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The Key to Building a Dream Team


As a tech services company, your delivery team is at the heart of your business model. Its performance is what turns the flywheel of your day to day operations - and is instrumental in helping generate that positive word of mouth that’s so crucial for so many service businesses.

So it makes sense to invest time & effort into building delivery teams that perform at their best. But that’s easier said than done. What exactly does a dream team look like? Are top teams distinguished by having a very high IQ? Should they graduate from top-tier institutions? Do extroverts make the best teams, or do introverts make the best teams?

As it turns out, the people at Google already asked themselves the same questions. And then they went one step further.

Project Aristotle

In 2012, a group of researchers at Google embarked on a landmark study to find characteristics common to all high-performing teams. They hypothesized that these teams would most likely possess the right demographics or a high degree of diversity. Over the next two years, they meticulously studied 180 different teams across multiple functions and characteristics.

And that’s how they discovered that the hallmark of a top team wasn’t an Ivy League background or a certain Myers-Briggs personality type. It wasn’t even diversity. The hallmark of a top team was psychological safety. More important than any other single factor, higher psychological safety was consistently associated with higher performance, more creativity, and ultimately better results.

What is Psychological Safety?

Coined by Amy Edmondson in the 1990s, psychological safety refers to team members’ ability to offer ideas, solutions, and counterpoints without fearing negative consequences. In teams with a high degree of psychological safety, team members feel open to both receiving and giving help.

They can freely contribute to conversations and they trust that their expertise matters to the group. They also trust that the rest of the team will not view their mistakes or failures harshly but as learning experiences. Teams that are psychologically safe are teams where everyone feels seen, welcomed, mentored, and treated justly.

Why Psychological Safety Matters

As it turns out, diversity, intelligence, an excellent education - pretty much no other individual factor is all that impactful if nobody is ready to listen to your perspective. Or if you don’t feel safe enough to venture your take on a problem. You can have a lot of great ideas, but they're no use to your team or your organization if you never voice them.

When team members feel psychologically safe, they take more chances on new approaches to solving problems, feel more invested in their common goals, and work better together. This, in turn, paves the way for innovation and higher productivity. Psychological safety and performance standards pair well, leading to the development of a Learning Zone.

How to Make It Work in Your Company

We’ve already talked about how performance isn’t a random accident but a culture. Psychological safety is no different. If you want it to become a part of your organization’s culture, there are a few steps you can take.

1. Start With Yourself

According to Deloitte, leaders of top-performing teams are 28 times more likely to model mistakes and failures as learning opportunities than leaders of low-performing teams. Your own commitment to creating psychological safety goes a long way toward demonstrating the organization’s commitment to it.

2. Talk It Out

Psychological safety is both an outcome of and requires good communication. Break the ice with dedicated time to chat about what’s going on in your personal lives and get to know each other better. Actively listen to your team’s problems, concerns, and difficulties. Encourage everyone to join the conversation and regularly solicit feedback.

3. Be Holistic

Cultural shifts can’t happen in a vacuum. To ensure all team members feel seen, you must also ensure that the team embraces diversity. Make it clear that your team's values and norms welcome divergence. These norms should be communicated clearly and reinforced through generous recognition of desirable behavior.

4. Continuously Reevaluate

Avoid group inertia and make sure you’re on top of the psychological safety of your teams through ongoing check-ins and improvement. If a novel problem arises or an older strategy ceases to be effective, that’s your cue it’s time to find a new solution to restore safety. For example, a hybrid team might have different safety challenges than an on-site or fully remote team.

Wrapping Up

Psychological safety is the freedom to be both vulnerable as an individual and stronger as a team. As a leader, it is one of the most important factors within your control to boost your team’s performance regardless of its function, operation, or composition. This is particularly valuable because as a tech services founder, any strategic management or cultural advantage that allows you to build higher-performing teams within the same resources can be a competitive differentiator and a vital part of your business continuity during unexpected turmoil. By embracing vulnerability and prioritizing your own & your team's mental well-being, you foster trust and amplify impact.

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1 Comment


Guest
Jun 04

You have spoken my heart here! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful article.

At the core of services business, is the team. This team needs to be some of the craziest people you can muster together. They don't necessarily be the top grads from top universities, but a blend of people, who are self taught, gold medalists, or just people who really never cared about their exam, but were focused on getting projects done.

At the end, it all boils down to this simple fact, that all team members have that similar mindset, values and common vision. Once that alignment is achieved, congratulations, you now have a team, which can hunt in pack or individually, and these people are…


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