Psychological Safety Is Still The #1 Trait Of Effective Teams, Says Google

Posted on January 2, 2018 by Nate Regier / 0 comments
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Getting the right people on the bus might be overrated. According to new research from Google, the HOW is much more important than the WHAT when it comes to building effective teams.

Who is on the team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions.

Of the five characteristics Google discovered, psychological safety was by far the most significant in terms of predicting a team’s likelihood of success. It was assessed through the question, “Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?” People give more, learn more, and innovate more when they feel safe.

Here are the five key dynamics that set successful teams apart, according to Google’s research.

  1. Psychological safety
  2.  Dependability
  3. Structure and clarity
  4.  Meaning
  5. Impact

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s been part of a team. And, this research isn’t really breaking news. In 2002 Patrick Lencioni published The Five Dysfunctions of a Team outlining the latest research on what undermines effective teams. Here’s his list:

  1. Lack of Trust
  2. Unhealthy conflict
  3. Lack of commitment
  4. Lack of accountability
  5. Inattention to results

Lencioni argued that the healthy alternatives to these team-killers (trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, and focus on results) must be developed in order, and that each one lays the foundation for the next one, much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Pretty much the same findings as Google, 15 years earlier.

Why does business practice lag so far behind scientific research? Why do companies continue to rely so heavily on recruiting for technical skills at the expense of the most important thing: an open, safe work environment where people can be vulnerable and try new things?

Most companies don’t realize how important safety is until the culture has become toxic. Now, they not only need help with safety on the team, but an entire culture overhaul. The costs are staggering. Consider, for example, the epidemic of sexual harassment among government officials.

What if you hired, trained, and developed people based on their ability to create an open culture?

You might focus on the suite of skills we collectively call Openness:

  • Respect and appreciation for diversity
  • Empathy
  • Transparency
  • Turning failure into learning opportunities
  • Coaching skills
  • Listening skills
  • Emotional awareness
  • Communication agility
  • Conflict skills

We need more leaders with courageous transparency that honors vulnerability instead of attacking it. We need safer work environments where the incredible potential in diversity can bear fruit. We need conflict without casualties so that people can turn differences and failures into innovation.

This is why at Next Element, we have just one mission; to introduce compassionate accountability to every relationship, every team, and every business on the planet. Will you join us in 2018 to create a better world where openness is the status quo?

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2018

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