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What Google Learned About The Four letter Word

Most four letter words cannot be used in business. ‘Team’, however, is the four letter word du jour, as top companies realise the power of high-performance teams to skyrocket business performance and profits.

It’s a power that’s being harnessed in high-performance communities like Silicon Valley, where software engineers are encouraged to work together, in part because groups tend to innovate faster, but also because teams tend to see mistakes more quickly and find better solutions for problems.

It also makes strong financial sense. In a white paper by Merrill Lynch it was discovered that the ROI of a high-performance team is anywhere from 10 to 100 times that of lower-performing teams.

Having a high-performance team makes your business fly; having a mediocre team impacts your business results too, negatively and significantly.

Recognising the huge power of teams, Google became obsessed with how to build the perfect team. So five years ago they founded Project Aristotle and have spent millions of dollars trying to analyse and understand what makes a high-performance team. They began by studying half a century of academic research looking at how teams worked. They then studied and tracked the members of hundreds of Google teams to try to determine why some teams floundered and others flew.

Like most top executives, the Google top executives believed that building the best team meant combining the best people. They thought that to be great they had to put their focus on ‘getting the right people on the bus’.

The Project Aristotle researchers collected and analysed enormous amounts of data and found, surprisingly, that there was no proof that a mix of specific personality types, or skills, or backgrounds made any difference to team performance. The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter!

What did emerge was that the all successful teams exhibited two clear behaviours.

The first behaviour of high-performing teams was that members spoke in approximately the same proportion. There was ‘conversational turn taking’. It wasn’t necessary for people to have equal talk time in every meeting or situation. It was important that by the end of the day everyone had spoken roughly the same amount.

“As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well,” Woolley said. “But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.”

Conceptually, communication is not difficult. It’s the practice, and very consistent practice, that makes it challenging.

For example, we tend to be good at ‘conversation turn taking’ and not interrupting when we value the person’s expertise and they get straight to the point. However, when they begin with a lengthy introduction, or when we are less certain of their expertise … then we find it much more difficult to listen fully and not to interrupt.

Before you can expect your team to be expert conversation turn takers you must ‘walk the talk’. Watch and listen to yourself today – which of these do you do… all day?

  • resist being the first person to speak in the meeting
  • genuinely listen to, without interrupting, the person who irritates you or who you don’t rate highly
  • encourage others to speak, with your words, your tone and your body language

Remember it’s about what you do, not about what you know.

The second behaviour Google discovered for creating a highly successful team was high ‘average social sensitivity’. This will be the subject of my post next week. Look out for it after the Easter break.

A heads-up too, so that you can save the date:

Exclusive Evening with Diana Tapp
CEO of World Class Teams
Fraser Suites
488 Kent Street, Sydney
Wednesday 27th April

Places are LIMITED so ensure you reserve your COMPLIMENTARY ticket now. Click here to book Event

Best regards,