They say variety is the spice of life, but when it comes to your work team, it actually matters more how you work together than who you’re working together with. Survey numbers in from Google show that teams need a little more than a smart guy, a tech guy, and a few Ivy Leaguers in order to work their best.
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Instead of focusing on the types of people who were on their teams, Google’s HR department discovered that the ways in which those team members worked together really helped to bolster productivity. After talking to 200-plus Google employees and also looking at 250 attributes of 180-plus active Google teams, Google People Operations was ready to show their findings about what it takes to make a successful team. Here’s what we should all strive for:
1. Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
This is the key part of the puzzle. If you can’t take risks, then there will be no innovation. Everything will stay the same and no new challenges will arise. However, if you have, say, regular brainstorming sessions where there are no wrong answers, then you’d be amazed what can come up. New ideas, fresh points of view, and nobody grumbles at their desk that their ideas aren’t taken as seriously as others in the group just because they have a particular academic background or job title.
2. Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
You’ve heard that something can be done either quickly or well, but not both, right? Well, Google doesn’t think that’s true. If the team is clicking away on all cylinders, then they should be able to get things done with efficiency and to the tech giant’s exacting standards. When deadlines aren’t getting met, it might be a sign of larger issues at hand. It could be a lack of direction, a problem with procedure that’s gumming up the works, or any number of issues. Share insights (again, that open communication thing) and talk about what worked (and what didn’t) to improve processes year-round.
3. Structure and clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
Building on the above (see what’s happening here?) you need to make sure that your teammates have the same plan of attack in mind. No doubling up on efforts, no misunderstandings about goals, no “oh I thought we were doing that after the holidays.”
4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
All this work doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t mean much to you. Busywork is for kids on car trips, not an adult workplace. Are you excited about what you’re doing? If the answer is no, maybe think about seeking out a new team with a different project (or a new job entirely).
5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?
If you don’t think your work will ever see the light of day, you likely won’t really give a horse’s patootie about getting anything done to complete it. On the other hand, if you think your project will change the course of history, you’re likely to be one motivated son of a gun.
Need something to print out and hang in your cube? This flow chart from Google shows how we should think about teams, from the top down:
Tell Us What You Think
What would make your team work together better? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.