhD. Voila. Dream team assembled, right?
We were dead wrong. Who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions. So much for that magical algorithm. We learned that there are five key dynamics that set successful teams apart from other teams at Google:
If you answered “yes” to the five questions above, congrats! You’re probably on a high-performing team. And if not, not all hope is lost. This is a shortcut to help you figure out where to focus, how to get better, and a way to talk about this concept with your teammates in a structured way.
Psychological safety was far and away the most important of the five dynamics we found -- it’s the underpinning of the other four. How could that be? Taking a risk around your team members seems simple. But remember the last time you were working on a project. Did you feel like you could ask what the goal was without the risk of sounding like you’re the only one out of the loop? Or did you opt for continuing without clarifying anything, in order to avoid being perceived as someone who is unaware?
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.
So, whether your team meetings are virtual, where you’re looking at all your team members on your screen, or you’re meeting face to face, the important work of leaders and their teams is to be vigilant and intentional about creating and maintaining their solid foundation of psychological safety, because that dynamic affects everything else.
I hope you found this helpful.
Got another 11 ½ minutes? If you liked this post, you’ll probably enjoy this TEDx talk. Click on this link: Building a psychologically safe workplace | Amy Edmondson
Amy shares three things leaders can do to create psychological safety. These will make more sense in context with the rest of her talk, but in case you don’t have the time to watch it…
Click on this link to read the full article: The five keys to a successful Google Team
Primarily serving Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan, we’ve worked with companies worldwide as leadership team building, and corporate team development facilitators.
Jim Jensen, MA LPC is the Principal and Founder of Dynamic Teams LLC, specializing in helping leaders of companies build healthy culture through dynamic leadership teams.