Just two months ago at Goal Summit, Prasad Setty, VP, People Analytics and Compensation at Google shared the results to a multi-year study looking to answer a well research question: What makes teams effective? Listen to his full presentation, or read on for his recipe to building an effective team.

As a company known for being engineering led and data driven, Google originally believed that building high performing teams could be reduced to an algorithm. After years of research, they discovered they were wrong. Building a champion team wasn’t about adding a sprinkle of this type of PhD, or that type of experience. They discovered that it’s how the team works together that matters most, not who is on the team.

The 5 Critical Dynamics of a High Performance Team

After studying teams from sales to engineering, Google identified  five key dynamics of highly effective teams.  Two of them are typical dynamics emphasized by most leaders within the organization, while the other three are more surprising:

Impact  & Meaning 

Effective teams understand the impact of their work. For example, knowing how the team’s goals connect to the company’s top company, provides external validation. The ability to see how their work has a significant impact was important.

Effective teams find meaning in their work. Individual’s on the team that are able to internalize the team’s goal. This gave individuals on the team a sense of self-worth and drive.

Clarity & Dependability

Effective teams strike a balance between in clarity and dependability. Effective teams are well structured and can leverage each other to receive excellent guidance and support from top management. Similarly, dependability enables teams to become more effective because their team mates will offer help.

Prasad commented an interesting finding: Teams that rated high in dependability did not need high levels of structure and clarity. This is because the team knew how to work cohesively. However, clarity and structure were useful in improving team effectiveness in low-dependability teams.

Psychological Safety

Setty shared an interesting finding. Psychological Safety had a profound effect on team effectiveness. Teams with high psychological safety felt that they could take risks and speak freely. For sales teams, teams that feel safe beat their sales targets by 17%, while unsafe teams missed their targets by almost 20%.

During the Q&A, Setty noted that safe teams also enabled other dynamics (e.g. diversity)., like take diversity for example. Comparing two teams with high safety, Google discovered that in comparing homogeneous and diverse teams, diverse teams performed better.

The 5 Keys to Successful Team @ Google

Setty’s team was able to scientifically prove, after over 200 interviews, participation from over 180, and over 35 statistical models that effective teams had these 5 key dynamics:

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Listen to Prasad’s full presentation at Goal Summit for more tips on leveraging the science of building effective teams across your own organization.