In Charles Duhigg’s new book on productivity, he summarizes the qualities of various high performing teams. He completed his chapter on strong teams by describing the meeting at which thousands of Google employees heard the head of People Operations outline what they’d learned about what makes strong teams tick.
It occurs to me that these lessons are also poignantly appropriate for building strong law firm teams.
There’s a myth floating around that we need superstars. But that’s not what our research found. You can take a team of average performers and if you teach them to interact the right way, they’ll do things no superstar could ever accomplish.
Duhigg went on to outline Google’s five key norms for strong teams:
- They believe their work is important
- They feel their work is personally meaningful
- They need clear goals and defined roles
- They need to know they can depend on one another
- But most important, they need safety
This was concluded by outlining the need for team leaders to model the right behaviors. To help them do that, Google designed checklists for leaders to use in creating the right norms for their teams:
- To ensure that everyone at meetings has a chance to contribute, no meeting should end until everyone has spoken at least once. Some Google leaders go one step further by putting a checkmark beside team members’ name every time they make a comment.
- To demonstrate they are listening, leaders should summarize what people have said after they have finished talking.
- When people are upset, leaders should encourage them to express their frustrations, and when there are conflicts, they should put these on the table and resolve them through open discussion.
- Finally – and this will be a particular challenge for some advisors – leaders should never interrupt teammates, because that will establish a norm where it is acceptable to shut other team members down.
Very few of us will have the opportunity to spend part of our careers at Google. But every advisor can learn from Google’s research into what makes strong teams and can apply that research to make our own teams operate more effectively.
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