This is a guest post from Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of O2E Brands, the 100M company group of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, You Move Me, Wow 1 Day Painting, and Shack Shine
In 2012, Google brought together its best statisticians, organizational psychologists, sociologists and engineers under a new initiative code-named Project Aristotle. Using the same data-centered approach that has made Google, well, Google, Project Aristotle aimed to determine what separates successful teams from unsuccessful ones.
I found the results fascinating because teams are the building blocks of our 230+ person company and of all companies in general, from founding teams to companies the size of Google.
As a recent, in-depth chronicle of the project by the New York Times* reveals, the initial results were not promising. "At Google, we're good at finding patterns," project leader Abeer Dubey explained. "There weren't strong patterns here.'' But that all changed when one senior researcher looked at the data through a new lens--psychological safety.
Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines psychological safety as the "shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking." Once they looked for it, Google saw that its data indicated that psychological safety, more than anything else, was critical. Put simply, for teams to do great work, members need to feel comfortable with speaking up and feel respected by their colleagues.
This research begs an important question: What's the best way to instill psychological safety into your team?
At my $250+ million company, O2E (Ordinary to Exceptional) Brands, which includes brands like 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, we've found there are four "psychological safety" habits we follow that are core to our company's growth but also the overall well-being of the people we work with.
Strategy #1: Connect as a team once a day and leave space for people to share challenges
Every day at 10:55am, everyone at our company participates in our seven-minute huddle. That short get-together saves hundreds of emails, replaces countless unproductive meetings, builds our culture, and keeps us focused on our core goals.
Apart from sharing good news and key metrics, the most powerful part of the huddle is making sure that people's challenges and frustrations are heard. During "missing systems and opportunities," every member of the company has a chance to speak up in a safe space. They feel listened to and valued, plus they can find the support they need from their peers.
Immediately after the huddle, many people quickly connect and talk through issues.
Strategy #2: Hang out with each other at least once a week
Every Friday, we host First Round Fridays in our huddle room. It starts at 4pm and everyone gets free beer. We start it at 4pm so people can participate without cutting into their family time. About 50-60 people show up (25-30% of our team) and we generally stay until around 5:30. After that, there are often parties that everyone goes to.
It's amazing how rarely we talk about work during First Round Fridays--people just chat. They're talking about their families. They're talking about what they're going to do over the weekend. They're getting to know people and checking in with one another. Above all, they're boosting their sense of psychological safety with the people they work with.
I see a direct correlation between the depth of friendship among employees and our performance as a company, and I believe that's down not only to increased feelings of safety, but also because these connections:
Strategy #3: Have your managers hold one-on-one, 30-minute meetings with their team members once a week.
Once a week, our managers have a Goal Setting & Review (GSR) one-on-one with their team members. GSRs are essential because we want our people to feel like they have the individual support and resources they need to achieve their goals.
During these one-on-ones, the manager and the team member:
Strategy #4: Invite everyone to share their top 101 life goals
Ten years ago, I wrote out 101 things I wanted to achieve in my life. Creating these goals and sharing them with others helped turn some of them into reality. For example, I was recently able to cross 'fly a float plane on the water unaided' off my list.
Because my bucket list changed my life, I decided to build this into our culture so everyone could have the same experience.
With our 101 Life Goals program, everyone at the company lists their top 101 personal and professional goals they'd like to accomplish. From there, we have a few systems in place that make these goals come alive:
When people feel more personally fulfilled and supported in their personal goals by their employer, they feel more respected, more psychologically safe, and do better work.
*Visit What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team to read the full psychological safety article in the New York Times.