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Google Spent Years Studying Effective Teams. This Quality Contributed Most to Their Success


The best companies are made up of great teams. Even a company full of A-players won't succeed if those individuals don't have the ability to work well together.

That's why a few years ago, Google set out on a quest to figure out what makes a team successful.

They code-named the study Project Aristotle, a tribute to the philosopher's famous quote "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

To define "effectiveness," the team decided on assessment criteria that measured both qualitative and quantitative data.

They analyzed dozens of teams and interviewed hundreds of executives, team leads and team members.

The researchers then evaluated team effectiveness in four different ways:

1. executive evaluation of the team;

2. team leader evaluation of the team;

3. team member evaluation of the team; and

4. sales performance against quarterly quota.

So, what did they learn?

What mattered most: Trust.

Google published some of its findings here. Included was the answer to the following question:

What was the most important factor contributing to a team's effectiveness?

It was psychological safety.

Simply put, psychological safety refers to an individual's perception of taking a risk, and the response his or her teammates will have to taking that risk.

Google describes it this way:

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.

In other words, great teams thrive on trust.

This may appear to be a simple concept, but building trust between team members isn't easy. A team of just five persons brings along varying viewpoints, working styles and ideas about how to get a job done.

So, how can you build trust in your team?

It starts with the following actions:

Listen first.

To build trust, you must respect how others think and feel. That's why it's important to listen first.

When you regularly and skillfully listen to others, you stay in touch with their reality, get to know their world and show you value their experience.