Google Approved Team Productivity Recipe

23 Feb, 2018Productivity and Performance

We all know it. There is no amazing marketing without an amazing team and their smart minds to come up with it. There is no fast innovation without a team that has the drive to innovate fast. Your business is just as good as your people are. No secrets there. However, how do we make that amazing team happen? What are the crucial differences that set high performing teams apart? That is a question that even Google has been researching intensely for the past decade. Want to know what they found and how to use that secret in your business? Then read on.

Major factors in team’s success

In 2012 Google launched Project Aristotle which ran for a few years collecting massive amounts of data about team effectiveness.

Did they find the combination of people in the team important? Was the vision important? Were the personalities of the people important? Were their motivators important? Yes, yes, yes and yes again. However, they were not as important as one might think. The crucial element of successful teams was found in a different ingredient.What was it?

Psychological safety: “A shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.”
Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor of Leadership and Management, has defined the term in her popular TEDx talk as “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.”

Imagine what would happen in any business if all its people had the confidence that their team will not reject or punish them for speaking their mind, and mistakes were openly discussed to learn from. When we feel safe enough to share ideas and thoughts freely; be curious, confident, inspire and be inspired, it increases not only our problem-solving and communication skills but also our creativity, resilience and motivation. Now we can talk about market-leading breakthroughs. This is a powerful hack into unlocking potential. Expert-level.

Wondering how to get your team to the high performing league?

Many business leaders still view concepts like psychological safety as the “soft fluff”. However, as Simon Sinek, the leadership expert and author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, says the hard data is increasingly showing that this “soft fluff” is incredibly precise in predicting a team’s performance. Do we have your attention now? Good.


Here are some tips to get you started on your journey to your team’s psychological safety:


Trust is the feeling that you can show your weaknesses and be vulnerable around others without the fear of being judged or criticized. You feel confident to let your team support you and just generally be yourself around them. To create that atmosphere – start with yourself. Show your vulnerability. Show that you do not have all the answers. You do not always know the best. Stress that you NEED all your team’s input to make things work and their inputs are not only invaluable but crucial. You are all in this together. Any challenges an individual team member is facing, the whole team is facing. In a team, everything is interconnected. Turn to each other for help, solve things together. Give support and trust to receive it back.
Not everyone is a high-energy extrovert and that is the beauty of a diversely thinking team.


Everyone wants to feel they belong. This is hard-wired into our biology. Make people feel included, heard and valued. For some people, it is more difficult to speak up than for others. To accommodate for those who prefer to express themselves in writing, you can ask your team to brainstorm ideas on paper before the meeting. Send them the agenda beforehand. They can even email you their comments a day ahead which enables you to organise yourself better and be more efficient in exploring and planning the next steps. Not everyone is a high-energy extrovert and that is the beauty of a diversely thinking team. Every single person brings something different to the table. Encourage your team to express themselves openly, catering for different preferences.


When Professor Amy Edmondson was researching high-performing medical teams, she was very surprised to find out that they were making more mistakes than all the other teams. How is this possible?

The truth is, the high-performing teams were not making more mistakes. They were just openly admitting and discussing them as opposed to the other teams which preferred to ignore or cover their mistakes. The high-performing teams created a safe space for learning from mistakes and exploring how to prevent or solve the situation.

Any challenges an individual team member is facing, the whole team is facing.
No one enjoys making mistakes or being wrong. We know that. Here is how to go about it: approach the “mistake” as a situation. Think: “Okay. This is what happened. What can we learn from it? How do we prevent this from happening again? What do we do next?” This is a very different approach from the usual finger-pointing and blaming, isn’t it? Mistakes are crucial and inevitable. Turn them into your team’s asset.

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For any of the changes to be successful, communicate your intentions openly to your team. Find out how psychologically safe your team feels. A short questionnaire would do the trick (if you need any help just send us an email). Tell them you want them to feel safe enough to express themselves openly. Tell them you need to hear their thoughts because only with all their inputs you can make real breakthroughs. And most importantly – ask how you can support them. Why? Because you care.
Key Learning Point
Psychological safety means feeling safe enough to express opinions openly and discuss mistakes without the fear of being judged, blamed or mocked.
It creates the ultimate productive platform for breakthrough business results as it inspires open communication, curiosity, fast progress, creativity, healthy risk-taking and increases problem-solving skills, resilience and motivation.
Barbora Kosnarova

Barbora Kosnarova


People connector, deep conversation enthusiast, food lover, multilinguist and proud owner of a big smile. Using her years of experience and expertise in leadership, team transformation, behavioural psychology, conflict mediation and coaching, Barbora turns groups of people into driven market-leading teams.