The best teams are making up the best companies. You see, even if a company is full of Top-players, it won’t do well if those people can’t work well with each other.
Because of this, Google set out not too long ago to find out what makes a team successful. They gave the study the code name “Project Aristotle” in honour of the famous philosopher who said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
To figure out what “effectiveness” means, the team came up with a set of evaluation criteria that took into account both qualitative and quantitative data. They looked at a lot of teams and talked to a lot of managers, team leaders, and team members.
What did they find, then?
Here, Google shared some of its research results along with the following clever statement:
The researchers found that how well the team worked together was more important than who was on the team.
o What was the most important thing that helped a team work well?
It was about making people feel safe.
Psychological safety is, in a nutshell, how a person feels about taking a risk and how his or her teammates will react to that risk.
Google says this about it:
When psychological safety is high on a team, people feel safe taking risks around their teammates. They are sure that no one on the team will make anyone else feel bad or punish them for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or coming up with a new idea.
In other words, trust is what makes great teams work.
This may seem like a simple idea, but getting people on a team to trust each other is not easy. For example, even a small team of five people has different points of view, ways of working, and ideas about how to get a job done.
Here’s a glimpse at some of the actions that can help you build trust into your teams:
To get people to trust you, you have to care about what they think and feel. So, it’s important to first listen.
When you regularly and skillfully listen to others, you stay in touch with their reality, get to know their world and show you value their experience. Active listening means asking questions and putting in a lot of effort to understand what your partner is saying without judging. When you listen carefully, you can figure out each team member’s strengths, weaknesses, and communication style.
You also show them that what is important to them is also important to you.
Show you care.
Beyond listening, try your best to understand your fellow team members and their perspectives. We call this “cognitive empathy.”
But you’ll also do well to show affective, or emotional, empathy. This means to try to understand how someone else feels.
For example, if a co-worker tells you about a problem, you might think: “So, that’s not that big of a deal. I’ve dealt with that before.” When this happens, try to remember a time when you felt stressed or overwhelmed, and use that feeling to help you understand what they are going through.
Being real builds trust. We like people who “keep it real” and know they’re not perfect but are still willing to show their flaws because they know everyone else does, too.
Being real doesn’t mean telling everyone everything about yourself all the time. It does mean saying what you mean, meaning what you say, and putting your values and principles above all else.
Show them the way.
Words can only build trust when actions back them up.
Because of this, it’s so important to do what you say and set a good example: You can talk about respect and honesty all you want, but it won’t matter if you curse at a teammate.
Helping someone is one of the fastest ways to earn their trust.
Think about the boss you liked the most. What school he or she graduated from, what kind of degree he or she got, and what this person has done in the past have nothing to do with your relationship. But what about the times when this boss took time out of their busy schedule to listen, help, or get in the trenches with you?
It takes time to build trust. Whenever and wherever you can, help out.
Disagree and take a stand.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, says that to “disagree and commit” doesn’t mean to “think your team is wrong and missing the point,” which would stop you from really supporting them. Instead, it’s a real, honest promise to do what the team wants, even if you don’t agree.
Before you get to that point, you should be able to explain your point of view, and the team should give your concerns a fair amount of thought.
But if you decide you don’t agree and make a promise, you’re in. No directly or indirectly sabotaging the project. When you trust your team’s instincts, you give them room to try new things and grow, which boosts their confidence.
Being humble doesn’t mean you never defend your own ideas or beliefs. Instead, it means that you know you don’t know everything and are open to learning from others.
It also means being willing to say the two hardest words: “I’m sorry,” when you need to.
There’s nothing worse than feeling like your leaders don’t care about keeping you informed or, even worse, that they’re keeping secrets.
Make sure everyone on your team understands your vision, goals, and plans, and that they can get the information they need to do their best work.
Give sincere and specific praise.
When you say nice things about other people, you meet a basic human need. When your coworkers see that you appreciate what they do, they are more likely to do more. Tell them what you like and why. The more specific you are, the better.
And don’t forget that everyone deserves praise for something. You bring out the best in people’s talents when you learn to spot them, notice them, and praise them for them.