Picture frames

Photo by Jessica Ruscello

Yesterday afternoon our 34 year-old company enjoyed a wonderful, year-end virtual celebration. Over 300 faithful team members from over 30 markets tuned-in. Proud of everyone, I was inspired by our wonderful teams and leaders  that deliver rewarding service in often challenging circumstances. We are a wonderful set of connected collections; each with its own unique forces to contend with and pictures yet framed.

So today, driving back to New Hampshire after being with our Rhode Islander Team yesterday, I could not help but think of what I recently read about what two research projects at Google teach us about effective teams and managers.

Effective Leaders and Managers. According to Google’s head of People Operations, Laszio Bock, as noted in Duhigg’s book Smarter, Faster, Better – The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, Google established a People Analytics team that studied successful team members, effective teams, and what makes for an effective manager or leader. They launched a multi-year study of managers called “Project Oxygen” and found that impactful managers, ones who were more effective than others, had these eight (8) management skills:

  1. Is a good coach;
  2. Empowers and does not micro-manage;
  3. Expresses interest and concern in subordinates’ success and well-being;
  4. Is results-oriented;
  5. Listens and shares information;
  6. Helps with career development;
  7. Has a clear vision and strategy; and
  8. Has key technical skills.

These make perfect sense, don’t they? When you think about effective leaders you have worked for, I’ll bet you could answer “yes” they had these skills.

Effective Teams. In an interview with Stephen Dubner on Freakonomics Bock also described the results of Project Aristotle, which studied teams at Google and other organizations. This project synthesized dozens of research projects and I found their results interesting, though not surprising. Their conclusions, however, are solid reminders for us building teams.

Bock said what matters are that teams have five key norms:

  1. They need to believe that their work is important
  2. They need to feel their work is personally meaningful
  3. They need clear goals and defined roles
  4. Team members need to know they can depend on one another
  5. And, most important, they need psychological safety

Bock goes on to note that it is the leader’s job to create the psychological safety and this is the one point that really hit me. He says that to create this safety leaders can use these six tips now taught to all Google team leaders:

  • Leaders should not interrupt teammates during conversations because this establishes an “interrupting norm.”
  • Show you are listening by summarizing for understanding what the person just said.
  • We should admit when we do not know something.
  • Do not end a meeting until every team member has had a chance to speak.
  • Encourage people who are upset to express themselves in the team environment and facilitate non-judgmental interactions among team members to settle the frustrations.
  • Call-out intergroup conflicts and resolve them through open discussion.

As I thought about these points today and my wonderful collection of teams and leaders, I can see most of our leaders have these skills and our teams practice these norms.

Of course each of us can work on improving our own skills and how well we create psychological safety – all good goals for the coming year as we continue to connect our collections of wonderful people and paint our pictures of success.