Google studied 180 teams through its Project Aristotle over two years. They were on a quest to find the common traits among the most successful ones. Going in, they assumed the best teams were comprised of the most skilled people. But that wasn't the case. Instead, they found 5 core characteristics of high-performing teams: 1) Dependability, 2) Structure and clarity, 3) Meaning, 4) Impact, and 5) Psychological Safety.
If you're a project manager, how can you incorporate these important characteristics into your team?
- Help team members fulfill their commitments. Too often, we fling assignments "over the fence" to team members without thinking too much about whether the task is doable in the timeframe provided. It just needs to get done. Once you send out the assignment, it's the other person's problem, right? Managers of high-performing teams don't think so.They consciously set their team up for success by helping employees be dependable and fulfill their responsibilities. This means making sure assignments are crystal clear, confirming that the timeframes work, and creating an open-door policy that encourages people to ask questions the second they get stuck. The team shouldn't feel that day-to-day heroic effort is needed just to keep up.
- Create clear roles and goals. Crafting a super simple goal statement answers the question, "What are we shooting for?" If you're the collaborative, inclusive type of manager, you'll invite others to contribute language to this statement and help them keep it clear and simple. You'll also use a tool such as the RACI chart to make sure everyone knows their role. The RACI is a great reference document that will be used throughout the project to keep everyone in their lane and focused on their role. In turn, being clear on what everyone's role is will help you dole out assignments appropriately.
- Consistently remind the team why their work is important. And it can't be just because it's going to save the company money. Think bigger and bolder. Tell your team why the work they're doing will improve somebody's life or have a direct impact on their greater community. Taking a grand position on the meaning your team's work has is inspiring.
- Assure them that the approach will have impact. Closely related to number 3 -- great team managers not only tell people why their work is important, but they reassure them that the way they're tackling the project is the best way possible. Help them prove it to themselves by asking them to identify metrics and then track them. Just naming a big problem to solve isn't enough if what they're doing doesn't stand a chance of solving it.
- Create a safe zone. Creating psychological safety enables people to work without fear of being embarrassed or called out. Great project managers create a safe zone within the team where all ideas are welcomed and considered. They give people the needed background and context in which to do their best work, and believe that good ideas can come from anywhere.And when team members fail or fall short in spite of their good efforts, great project managers help them fix the problem and get back on track.
Though it's obviously great to assemble your team of the best people for the job, you can also make the team you have more effective by adopting Google's findings. You'll be surprised what your team is capable of when you give them the space and the confidence to do their best work.Focus on creating safety, dependability, meaning, and a sense of impact, and your team will thank you for it by putting their best foot forward.