Former Alabama head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant understood the concept of building a team. He did it year after year for decades. While he was living, he would say “I’m just a plow hand from Arkansas, but I have learned how to hold a team together. How to lift some men up, how to calm down others, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together, a team. There’s just three things I’d ever say.
If anything goes wrong, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it.”
Google recently conducted an extensive study devoted to building the perfect team. It focused on identifying what caused some teams to be more effective than other teams. The results yielded one area as being the most impactful; the area of Psychological Safety. Google went on to define it: “Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking an interpersonal risk or a belief that a team is safe for risk taking in the face of being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive. In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.”
Justin Bariso, author of EQ Applied: The Real World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, describes the prime ingredients that make up a team. He goes on to share several suggestions for creating an atmosphere of psychological safety in your organizations and for your teams.
-Speak less and listen better. Meetings are an excellent platform for getting new ideas and to benefit from diverse perspectives. But, they can also be an opportunity for growth when all the team members are at ease and able to share their viewpoints and opinions. Barista goes on to suggest the following when chairing a meeting: “Ask more questions. Draw out introverted or shy team members by asking specifically for their opinion. Refuse to micromanage or solve every problem yourself. In addition, you must be careful not to allow more extroverted team members to dominate the conversation. To avoid stifling their enthusiasm, you can kindly let the know ahead of time about your plans to try and get others involved.”
-Encourage. Everyone needs a little attention every now and then. Along the same lines, encouraging others gives them a significant psychological boost. When good deeds are done, recognize who did what and when they did it. Barista says “the key is to be specific. By learning to identify, recognize, and praise what you appreciate about your teammates, you encourage them and build their confidence. That will bring out their best in the future.”
-Turn Negatives around. As the saying goes “You’ve got to accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives.” Unfortunately, negative feedback is a reality. Sometimes constructive criticism is necessary. “Praise may motivate and inspire, but negative feedback is necessary for growth” says Bariso. “the problem is, most people struggle with receiving criticism. But you can influence their reaction if you reframe negative feedback as something constructive. For example, give your colleague a measure of control by first asking them how they feel about the topic at hand. Use questions to develop empathy and understand their point of view. Then, ask if you can share some feedback that’s helped you in the past. If the feedback centers on a mistake they’ve made, be sure to acknowledge your own mistakes or share how similar feedback helped you improve. Then, they’ll see you as someone who’s trying to help, not harm.”
-Engage. Putting yourself in someone else’s position is called empathy. Watch others closely, see how they behave. Observe their likes and dislikes. All of these tactics require you to pay attention to others. According to Bariso “when you are in tune with your colleagues’ moods and feelings, you can adjust your communication to make a more positive impact…A little understanding goes a long way in building trust with your teammates, and it will inspire them to do the same for you when the time comes.”
Just as Coach Bryant of Alabama explained his methodology for building a team very simply and in a folksy way, Bariso states some significant qualities that need to be present in order to build that team. Regardless of how you look at team building in your company, it is a critical component for your growth.