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Creating a Team Where Everyone Thrives

The Key to Successful Teams Why do some teams fail while others are highly effective? In 2012, Google’s People Operations team (formerly HR) set out to find out. Calling this Project Aristotle, after Aristotle’s observation that the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” a dedicated team of ...

The Key to Successful Teams


Why do some teams fail while others are highly effective? 


In 2012, Google’s People Operations team (formerly HR) set out to find out. Calling this Project Aristotle, after Aristotle’s observation that the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” a dedicated team of organizational psychologists, statisticians, sociologists, and engineers studied 180+ teams over several years.


They observed that successful teams exhibited two specific behaviors. First, they noted that these teams allowed each member to speak about the same amount of time. Anita Woolley, the lead author for Project Aristotle, observed, ‘‘As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well. But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.’’


Second, productive teams had high levels of “average social sensitivity.” In other words, team members were good at picking up on how others felt based on tone of voice, facial expressions, nonverbal cues, etc. This helped them to recognize when someone might feel left out or hesitant about an idea, for example. 


Their major takeaway? Psychological safety is key to effective teamwork. The two behaviors the researchers observed both came down to this principle. Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard Business School who coined the term, describes psychological safety as “a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up…It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’’ When people on a team are socially sensitive to one another they are creating an inviting and comfortable environment in which people feel psychologically safe. Because people feel that it’s safe to speak up, they do, leading to an equal distribution of conversational turn-taking. Effective teams allow everyone to have a voice and every voice is heard and respected. 

I Like the Sound of That! So How Do I Create an Effective Team? 

Whether or not this is your first time reading about psychological safety in the workplace, it doesn’t take much to infer its many potential benefits and why it’s important. Most of us want to work on teams characterized by mutual trust and respect in which we’re able to freely share our perspectives while being sensitive and responsive to each other. However, the real question is how do you create that sort of team? 

A good first step is to understand the level of psychological safety that currently exists on your teams and in your organization. It’s difficult to move the proverbial needle if you don’t have a needle in the first place. However, measuring something like psychological safety, team culture, and human sentiment can feel abstract and elusive. If that’s how you feel, don’t worry—you’re not alone. That’s where Olumo can help. 


Olumo is a human analytics platform that helps organizations quantify human sentiment in real time. They take a holistic approach to understanding people’s experiences. They call that collective experience “The Human Experience – At Work.” To fully understand what the human experience looks like within a team, department, or entire organization, Olumo helps organizations measure 70+ unique aspects individuals may encounter at work through human experience campaigns and submetrics. 


For example, Olumo’s Team Experience campaign includes the metrics for effective teams as identified by Google’s Project Aristotle including psychological safety, dependability, clarity, meaning, and impact. With their easy, comprehensive metrics and platform, Olumo helps people leaders start the process of building good teams by immediately identifying which teams are already successful and which ones have room for growth.


 With this newfound clarity, people leaders like you are well on your way to taking strategic tactical action to drive success within your team and across the organization.      


Understanding the Why Behind the Metrics


Once you gather the metrics, the next important step is understanding the why behind them. Why are some teams scoring high on dependability while others scored low on clarity? Why did some individuals say they didn’t feel psychologically safe while others said they did? Any host of questions can arise when trying to distill what the metrics are capturing and how to make them actionable. 


So how do you get to the why behind the metrics? This is where Olumo can help again.


Olumo creates conversations…not surveys. In a simple yet powerful approach, they allow people to anonymously engage in conversations so that Olumo and you can listen and learn from their experiences and ultimately understand the why behind any given metric. During the conversations, people at Olumo ask additional questions, when appropriate, in order to dive deep to extract the tactical insights you need to guide your decision-making. 


With baseline metrics and the why behind them, you’re ready to start creating a workplace where everyone can thrive. 


Olumo benchmarks your organization to others within your same industry and size. 


What Gets Measured Gets Managed


As Peter Drucker said, “what gets measured gets managed.” Creating thriving teams starts with capturing the right metrics. With Olumo’s help, you can use heatmaps to capture real-time performance of the organization when it comes to people and culture. Best of all, Olumo’s strategic analytics advisors act as your guide by assisting you in understanding and prioritizing the data that will enable you to deliver the business results you’re wanting. 


Creating and being a part of an effective team no longer has to feel like a mystery or just out of reach. As one people leader described it, “it is like we took the blindfold off and, for the first time, could see the organization from our people’s perspective. This has brought a new level of focus and accountability to our people.” With the help of Olumo, people leaders are now creating the sort of human experience at work that benefits everyone.