Google doesn't leave anything to chance. That's why the search giant recently spent two years studying 180 teams in depth to discover what sets groups that achieve great things apart from those that lag. As my Inc.com colleague Michael Schneider explained when the research was first released, the answer appears to come down not to the size of the brains on the team, but instead to how they interact with each other.

Things like dependability, structure, and clarity loomed large. But one factor stood out above all the rest in predicting which teams would soar: psychological safety. The key to effective teams, Google found, was creating an environment where people felt they wouldn't be ridiculed for voicing ideas and taking risks.

Which is totally fascinating, but maybe not instantly actionable. It's useful to know that intangible qualities like psychological safety are so important, but how do you know when you have all of them nailed down and when you still have more work to do? That's where a new post on Google's Re:Work blog comes in handy.

A five-question diagnostic for team performance.

The post features a 30-minute talk from Google people analyst Julia Rozovsky, which offers a deep dive into the company's research on team effectiveness, but it also contains a handy checklist of five questions teams should be able to answer in the affirmative if they want to attain rock-star status. Here they are:

1. Can we, as a team, take a risk without feeling insecure or embarrassed?

2. Can we count on each other to deliver high-quality results on time?

3. Are our goals, roles, and execution plans clear?

4. Are we working on something that is personally meaningful to each of us?

5. Do we fundamentally believe the work that we're doing matters?

"What we saw at Google was teams that could answer yes to each of those five questions, were disproportionately more likely to be an effective team," Rozovsky reports. Teams that answered yes also brought in much more revenue.

But the five questions aren't just a sort of report card to see how teams are currently doing. It's also a diagnostic tool leaders can use to see how they can improve the future performance of their teams. "This was a shortcut for us that we could show to leaders of where teams could focus their energy," Rozovsky adds.

So, what should you do if you're worried your team wouldn't exactly ace this test? The complete video below offers a ton of insights, but Google is even more generous with sharing the fruits of its research. It's also provided a whole suite of tools to help you be a more effective manager absolutely free. Those should help you raise your game and the performance of your whole team too.

Published on: Nov 6, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.