With 87.1 percent share of the search engine market as of December 2017, Google is obviously doing something right in the team-building department. But a few years ago, the company finished a study to understand team performance, and the research uncovered area where they were failing.

For example, a common belief within the company was that all you need is to have super talented people with expertise in their domains to create a high-performing team. According to Julia Rozovsky, Google's people analytics manager, "We were dead wrong."

Let's be clear here. Bells and whistles in the office like free candy, soda, lunches, pool tables, or bean bag chairs will not improve the core strength of your team. Innovation will always be a prime focus for Google, and their study revealed five common traits of high-performance teams. They found that companies need to create a feeling of "psychological safety" within their teams. And the biggest component within this is the one-on-one meeting between leader and employee.

The selection of a team is critical to success. Beyond that, you have to maintain that team to continue to be effective. The one tool that has not gone away -- and not likely to -- is the one-on-one meetings between leaders and each team member.

This one-on-one meeting is a foundation for team dynamics and individual growth.It is the most powerful way to connect with each other. I am a firm believer in having these regularly and with intention. In my leadership conversations with CEOs and brand leaders, I find that these meetings often have little structure to them and mostly serve to delegate new tasks.

In my research with fast-growing companies facing change for all angles, one rule is the need to put systems in places that are repeatable. I work with companies to help them develop the systems that drive repeatable results.

Each meeting varies depending on the employee.

Each person is different and the factors affecting them change over time. The best one-on-one meetings are where leaders let employees drive the topics and the meeting agenda. Some people are talkative about personal challenges, and others are focused on driving their projects forward. The key here is that it is about them, not you.

Leaders must serve the needs of their people.

The leader is not there to assign new tasks and delegate more work. The leader is there to be a servant to the employee. In talking with a Google leader, Matt Sakaguchi, about team dynamics, he said this is his job as a leader. Sakaguchi runs two site-reliability engineering teams for Android and Google Play, responsible for infrastructure and reliability of the services.

"My overarching goal remains to uncover the person's motivations, needs, wants, career aspirations, feelings on team dynamics, and their level of satisfaction and happiness with their work environment," Sakaguchi said.

Employees must leave the conversation feeling heard and understood.

Look at each of these interactions as a place for you to listen to your people. Sakaguchi shared how important it is for each person to feel understood. This is where trust is formed and taken to a deeper level. These meetings reinforce the psychological safety required to create high-performing teams.

One fast-growing brand online is Ties.com which has grown to more than 15 million in revenue per year since 2000 and has had more than 10 million people find its knot-tying guide through Google each year. Since taking over as CEO, Omar Sayyed has seen a 30 percent growth rate each year over the last five years by understanding his people and the team dynamics to keep growing.

In talking about his approach to one-on-one meetings, Omar shared how giving employees what they need is essential to leadership. Sayyed said that he has seen amazing results by listening and acting as a servant leader to the personal goals of his employees. "When you don't have personal goals aligned with company goals, you can't do anything to motivate them," he said. 

One essential part of the one-on-one private conversations is finding the alignment of personal goals to company goals. When you find out what the person wants in the company strategy, you have a powerful force that not only serves the individual but serves the team, too.

When I have one-on-one meetings now, I want to consider how will this meeting make employees feel more understood and how it will serve them to grow personally and professionally. Though Google might have found that out the hard way, it's always something any company can do to strengthen their team.

Published on: Apr 25, 2018
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