What Makes a Successful Team: The Secret Sauce

When it comes to a project, the key to success lies in the strength of the team behind it. In my 20 years of working in teams, I’ve never experienced the synergy that exists on my current team…and I think I figured out why!

Recently, I was the Senior Instructional Designer on a project designing a professional development program for senior leaders that focused on business relationships. During my research, I came across this New York Times Article describing a project completed by Google called Aristotle. Aristotle was basically a study designed to answer the question: “What makes high performing teams at Google?” and the results were interesting. According to Aristotle, there are 5 key qualities that make up a successful team:

  1. Psychological safety: Fostering an environment of trust and openness. It’s encouraging team members to voice opinions and take risks without fear of consequence.
  2. Dependability: Everyone is accountable, reliable, and trustworthy.
  3. Structure and clarity: Having clear performance standards and directives.
  4. Meaning: Having a sense of purpose in the work.
  5. Impact: The value the work creates for others.

Before reading the article, I knew the Smartfirm team had something special. We held great space together; we were all happy to be there, could depend on each other, were great at identifying goals and the roles and responsibilities needed to achieve them, and everyone understood the importance of our work and the value it provided to our clients. Not to mention the great vibes, exciting brainstorming sessions, innovative ideas, open communication, and our collective approach from project start to finish. But it was Aristotle’s research that gave me the term for “psychological safety” and helped me clearly identify what made working on this team so different from all the others. We have a secret sauce.

Now… since it is a secret sauce, I can’t give away all the ingredients, but I will share what I believe to be the ingredients that make it special:

  • Our safe working space inspires collaboration. We prioritize creating a safe working space because it leads to a free flow of ideas, healthy debate, and ultimately, better outcomes. And we really care about one another. We realize we spend a lot of our time at work, and we want that time to be enjoyable for everyone.
  • Trust is the foundation of our relationships. Having trusted, solid relationships improve our communication and productivity, and it proves to be invaluable when problems arise. We know that when everyone on the team is accountable, reliable, and trustworthy, the team succeeds.
  • A team that creates goals together, achieves together. We have a common understanding of how important it is to have clear roles, and execution plans and work together to create them. We know that doing this work upfront creates a well-defined structure. Everyone needs to know what is expected of them to be successful.
  • A little passion goes a long way. We are passionate about our work, and we are invested in the team’s success. The meaning looks different for everyone, but quality is our collective goal, and we support each other to achieve it.
  • Growth is always a goal. The impact our work can have on others means something to us. We are happy to be contributing to something more than ourselves. We want to develop professionally, as well as advance the company.

I’m continuously learning as a member of this team. It’s one of the coolest things about working collaboratively; you learn so much from the people you work with.

As a client engaging with our team, you can expect an experience that goes beyond conventional project outcomes. Smartfirm’s synergy is not just a quality within our team; it’s a commitment to elevating your projects to new heights. Reach out to us to experience the Smartfirm difference —we’re ready to cook up some success together!

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