18 May Building Better Teams
Better teams are the engine that drives an organization’s success. Successful teams are driven by the norms that propel teamwork, chemistry and high performance. The major role of a leader is to create and nurture those norms.
This was a major finding of the Aristotle Project that was launched by Google in 2012, to examine why some of their teams succeed and others don’t. Google discovered that teams which buy into positive norms and play well together are the key to successful organizations. Managers are the team coaches, and are at the center of what either makes a team really successful or not. Simply put, the best managers lead the best teams.
What do managers need to do to make their teams the best? Managers need to be clear about their own values and the norms they envision for their teams. They are the team architects… designing and shaping their structure. Through leading by example, managers create the environment and conditions for both the team as a whole and the individual members to thrive.
What was one of the most surprising facts the researchers for the Aristotle Project discovered? It’s not the talent that makes the difference—great talent alone is not enough. In fact, people with average talent acting as a team surpass great individual talent all the time. Now imagine what great talent combined with outstanding teamwork can do!
Let’s review some of the key characteristics of excellent teams:
Leaders must lead and orchestrate success. They must know what their vision is and what kind of team they want to build. What are the values and norms they want this team to exemplify? Leaders embrace responsibility for the team and its members.
- Shared Vision
Leaders shape this by bringing the members together to share each individual’s vision for how they see this team, and what it will become. What is each individual most passionate about? What does winning mean for this team? In the end, there must be a compelling, inclusive vision shared by all.
- Shared values and principles
These should live and breathe. One such value could be flawless execution. Another might be dependability. The team leader can help the team to choose their norms.
- Shared Purpose
Looking beyond the norms of each separate team, the shared purpose should speak to the larger mission for all teams, and for the company at large.
- Leveraging Strengths and Weaknesses
This is where the whole is greater then the sum of the parts. When people identify their own strengths, and the strengths of the team, and also what needs work, this is what true collaboration is all about. A team cements around synergy.
Everyone is accountable, both individually, and for the team and the end results.
Now, take a minute to look at what the Aristotle Project researchers found were the five most important things that the best of the Google teams needed:
- to believe that their work is important
- to feel their work is personally meaningful
- clear goals and defined roles
- to know they can depend on one another
- and, most importantly, psychological safety
How can leaders create the team trust that makes team members feel safe? Here are some ideas:
- model the right behavior
- don’t interrupt teammates during conversations, because it will establish an interrupting norm
- demonstrate they are listening by summarizing what people say after they say it
- admit what they don’t know
- don’t end meeting until all team members have spoken at least once
- encourage people who are upset to express their frustrations and coach teammates to respond in non-judgmental ways
- call out intergroup conflicts and resolve them through open discussion
The Aristotle Project has dozens of team development tactics on its checklist. All of them, however, came back to two general principles: Teams succeed when everyone feels as though they can speak up, and when members show they are sensitive to each other’s feelings.
If you are interested in discussing the Google strategies more, and think you would like to use them with your teams, let us know, and we’ll be glad to help you.