The topic of high performing teams is very active in corporate planning and performance measurement these days. As global competition reaches down to companies in the middle market, improving performance within companies is now a major goal. We cite a recent study at Google as an example of what drives team performance. We also have experience in an affiliated company of ours that provides software tools for professional coaches to analyze team leadership dynamics.

Google reviewed 180 teams within their company to determine why some teams were much more successful than others. They found that “who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions.” They discovered five key drivers that set successful teams apart.

The key drivers are: psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning, and impact. Psychological safety is more than job security. It is also ‘will I be embarrassed’ or ‘is it worth the risk’? This was the single biggest driver as people were afraid of negative impact to their image of competence. Also, there must be a culture that allows for risk taking and minor failures. This becomes important as a foundation for the four other drivers.

Dependability is important in high performing teams as all members must do what they say they will do to maximize trust within the team.

Structure and clarity within the team is necessary for people to understand their roles and the goals of the team. This leads to well defined assignment of tasks and delivery dates for each team member and the timeline for delivery of goals. This supports self-measurement and acknowledgement of success.

The meaning of the work and its importance to the organization is a key driver for team members to feel “driven” to a higher purpose. The ability to accomplish something that really matters creates more focus and drive, especially for millennials.

The impact of the work is another driver closely related to the meaning of work. The greater the positive impact to the company, the greater the psychological value to the team. It is not often that people feel they have a chance to provide a substantial positive value to the organization.

If the senior management of a company can make these five key drivers a very prominent part of the company culture, it is very possible that high performing teams will emerge. By assigning major projects to teams with leaders that understand and support these drivers, organizations can greatly increase employee engagement without increasing their cost structure. In the end, employees are happy and the company is much more competitive.

Tell us what process you use or tell us what questions you feel are better asked than the ones shown here.

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