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Why a Bunch of Smart People Will Form the Worst Losing Team

Why a Bunch of Smart People Will Form the Worst Losing Team

Imagine you’ve just learned how to swim. Your lessons all took place inside a swimming pool, but now you’re on holiday and you want to try out your new skills by swimming in the sea. You have two options:

  1. Look for a beach with no safety nets or life guards.
  2. Look for a beach where there are safety nets and life guards.

    As a maiden sea swimmer – which one would you choose?

    Well, although you possess the necessary swimming skills, clearly, you wouldn’t choose option 1. Why? Because you wouldn’t feel safe wading into the sea knowing that there’d be no nets or lifeguards to help you if you got into trouble. Option 2 would be the obvious and sensible choice.

    The same principle as the above applies to working in a team. You have your skills – and your team members have theirs. But these skills will only be brought to the fore if you and your team members feel safe to explore your individual potential within the team environment.

    Let’s see how this works.

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    We all want a safe playground

    Tech giant Google spent two years studying 180 teams and found that one of the most important traits of an effective team was psychological safety. Psychological safety is a shared belief held by members of a team that the team space is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.[1]

      Google’s in-depth study, named Project Aristotle, was designed to discover why some teams failed and others succeeded. Prior to the study, Google executives believed that winning teams were made up of the best and most talented people. However, the results of the study showed something radically different.

      Here are the five key characteristics of successful teams (as determined by the Google study):

      1. Dependability – members of a team meet expectations to get things done on time.
      2. Structure and clarity – productive teams have clearly-defined goals, and each team member knows their role within the group.
      3. Meaning – the team’s work has personal significance to each member.
      4. Impact – team members believe their work has purpose and positively impacts the organisation, clients, etc.
      5. Psychological safety – a safe space where even the most introverted team member is comfortable expressing their opinions and ideas.

      Out of the five characteristics, the fifth one stood out, as researchers hadn’t anticipated this being a vital aspect of successful teams.

      Project Aristotle showed that teams with psychologically-safe environments had employees who were more likely to stay, more likely to harness the power of diversity, and ultimately – were more successful![2]

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        With safety comes freedom

        Psychological safety gives team members the freedom to fail without repercussions, while at the same time respecting and questioning different opinions. Psychological safety is also rooted in the fact that team members aren’t trying to undermine each other.

        I’m sure you’ve worked in teams where just a couple of loud, dominant people do all the talking – and make all the decisions. This type of team atmosphere is the opposite of the one fostered by psychological safety. In the latter model, people feel safe enough around one another to keep pitching new opinions, ideas and goals.

        Instead of a few people taking charge of a team’s direction, a team that has created a psychological safe space allows each team member to contribute fairly and evenly. Team members feel comfortable being honest with each other, and happily express their ideas and welcome feedback on them – rather than being worried that their ideas will be shot down in flames.

        Teams with psychological safety are completely different to what you might have experienced before. Everyone feels like they can speak up, and members can show they are sensitive to how one another feels. There’s no competition between team members, as the team’s achievements are the main focus at all times.

        The opposite of psychological safety is psychological danger. And as I’ve touched on, the latter has a negative impact on a team’s effectiveness, as well as proving to be demoralizing for the team members.

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          As the above image clearly shows, psychological danger creates a cycle of negativity – resulting in the closing down of ideas and opinions from most of the team members.

          In contrast, psychological safety encourages openness and freedom of expression. In turn, these lead to the team (and its members) being able to learn from failures, adapt to changes, and to become better innovators and decision-makers.

          At this stage, you may be wondering, how does a team move from an environment of psychological danger to psychological safety?

          The safety starts with the team leader

          Team leaders should model the correct behaviors by:

          • Not cutting-off team members’ conversations.
          • Demonstrating that they’re listening by recapping what people say.
          • Encouraging all team members to speak their ideas – including their frustrations.
          • Responding at all times in a nonjudgmental way. (Because judgmental responses discourage people from speaking up.)

          To give you an example of these traits in action, picture yourself in this scenario…

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          You’re the manager of a small team of IT support staff. Until now, your management style has been to tell people what to do. (On the basis that only you know what’s best for the team!)

          Your top-down, authoritative approach effectively led to your team members feeling uncomfortable about suggesting ideas. They worried that you would say (in front of the rest of the team) that their ideas were irrational, stupid or even worthless.

          However, by adopting the psychological safety approach, you would not give a thumb down to ideas and suggestions, but instead, would consider how the ideas could be used to boost your team’s success. You may have to ask more questions to get a full picture of the ideas that team members have. But, for sure, in many cases there will be great ideas that can be adopted. And as history shows, in many cases, major achievements come from seemingly minor and random ideas.

          When people feel safe to speak up, they become a winning team

          When the team member’s voices are smothered, the power of the team is significantly diminished. It’s only by allowing a free flow of ideas and suggestions that genuine progress towards goals can be made.

          For example, consider a young, up-and-coming pop band. Most of their music and lyrics are written by their talented and super-assured frontman. However, their introverted keyboard player has come up with a melody that is incredibly catchy.

          If the band were dominated by their frontman, the keyboard player could be reluctant to pitch his idea to the band. But if the band operated under the psychological safety framework, then the keyboard player would be happy to share his melody with his fellow band members. And here’s the interesting part. The keyboard player’s melody could be turned into a full song by the rest of the band – and if the stars aligned – it could be their first No. 1 hit!

          Winning teams are open teams, where each member enjoys playing their part. No ideas or suggestions are off limits. And within this powerful safe space, effective and progressive teams can chart their unique path to the top.

