Monday, December 7, 2015

Google Discovery Could Prevent Fractures in Nonprofits

I try not to read corporate blogs designed to squeeze more work out of their workers. Most stink of patronizing platitudes spewed out by consultants who promise output to whoever pays them for their fluff. So when a reader emailed me a link to Google’s blog for their workers, I groaned. Not only is the thing called re:Work, the home page shouts: Let’s Make Work Better. Better for who?, my cynical self asked.

But then I started reading the particular post. Some of their HR staff had spent two years studying “teams” within Google to find a recipe that could make any team effective. By the second paragraph they’d hooked me:

“…We were pretty confident that we'd find the perfect mix of individual traits and skills necessary for a stellar team -- take one Rhodes Scholar, two extroverts, one engineer who rocks at AngularJS, and a PhD. Voila. Dream team assembled, right?

We were dead wrong. Who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions. So much for that magical algorithm…”

That’s when I realized this was not the ordinary corporate blog post. These HR people had hit on something that matters to any organization, committee, or team; any group within nonprofits.  

Their most profound discovery is that psychological safety is the number one factor in effective teams. I ran this through many of my own experiences as well as those I’ve guided leaders through and sure enough it hit them all. For every organization I’ve seen fall apart, I could recall a loss of psychological safety at the start of the downward spiral. I’d never identified it this way. Rather, I’d viewed these tragedies as the fallout after factions or rogues begin working against the others.

Reading this post from Google I realized that to cause psychological safety in such groups could actually prevent factions and rogues from splitting away. As I explain in Cures for Ailing Organizations, some people truly want to harm an organization by splitting the group, but more often rogues and factions are good people who simply believe they have no other choice but to block the efforts of the group. What if they felt comfortable voicing their ideas? I wonder how many sad stories of broken groups could be avoided.

Take a few minutes to read the short post called “The five keys to a successful Google team” and see what you think. The other four keys are interesting, too, but that first one really hit home for me.

Have you discovered other traits of effective teams? Have you witnessed any of these in action? Please offer your experiences in the comments section.


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