Google’s Main Ingredient For Building Great Teams

In 2012, Google wanted to find out what made great teams great.

Google’s People Operations group poured through 50 years of research, conducted hundreds of interviews and observed numerous teams.

Data and analytics should surely point to an algorithm of skills and characteristics that predict team success, right?


The one trait that predicts team success

Google found that attributes such as interests, personality, skills, background, friendships outside the office and introversion/extroversion made no difference whether a team flourished or failed.

However, they did find one overarching trait predicted team success – psychological safety.

Psychological safety is the shared group norm where team members feel safe to take risks and say what they think, without fear of being judged or rejected.

When psychological safety is present, teams:

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  • Embrace emotional discussions;
  • Share without fear of retaliation;
  • Engage in difficult conversations with each other;
  • Show empathy;
  • Commit to conversational turn-taking;
  • Admit mistakes.

The big takeaway for managers

Google discovered that psychological safety permeates almost every aspect of individual, team and company performance.

Individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave Google, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.”

Here’s the big lesson for managers:

Focus less on trying to assemble the perfect team, and more on creating an environment and incentives that encourage honest discussion, listening and empathy.

This was originally published on PeopleResult’s Current blog.

Marta Steele is a Partner at PeopleResults and a change and human resources consultant, having served in diverse internal and external consulting roles for over 16 years. Prior to People Results, Marta was affiliated with Accenture where she held leadership positions in a number of successful large-scale people initiatives. Connect with her on Twitter at or via email at