          So, if your team is currently in the danger zone, put the tips in this article into action – and start turning your team into a positive, unstoppable force.

          Reference

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          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on January 13, 2020

          7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

          7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

          Throughout the ages, there have been many beliefs in various tricks to boosting brain power, yet when held up to scientific scrutiny, most of these beliefs don’t add up.

          When I was a child, for example, my mother told me if I ate fish it would make me more intelligent. Of course, there’s no scientific proof this is true.

          Today, there is a myriad of games you can download to your phone that claims to improve your brain’s cognitive skills. While we are still waiting for a conclusive scientific verdict on these, recent studies by neuroscientists at Western University in Ontario[1] and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia appear to contradict these claims.[2]

          So, how can we really boost our brain power? Well, it turns out there are a number of simple things you can do that will improve the function of your brain. Here are seven to get you started.

          1. Do Your Most Difficult Tasks in the Morning

          Our brains work at their best when they are fresh and energized after a good night’s sleep.

          If you have a task to do that requires a lot of thought and focus, the best time to do that task would be first thing in the morning when your brain is at its freshest.

          This is one of the reasons why checking email first thing the morning is not a good idea. You are wasting your brain’s best hours on a simple task that can be done when your brain is not at its freshest

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          Throughout the day, you will find the amount of time you can focus for will fall. Your decision-making abilities will also begin to weaken as the day progresses. This is called “decision fatigue” and that means the decisions you make later in the day will not be as good as the decisions you make earlier in the day.

          It’s far better to do your most difficult, creative tasks early taking advantage of your brain’s higher energy levels.

          Try to avoid meetings first thing in the morning and schedule work that needs higher creative energy and concentration.

          2. Get Enough Breaks

          Our brains are not very good at maintaining concentration and focus for much more than an hour. Once you go beyond a certain amount of time, doing focused work, you will find yourself making more and more mistakes. This is a sign your brain is tired and needs a break.

          Taking the right kind of break is important. Switching from working on a complex spreadsheet to checking your social media feeds is not going to give your brain the right kind of break. Instead, get up from your desk and head outside. If that is not possible, go to the nearest window and look outside.

          Your brain needs a break from the screen, not just the spreadsheet, so leave your phone behind so you are not tempted to look at it and just savour the view.

          3. Read Books, not Social Media Feeds

          There are no shortcuts to improved knowledge and you are certainly not going to improve your general knowledge about anything useful by reading social media feeds. Instead, make reading books a regular habit.

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          When you read good quality books, you increase your ability to use the knowledge you learn to solve problems as your brain will apply the knowledge you learned to existing situations.

          Learn about economic theory, history and psychology. All these topics have real practical applications for us all today.

          4. Exercise Regularly

          Humans did not evolve to be stationary animals. You need to move.

          Had our ancestors spent their days sat around, they would not have survived very long. To survive and find food, our ancestors had to keep moving. Our brains have evolved to function at their best when we are exercised.

          In his book, Brain Rules, Prof.John Medina explains when we exercise, we increase the amount of oxygen in our brains and this helps to sharpen our brain’s functions.

          In studies, when a previously sedentary group of people began a light exercise programme, their cognitive skills improve as well as reaction times and quantitive skills.

          This is why you are more likely to find the solution to a problem when you are walking somewhere or exercising rather than when you are sat at a desk in front of a screen.

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          5. Get Enough of the Right Food

          You probably have experienced the afternoon slump at some point in your life. This is when you feel tired and fatigued in the mid-afternoon. This is a result of the carbohydrates you ate at lunchtime, stimulating your body to produce insulin which then causes a drop in your blood sugar levels.

          When you go into an afternoon slump, concentrating for long periods become almost impossible and you just want to curl up and go to sleep.

          To prevent the afternoon slump, try to eat a protein-rich lunch such as a tuna or chicken salad without pasta, rice or bread. Keep some healthy snacks such as mixed nuts and dried bananas around your workspace and when you feel a little peckish, eat a few of these.

          Not only will you avoid the afternoon slump, but you will also improve your overall general health and feel a lot more energetic.

          6. Drink Enough Water

          Your brain is made up of about 70% water, so without enough water, your brain will not function at its best.

          When you are not drinking enough water, you will find your ability to concentrate, make decisions and stay alert will reduce. You will feel sleepy and lack energy. Your brain functions at its best when it is properly hydrated.

          The solution is to keep a large bottle of water at your work station and sip regularly from it throughout the day. This will increase the number of trips you need to make to the bathroom which is a good thing. It will keep you moving and taking regular breaks from your screen.

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          7. Don’t Deprive Yourself of Sleep

          You probably don’t need a long scientific study to convince you that if you are not getting enough sleep, you are not going to function at your best.

          You just need to go a couple of days without getting enough sleep and you feel your abilities reduce. Your decision-making skills become erratic, your energy levels drop and your ability to stay focused on your work diminishes.

          If you want to improve your brain’s ability to function, then start with getting enough sleep. The number of hours you need will depend on your own circadian rhythms, so find what works best for you.

          Six to eight hours is usually enough for most people so make sure you are hitting that number of hours per night as a minimum.

          The Bottom Line

          Improving our brain power is not difficult. All we need to do is develop a few simple habits such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating the right foods.

          These seven tips will go a long way to helping you to become more alert, able to focus longer and make decisions. All simple common sense tricks anyone can use.

          More to Boost Your Brain Power

          Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

          Reference

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