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Tip of the Day

Google’s secret to building high performance teams

By June 16, 2019September 12th, 2022No Comments

In an interview with The Harvard Business Review, the Head of Industry at Google Paul Santagata revealed the results of his two-year study into team performance.

His study found that high-performing teams have one thing in common.

“In Google’s fast-paced, highly demanding environment, our success hinges on the ability to take risks and be vulnerable in front of peers.”

All of this falls into feeling safe at work – mentally safe – or as Santagata refers to it, psychological safety.

So how do you create teams based on trust and high performance?

Santagata suggests a number of ways you can go about this in his interview, including tips on how to approach conflict.

However the one key that found across the research was this:

The belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake.

“There’s no team without trust,” stated Santagata.

Trust allows employees to feel that they can take moderate risks, speak their mind and be creative, all without fearing your ideas may not be taken seriously or considered dumb.

Avoid triggering a ‘fight-or-flight’ response – focus on achieving a mutually desirable outcome, rather than trying to win the argument. When you have to meet with someone who has made a mistake, accept before you go into the meeting that you don’t know the full story, and listen to them with an open mind. Try saying:

“How could we achieve a mutually desirable outcome?”

Replace blame with curiosity– The alternative to blame is curiosity. If you believe you already know what the other person is thinking, then you’re not ready to have a conversation. Instead, adopt a learning mindset, knowing you don’t have all the facts. Engage them in exploration.  For example: 

“I imagine there are multiple factors at play. Perhaps we could uncover what they are together?”

Speak human to human in challenging conversations, remember that everyone deserves respect and came to work wanting to achieve a positive result just like you.

Santagata further suggests “As a manager, it’s also critical that you set the standard for your employees and demonstrate the team culture you’re aiming for. This includes taking regular breaks, leaving on time, and avoiding emailing and making work calls after hours. This will help show your employees what you expect of them.”

Measure Psychological safety – Santagata periodically asks his team how safe they feel and what could enhance their feeling of safety by taking regular surveys that specifically address things such as:

“How confident are you that you won’t receive retaliation or criticism if you admit an error or make a mistake?”


If this topic is of interest to you, I have an amazing article I can share with you. It is so brilliant it makes my heart sing every time I read it.  It provides the top 5 ways to build high performance based on the data of thousands. I love it because it is evidence-based but so practical.  Forbes provided this research, send me a note here and I will send you the link.

Those who know me know I am a huge advocate for “re-finding” and rebuilding trust in teams to set a new platform that always, always leads to increased performance.  Happy to discuss how this can work anytime!  Warmly, Margie