In the search to build excellent teams, what are the most important factors to consider?

The last blog focused on the number one component in building great teams – psychological safety.  This article will explore the other important elements involved in a winning team dynamic outlined in Project Aristotle, including dependability, structure and clarity, meaningful work, and impact.

Here are a few ingredients that contribute to excellent teams:

1. Dependability.  It is about making and keeping commitments, which allow individuals to count on each other to get high-quality work done on time.  People crave reliability.  It is a great feeling when somebody claims ownership of a task, and the rest of the team members can dismiss it from their mind because they have confidence that it will happen. 

So…what makes people unreliable?At times, it can stem from a communication issue – some people can say yes to something just because it is hard to say no.  Or, maybe they initially commit with the confidence that they can safely handle the task, but then run into a dead-end and are too afraid to ask for help.  Regardless of the reason, when you have psychological safety, people feel comfortable saying no to a task they cannot do or are secure in asking for help when they need to.   

One way to build dependability is to show excellent communication: 

·      Perhaps you say yes to a commitment and your world has abruptly changed, talk to your team members immediately so they can be part of the solution.  When you have ownership of a task and cannot complete it, it means recruiting allies to get the job done.  Teams pitch in for each other when emergencies arise.  Do not turn your back on a project because something has come up, find an alternative route to get the job done, even if it involves remedy through others. 

·      Be timely with your meeting follow-ups.  After a gathering, it should not take you days to send instructions, suggestions, or other pertinent information that team members need to do their jobs.  If you know you are going to be unavailable for the next four days, do not ghost your team, let them know of your absence and put a plan in place.  Perhaps somebody else can be assigned to send the meeting notes. 

·      Respond to messages in a timely manner.  If somebody emails you requesting something, do not just choose to ignore them, instead send a message saying you are unavailable and let them know when you would be free.  Perhaps the best you can offer is to jump on a 2-minute call or provide the name of somebody who can help out.  I am not saying that you should be attached to your email, but have a workable plan for the times when you are and are not available.  Imagine for a moment you needed something from somebody, knowing you having several options will make you feel like you are a part of a good team instead of feeling like you have nowhere to turn.

2. Structure and clarity.  People should know their job requirements, how to fill them, and what happens if they are not done.  They also have knowledge of other people’s requirements so they know who to turn to in order to tap into their expertise.  Setting clear goals and having metrics to measure them offers much-needed transparency.  Google uses OKRs (objectives, key results) to hit their short and long-term goals.  Be sure to communicate team goals so all members understand the plan for achieving those targets.

One way you can learn about other people’s roles is to have a newsletter highlighting others’ successes.  When you share what people are doing to advance the team, others can learn more about their roles and responsibilities.  If a weekly or monthly newsletter is too much of a commitment, it can be as simple as a 3-minute share at the start of each meeting.

3. Meaningful work.  People need to work on something important to them.  The meaning they ascribe to their work can be personal – it could be about solving really hard problems, utilizing their creativity, making money to support their family, or doing good work to help their team thrive.  Without meaning and a higher purpose attached to it, work can become mundane and disengaging.

If helping others is the main driver for some of your teammates, you can offer public gratitude to them when they have done something to offer assistance.  This acknowledgment makes them feel good about the work they have done.  If growing their skills is a top priority for other teammates, you can offer to support them with solving hard problems so they feel they are developing their abilities.

4. Impact. People need to know that their work matters and is making a difference in the world. 

A good way for teammates to feel they are making an impact is for others to regularly share credit or team testimonials of how their performance has advanced their work, the product, or the organization.

Psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaningful work, and impact were the ingredients that Google deemed to be vital for team success.  While every team is unique and could require different components, it is hard to think about any of these elements not helping to build stronger organizational units. 

Quote of the day: “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision.  The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”  -Andrew Carnegie

Q: Which aspect is most important to you? How do you find meaning in your work?  Comment and share your thoughts with us, we would love to hear from you!

*The next blog in this team series 3/10 will jump into fostering a team-first mentality.

What vital features comprise your amazing team?