How will we communicate?

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What are the key ingredients for team success? You might be surprised! Team success is not linked to having one strong leader, having like-minded people, or gathering the "best" people with the highest IQs. It's all about effective communication.   

In 2012, Google took on a five-year quest, code-named Project Aristotle, to look at team behaviours and patterns in order to discover how build the "perfect" team. The New York Times published an article in 2016 (RRU Library login), highlighting the results of this extensive study. As it turns out, the key to team success is not about WHO is on the team but about HOW the team communicates together. It's about:

  • having conversations that establish clear group norms (such as a Team Agreement)


  • creating an environment where there is "psychological safety" (Edmonston, 1999) - an atmosphere of interpersonal trust and respect, where team members feel safe to express themselves and take risks.  

How is psychological safety achieved? Google discovered two communication behaviours:

1. Create a team culture where there is "equality in the distribution of turn-taking". In other words, make space for everyone to contribute - allow for all members to share ideas and be heard. 

2. Listen to each other with "social sensitivity". In other words, listen to each other's words, while also paying attention to non-verbal cues, such as tone of voice, facial expression, body language. Use your intuition as well as your thinking mind. If you are meeting online we recommend you always keep your camera on.

Effective team communication involves...

  1. Listening...really listening.
  2. Being assertive (respecting your own needs while being respectful of others)
  3. Being aware of internal stories, checking out stories with others to confirm what is really true, dispelling assumptions, and working together to make choices that are best for you and your team. The Ladder of Inference illustrates how our perceptions influence our actions...perceptions can sometimes lead us astray!
  4. Being courageous and willing to engage in Difficult Conversations. 
  5. Using the most effective channels for communicating. Meeting face-to-face best supports social sensitivity. Explore on-line video communication tools to "read" each other's contributions. 
  6. Being open to receiving and giving feedback, for individual and team growth. At Royal Roads we talk about "feedforward" involves reflecting on what was learned in the past, identifying where changes would be beneficial, and exploring ways to improve in the future. Here's a great "Team Feedforward" activity. If you want to dive in even further with your team, Five Steps Conversational Feedback offers a roadmap to an indepth feedback discussion. 

Here's what one Royal Roads University Team,"Team Dynamite," did that resulted in their team's sucess. 

When a team creates an environment where effective communication is a top priority and contributions are accepted, valued, respected and understood, success is an inevitable outcome.