What makes your team tick? New research suggests two keys


By Maria Geokezas, client services director and avid weekend reader at Heinz Marketing

Recently, the New York Times published an article based on findings from a study at Google about why some work teams thrive and others falter. It caught my eye, because we have a very strong team-ethic here at Heinz Marketing. Almost everything we do is a collaborative effort between individuals. Turns out, we aren’t unusual.

As reported by the Harvard Business Review, “time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more over the last two decades – at many companies more than75% of an employee’s day is spent collaborating with colleagues.”

In my experience, working in teams produces better results than working on your own. Studies show that groups tend to innovate faster, see mistakes more quickly and find better solutions to problem. In fact, people working in teams tend to achieve better results and report higher job satisfaction.

After 5 years and who-knows-how-many-millions-of-dollars, Google came away with the same conclusion I learned in my undergraduate organizational psychology class — that the success of a group is less about the individual attributes of its members and more about the culture of the group.

For a tech giant, that stresses brain power, analytics and speed as its values, I found this next learning somewhat surprising. The two key characteristics of a successful team were really more personal. A successful team must have:

  • Equal distribution of conversation turn-taking. Meaning that each member of the team has the opportunity — is encouraged even — to speak their mind, to share their opinion as much as they need.
  • Socially sensitive team members. They must be skilled at intuiting how others feel based on tone of voice, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues.

There are other core behaviors that are hallmarks of a successful team – like clearly stated goal and a culture of dependability. But this “psychological safety” is the differentiating factor in making a team work.

All of this is inspiring for me as a team leader. Our company values encourage strong team collaboration. And the people we hire are confident and feel comfortable enough to participate in the group conversation equally, and at a deeper personal level. As a result, our team is successful no matter the task.

What makes your team tick? Do Google’s findings resonate with your work group?