What makes a team great? Why do some teams flourish and others flounder? Google’s People Operations (what they call HR) conducted a two-year study to find out. They conducted over 200 interviews looking at more than 250 attributes on over 180 active Google teams. Google analyst, Julia Rozovsky, reports that “who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions.”
The research uncovered “five key dynamics that set successful teams apart from other teams at Google:
- Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
- Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
- Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
- Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
- Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?”
Highly effective teams balance doing their work or working IN the team with stepping back periodically to refocus and work ON the team. Top teams don’t confuse busyness with effectiveness. Less effective teams often lose sight of their objectives and then speed up their efforts. They spin faster and faster into disharmony with poorer results.
As everyone comes back from summer vacation and looks ahead to next year (often with budgeting cycles now kicking into high gear), this is an excellent time to take leadership teams offsite for a few days of planning and development.
Having facilitated around 200 leadership team retreats, Google’s research aligns very well with our experience. The most successful leadership team retreats include these elements:
- Listing accomplishments and successes to leverage.
- Foundational frameworks/models that balance management processes/systems with people practices for leadership/culture development.
- Agreeing on a shared vision of success for this team/organization.
- Reaffirming or establishing the core values and the behaviors that boost or block team/organization effectiveness.
- Providing a safe and anonymous process to identify and address the key moose-on-the-table/elephant-in-the-room/800 pound gorillas that are impeding effectiveness.
- Establishing three or four strategic imperatives to move the team/organization forward.
- Laying out implementation plans with who, what, where, when, and how for each strategic imperative.
- Scheduling follow up and follow through steps to sticking to them.
- Team reflections on personal and collective learning from this retreat.
Tomorrow we publish my August blogs in the September issue of The Leader Letter. In this issue, you’ll find further links to team/organization development and how they impact leadership development’s dismal failure to change behavior. Listening is a key leadership skill that’s often reflected in team dynamics. Top teams listen respectfully and encourage debates and contrary views to better understand each other’s perspectives and build solutions together. And just like strong leaders, strong teams leverage the synergy of delivering results and building relationships.
In today’s crazy busy world, the difference between frenzied activity and effectiveness has never been more vital. How’s your team doing?