Practicing Mindfulness is Critical to Thriving Teams
One of the great enigmas in the workplace is why do some teams fail and others thrive. We may have some answers by virtue of an amazing study done by Google called Project Aristotle.
In 2012, Google embarked on an initiative to “study hundreds of Google’s teams and figure out why some stumbled while others soared.” They conducted intensive data analysis with 699 people that were divided into small groups each given assignments that required different kinds of cooperation.What conclusions did they reach? There was one factor that crossed all teams and situations that was critical to making a team thrive – psychological safety. They found two key behaviors that created psychological safety:
- conversational turn-taking, and
These two behaviors were critical to establish a bond among team members. Without creating and maintaining psychological safety, teams would not thrive even if they had clear goals and direction.
What is conversational turn-taking? Emotional conversations and discussions of norms among team members who might otherwise be uncomfortable talking about how they feel. This permits people to be fully present at work, to wear the face of who they are rather than a work face. To share things that may be personal, scary or uncomfortable without fear of recrimination.
The empathy part is members listening to one another and showing sensitivity to a person’s feelings and needs.
Teams that practice mindfulness of breathing to be attentive in the present, learning to suspend judgment when generating ideas, to pause and respond rather than react, learning to let go of one’s ego by not being possessive or attached to one’s ideas or accomplishments, to listen deeply without thinking ahead, and compassion for what another person is feeling are fundamental to creating psychological safety.
As Google concluded, “Project Aristotle is a reminder that when companies try to optimize everything, it’s sometimes easy to forget that success is often built on experiences – like emotional interactions and complicated conversations and discussions of who we want to be and how our teammates make us feel – that can’t really be optimized.”
I invite you to read “Group Study” in The Sunday New York Times Magazine, February 28, 2016. Post your comments in response to this remarkable study.