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What makes a team effective and stellar?


Over two years Google conducted 200+ interviews with its employees and looked at more than 250 attributes of 180+ active Google teams for the purpose of understanding team effectiveness. They wanted to replicate the attributes of their best performing teams throughout the company.


Google started their research with a bias. They thought that they would find that the perfect mix of people (i.e. the ‘magical algorithm’) would be a Rhodes Scholar, several extroverts, a PHD, and an engineer with top code writing skills.


BUT they were wrong.  They found that who is on a team is not nearly as important as how team members interact, work together and see their individual contributions.


Google found five keys that set successful teams heads and shoulders above the rest:

Psychological safety


Structure & clarity

Meaning of work

Impact of work

Each member of the team

  • Feels safe to take risks, safe to be vulnerable
  • Gets things done on time, takes pride in their work and does their best
  • Has clear roles, plans and goals, is aware of the big picture and plays their part
  • Finds meaning in their work; it's personally important to them
  • Believes that what they are doing matters and will make a difference


Here's what really surprised Google was that psychological safety was by far the most important dynamic underpinning success. Feeling safe to take risks around others on the team is critical.


People feel safe to clarify a goal if they aren't sure exactly what is expected of them and others.  They don't worry about sounding like an idiot because it's okay not to know something - no big deal, just ask.  No one is going to think you are incompetent, unaware or out of the loop.


That's huge.  Communication can be tricky.  


Be open, and don't assume you've got this covered!  Sometimes we need to slow down and not talk so fast. And it's never a good idea to assume that someones understands what we are saying.  We need to check in - What is their understanding?  What questions or concerns are coming up for them?


It's really important to be patient and understanding.  What is second nature to us can feel daunting and huge to someone else.


On the flip side, have you ever been a part of a team where there's back stabbing and secrecy. It's very stressful.


When we feel safe, we are more likely to partner with our teammates, more likely to find creative solutions, more likely to be make money in a way that feels deeply satisfying.


When we feel safe, being a part of a team feels exciting and positive, working together as dynamic, cohesive whole.  Feeling safe, creating that feeling of safely, is a top down thing.  If you're at the top, you set the tone, the rules, the structure; you design the playing field.


What could you do differently? Where are there cracks or leaks or things that just aren't working?


Feeling safe if you're in the middle, that's tricky.  Can you help to change a system that's negatively impacting on your integrity and health, that might be salvageable; or, do you need to move on?


There's a lot to psychological safety.  It's so much more than a buzz word.  It's a key to creating and maintaining stellar teams.

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