The Changing Shape of Teams and Google’s Project Aristotle

Posted 01 Oct 2019 by Melissa Summer

We all have different interpersonal needs (such as for control, affection and inclusion). But almost everyone needs to belong to a group to some degree. Teams are groups of people who work together to achieve a common goal.

And who are dependent on each other to deliver it. 

However with this definition of teams, many company's ‘teams’ shouldn’t actually be called teams at all.

Take leadership teams for example. 

Often members of the group are so focused on the success of their own business unit (instead of common company goals) that they become competitors. They’re not as focused on if other units fail, and as a result the organization as a whole suffers. 

And each of those leader’s interpersonal needs plays a part in their behavior with the rest of the leaders in the group. Theirs needs also play a part in how they behave with their direct reports. Below is an example of how interpersonal needs (in this case the need for inclusion) played out with one leader and the people that reported to her:

 

 

Google's Project Aristotle & Teams

Feeling like you are trusted, safe and below to part of a team is important for a team’s performance.

In 2012 Google launched Project Aristotle – a large-scale research study that focused on teams. They found the most important factor to team success was psychological safety. Psychological safety is when you feel comfortable enough with the people around you to take a risk and be vulnerable.

Essentially, it's another name for trust.

But when people belong to many different teams, or work remotely, it takes more time to build trust and establish psychological safety.

Greenlight found that from 1,700 knowledge workers they surveyed, 79% reported always or frequently working in dispersed teams.

To read more about modern teams and how to make them work, download our trends report and check out the chapter on The Evolving Shape of Teams (pg. 24).

 

Personality Assessments for Team Development

 

The MBTI® and FIRO-B® assessments are both personality-based tools that’re often used to help people recognize each other’s strengths and motivations, build trust among teams, and improve communication.

But why do personality tools help teams bond? Because often unproductive team behavior isn’t the result of malice.

It comes from misunderstanding. 

Without the knowledge of why people do things a certain way (knowledge of differences in personality, interpersonal needs and motivations), you can’t produce lasting change of how people react (aka their behavior and actions).

You’ve probably heard of the MBTI assessment, but maybe not the FIRO® assessment

Many companies have found success using the FIRO-B or FIRO-Business assessment to improve team cohesion and for leadership development. Companies like the US Air Force, UCSF, Nokia the San Francisco Child Abuse Center.

The University of Maryland Medical System considers the FIRO-B tool to be a gold standard assessment. In a 2015 survey, Jeffery Jones (the Director of Organizational Development and Inclusion) said that he was looking for a tool to:


Ultimately, they chose to use the FIRO-B assessment because it could improve understanding of personal relationships, motivations and behavior and reduce conflict among teams and individuals. He said, “I use different assessments for different purposes depending on the client’s situation. The FIRO-B assessment opens people’s awareness to interpersonal and team dynamics, defines a language with which to talk about these, and offers more possibilities for action.” 

In addition, one FIRO Certification participant in leadership development from a state government agency said this about the FIRO tool:

“FIRO Certification taught me about social need theory. All living things seek equilibrium between their basic needs and getting those needs met. This knowledge helps leaders understand that they’re leading to improve relationships, and in turn helps with performance.”Interested in learning more about the FIRO personality assessment for developing teams? Reach out to us today. 
 

Want to learn about how to use the FIRO tool with your employees or teams? Learn more about FIRO Certification Programs

 

 

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