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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

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on October 13, 2020

          A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

          A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

          If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. Luckily, this goal setting guide is here to help.

          Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

          You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you because all the following information has you covered.

          Today you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

          What Are Goals?

          To kick off our goal setting guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

          A goal is basically your aim for the relatively long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

          Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

          Objects vs goals for goal setting

            Let’s say you want to learn a new foreign language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and learning aims, are the objectives.

            Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

            However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

            Why Is Goal Setting Important?

            Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?

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            Well, if that’s what you want to do in your life, go ahead, but if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, goal setting is necessary.

            Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

            Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

            Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity in the right regard.

            Types of Goals

            Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting guide.

            These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.

            Time-Based

            One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.

            Daily

            There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

            Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

            Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.

            Short-Term

            Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, these are aimed for the near future.

            The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have an idea of how much the situation can change. That is unless, of course, something extremely unpredictable happens, the chances of which are quite slim.

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            Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

            Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.

            Long-Term

            Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

            Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

            Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

            There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

            They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.

            Life-Based

            Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.

            Career

            Like all humans, you will always want to succeed and excel in your career. No one wants to stay where they are forever.

            Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal.

            You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.

            Personal

            The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

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            From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal.

            Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, get married, or have children, all these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

            How to Set Goals

            The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

            SMART Goals

            Every goal you define has to be smart[3]. No, we don’t mean the adjective. We’re referring to the acronym here.

            SMART stands for:

            • Specific
            • Measurable
            • Attainable
            • Relevant
            • Time-Bound

            In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified. 

            If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

            There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

            Some Rules

            Whenever you’re working your way through this goal setting guide, keep a few things in mind.

            First and foremost, prioritize your goals. Things that you want to achieve the quickest should be worked on first.

            Don’t act in a way that is self-centered. There are people around you who will be affected by the things you do. Keep them in mind when defining goals.

            Lastly, do not let yourself forget the bigger picture. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

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            I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

            How to Reach Your Goals

            You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.

            Tactics

            One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

            Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it way easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

            Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.

            Tools

            With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

            Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

            Bottom Line

            In conclusion, using a goal setting guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

            Try out the tactics and tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

            More Tips on Achieving Success

            Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

            Reference

            [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
            [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
            [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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