As any business owner knows, building a successful team is not an easy task. Juggling the needs of different team members can be extremely challenging. Then striking the right balance in order to give the team the drive you desire is an even more difficult task. However, one thing you can be sure of is that if you have talented individuals, your team will be sure to perform well, right? Well, according to a major study by Google, that is not true either.

In this week’s blog, we have distilled down everything that was learned from Google in their Project Aristotle. They were looking into what ultimately makes a team high performing. What they found was not what is conventionally taught about teams.

They found that the people that make up the team are less important than the structure and environment the team works within. They found a number of similarities between those teams that performed best. Here are the five key elements that their research showed make up a successful team.

Psychological Safety

The first attribute, and the by far and away the most important according to Google, was something the research termed “Psychological Safety”. They defined this as creating a space in which everyone feels valued, their ideas are listened to and they feel comfortable in the team. The reason they stated this as the most important aspect of building a successful team was because it created the environment within which the team can work. This culture fosters the conditions within which each team member can maximise their potential.

To create such a culture a leader needs to develop the emotional intelligence in order to understand the differing needs of the team. This allows the leader to demonstrate trust and value in each member as an individual, as well as within their role in the team.


The second aspect Google found in high performing teams was the level of dependability with the group. This was how much people could count on their fellow team members to complete their tasks and produce things in a timely manner. Ensuring you can trust your fellow team members is a core competency that you need when building a successful team. This allows you to focus on your work knowing that your teammate will deliver in time for your deadline.

Structure and Clarity

This aspect of teams is understood pretty well already. For a team to maximise its output, the team members need to have clearly defined roles, plans, and goals. This structure allows people within the team to know exactly what they are doing, and most importantly, where it is taking them and the team. Furthermore, setting goals allows them to experience a sense of achievement in their work. Without targets being set how would they know when they have succeeded? And without that, they get no satisfaction. 


Over the last few decades, the value of meaning in someone’s work is becoming more and more understood. In terms of motivation, if there is personal significance in a team member’s work they will work harder, longer and be more passionate about their work. According to Google, the value of meaning is a core principle to consider when you are looking to build a successful team. It is important as a leader to contemplate whether the work you are asking the team to do has meaning for them. If you can make it more meaningful for the individuals you will see a greater return in their output.  


The final trait that high performing teams shared was a sense that what they were doing had a wider social impact. The idea that the work you are doing day to day has an impact and generates change is a major motivation for a team. So, as a leader, the more you can demonstrate the real world impact the better. Whether that is through the customers you serve or the impact you have on a community. If you can show the value of your work to the wider population or environment this will help motivate the team to keep performing.

Google’s greatest contribution through this research is demonstrating that it isn’t the individual’s abilities that create a great team, it is how it is led. As a business owner, you have the power to create that environment for a team to thrive. If you are looking to build a successful team, follow these five guidelines and you will be on the right track.

Create an environment that will foster high performance within your team by taking the time to consider how you can impact its culture.

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