A recent New York Times article described a major project at Google that studied team performance and success. This broad and deep look at both academic studies and internal data identified Psychological Safety, “a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves”, as a critical factor in predicting high levels of team performance. Independent of differences in individual talent levels, teams in which members spoke in roughly the same proportion consistently outperformed those dominated by one or two star performers. Further, the best teams had high levels of empathy – the ability to read and be sensitive to the emotional states of other team members. So, a year plus of data analysis at Google led to what most good leaders have always known. In the highest performing teams, members all feel free to speak and are sensitive to the feelings and needs of others.
Interested in learning more, I checked out a blog post by Julia Rozovsky, People Analytics Manager at Google, that drilled more deeply into these findings. The Google research team identified a total of five dynamics that drive high performance far more than team makeup:
- Psychological Safety: Can we take risks 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?
Although these findings are specific to Google, I believe that leaders of teams at any level could improve results and drive performance by creating a climate that supports these principles. What do you think?