The five key dynamics of successful teams and how to apply them to build your team

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With the 2018 World Cup just wrapped up, it becomes apparent that teamwork is important. Many of the best teams in the world, favorites to win the competition were knocked out by teams representing small countries. How were the team relations within these smaller teams including Uruguay, Croatia, and Belgium?

Teams must be synchronous in tactics, strategy, and execution. The coordinated links are trained meticulously in hours of preparation prior to the world cup. There are other aspects that contribute to team chemistry, cohesion, or unity. In this article, you’ll learn some practical knowledge that you can apply to your work in your own team. While the research we will be discussing was not done in a mental performance or sport psychology context, the results are easily applicable to performance and sport because they studied human nature.

Google's Project Aristotle

In 2015, the head of Research and Development at Google, Julia Rozovsky, started Project Aristotle. In the project, she spoke to managers, employees, reviewed relevant literature, and connected with other researchers. She came across exciting findings that you can use to make your team more successful and effective.

Julia found that there are five key dynamics to successful teams: Structure and clarity, dependability, meaning of work, impact of effort, and psychological safety. Psychological safety was found to be a keystone metric in great teams, so without it the other four fall in the water, and are inhibited. You can build your own team by purposefully tackling these five dynamics. How are each of the five dynamics defined?

5 Key dynamics of successful teams

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Psychological safety. Team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other. They believe that their team members won’t punish or embarrass others for making and owning up to a mistake, suggesting a new idea, or asking a question. This is the most important dynamic and acts as the foundation for the other four. 

Dependability. The team members get things done on time, and meet the team’s high bar for excellence.

Structure and clarity. Team members have clear roles, plans & goals.

Meaning. The work/training is personally important to team members. The meaning is individual and personal to each team member.

Impact. The team members believe their effort matters and creates change. The impact is a subjective judgement that the work you are doing makes a difference and is contributing to the organization’s goals.

How can you apply them to your own team?

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Using the Team Effectiveness Discussion Guide developed by Google, you can guide discussion to find out which of the five areas need to be improved. If you’re the leader of a team, you can check out Google;'s guide on how to foster Psychological Safety on your team for actionable tips to create powerful environments where all members can contribute.

Main Takeaways

  • Teamwork is important for successful teams.

  • Psychological safety is a key dynamic in successful teams without which the other dynamics do not matter.

  • Dependability, structure and clarity, meaning and impact are the other central aspects of high-performing teams.


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