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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 June 2, 2020

          Why You Need to Set Future Goals (And How to Reach Them)

          Why You Need to Set Future Goals (And How to Reach Them)

          It’s very easy to go through life without ever having a worthwhile goal. It is very easy to avoid the challenge of setting goals and being accountable for achieving those goals.

          But without any goals, your life will drift and lack any meaningful purpose. The worst thing that could happen to you is to reach your final days and look back at your life, and wonder how you screwed up the amazing opportunity you had to build an incredibly rewarding life.

          In this article, we’ll look into the reasons why you should start setting future goals, and how to set ones that will help you lead a fulfilling life.

          Why You Need to Set Future Goals

          The Source of Happiness

          Having meaningful goals gives your life a purpose. It gives you a reason to wake up in the morning, get out of bed and live life with a direction.

          Goals give you energy and vitality and something to aim for each day. Ultimately, your happiness will be enhanced when you begin to see you are making progress on your goals, and as each day passes and you move that little bit closer to achieving what you set out to achieve you gain more focus and energy to push that little bit more.

          A Roadmap to Travel Down

          But having goals is more than that. Goals give you a roadmap to travel down.

          Your goals could be related to your career. Imagine you want to one day start your own business. An idea such as starting your own business begins as an image in your mind.

          As you think more about your idea, you start to visualize what it would be like to be running your own business. No boss breathing down your neck watching what you are doing, no annoying colleagues interrupting you with their problems and complaining about how much work they have to do. Having the freedom to make your own decisions about what you will do and when.

          As you visualize your idea, you begin to ask yourself: how? How will I start my own business? What do I have to do to start? These questions are the beginnings of a plan and a goal is simply a plan for the future.

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          It does not have to be as professional as starting your own business. It could be wanting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro before your fiftieth birthday. Once again, it begins with an idea, you may have seen a documentary about Mount Kilimanjaro, or a friend did it a few years ago and tells you it was one of the best experiences she had ever had in her life.

          Wherever the inspiration comes from, you begin to visualise yourself climbing to the top, exhausted but exhilarated having achieved something only a very few people manage to do in their lifetimes.

          Once again the question: “how?” Jumps into your mind, and once again the beginnings of a plan begins to formulate. Another goal.

          A Clear Intention to Live

          When you think about it, our whole lives are centred around goals. Getting up for work on a cold, wet Monday morning requires the goal of getting out of bed at a specific time. Not a pleasant goal for many, but it’s a goal nonetheless. Getting home in time for dinner with your family is a goal.

          Pretty much everything we want to do and achieve in our lives requires an intent to achieve something. That is what goals are. An intention to do something by a specific time.

          How to Begin Developing Future Goals

          1. Start with Your Vision

          Begin with a vision of what you want to achieve. Whether it is a professional or personal goal, you need to have a clear vision of what it is you want to achieve.

          You can get a little help from this article: The Best Way to Create a Vision For the Life You Want

          Take some time to really see what the end result will be like. Close your eyes and see it, see yourself achieving your goal.

          If you want to build a secure financial future for yourself and your family, what will that look like? Will that be cash in the bank or a portfolio of investments?

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          If you want to take a holiday of a lifetime with your closest friends this summer, where will you go? What will you do? Imagine yourself already achieving your goal. How will you feel?

          Feel those emotions in your imagination. Feel the smile on your face, feel the laughter, the joy and the excitement as you board the plane.

          2. Ask the Right Questions

          The best question to ask is: What do I have to do to…? This is an incredibly powerful question because it opens up your mind to the possibility of achieving your goal. The way this question is phrased means you are only considering ways to achieve, not ways you cannot achieve.

          The wrong question to ask is “how can I achieve this goal?” That question often elicits the tempting answer “you can’t”. What you want to be doing is opening your mind up to possibilities and the actions you will have to take to make it happen.

          Now the “what do I have to do?” Question often brings up actions you may at first feel are impossible, so you ask the question again.

          For example, let’s say you want to build a secure future for you and your family, and your initial answer comes up with a figure of USD$1 million. Now if you are earning USD$50,000 a year, that means you will have to work at least forty years saving half your salary each month.

          Let’s be honest here, that is not going to be easy and for forty years, probably impossible. So you will need to ask the question again. “What do I have to do to have USD1 Million in savings by the time I retire?” The answers you come up with from asking this question again will take you closer towards building your goal into achievable steps.

          3. Look at Your Daily Habits

          Our daily habits and behaviors are the driving force behind the results we achieve in our lives.

          If you smoke twenty cigarettes every day, drink several glasses of wine each evening and go to bed slightly drunk, over time, this will have a profoundly negative effect on your health. If it does not send you to an early grave, you are almost certainly going to experience difficulties with your health at some point in time.

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          Couple that with eating unhealthily and being excessively overweight, you are going to become a burden on your family and friends later in life.

          Because our daily habits and behaviors have such a large impact on the results we achieve in our lives, you should take some time to analyze yours.

          Identify the ones that give you negative results. Unhealthy eating, excessive drinking, smoking, complaining and gossiping are common ones, but others such as waking up at the last possible moment, going to bed late and spending all night playing computer games are a few others that, over time, will result in negative outcomes in your life.

          If you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro before you turn fifty, then get yourself out in the evening and exercise. Turn it into a habit. Spend thirty minutes every morning reading about and researching Mount Kilimanjaro instead of checking your email, Facebook or Instagram feed. Use your time in more positive ways.

          This guide can give you some nice advice on how to quit bad habits: How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop

          4. Set a Date

          If your goals do not have a timeline and an end date, you will find excuses to put off what you need to do to make it happen.

          You can, of course, adjust your deadline if you find you were a little too ambitious with your initial enthusiasm. But you do need a deadline.

          If your goal is to have USD $1 Million by the time you retire, your goal needs to be based on what you need to have saved by the end of the year. For most of us, retirement may be quite a few years away, but by beginning now, you will give yourself enough time to build up your savings and investments.

          Likewise, if your goal is to run a full course marathon before you turn forty, then depending on how old you are today, you may want to set goals for running a 5KM, 10KM and half-marathon each year before you run the big one.

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          Setting dates and deadlines gives you the sense of urgency you need to make progress. You do not have to achieve the ‘big goal’ in the first year, but you do need to have an annual goal that is taking you a little closer each day, month and year toward the big, future goal.

          5. Visualize and Review Regularly

          Whatever your future goals are, you should have some form of vision board to keep you reminded of your final destination.

          Whether that is having a secure financial future, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or running a full course marathon, having some form of vision board — either digital in the form of a photo album in your digital photo storage, or a board on Pinterest or a physical board in your room with photographs and clippings of what you want to do — will help keep you motivated when you feel ‘not in the mood’.

          It will give you something visual to help you review your progress and adjust deadlines if necessary.

          Final Thoughts

          We are all different and we all want different things in our lives. Many of us want to build a successful business, others want to develop a successful career in medicine or law.

          Whatever it is you want out of life, it is your life and it is up to you to create it. You have the good fortune to be able to decide, act and achieve and it all starts with an idea and a vision, then a few questions the answers to which will give you a plan and a destination to travel towards.

          Don’t waste this chance. You do not want to end your days full of regret and disappointment. You want to end your days knowing you lived an extraordinary life on your terms.

          More Tips About Setting & Achieving Goals

          Featured photo credit: Evan Kirby via unsplash.com

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