I recently read this fascinating article in Inc. Magazine. Google conducted a study of successful teams and found they had these 5 things in common. Most of the findings seemed common sense to me, but the final trait I think is the great difference between being a boss of a team and being a leader and it translates from corporations, non-profit groups, and even student organizations.

The 5 Traits of a Successful Team

  1. Dependability: team members meet expectations
  2. Structure & Clarity: defined roles and clear goals
  3. Meaning: team members are passionate about the work they do
  4. Impact: the group believes their work is significant
  5. Psychological Safety: team environment is safe for team members to take risks, question decisions, and voice opinions

What are you doing as a leader to create Psychological Safety for your team members? Being a leader and not a boss means being vulnerable, opening yourself up to your team members to build rapport and trust. Here are some easy ways you can create an environment of psychological safety for your team.

  1. Encourage the Free Flow of Ideas: especially ideas that may be contradictory to your own! Thank your team for suggestions and thoughtfully consider them. Sometimes leaders attempt to placate team members by asking for suggestions, but they do so with no intention of using suggestions that are not in alignment with their own plans. Team members will see this type of response and will stop offering contributions, because they don’t genuinely feel heard.
  2. Accept Constructive Feedback: Yes, this is tough! As the boss you don’t always want to hear that your approach to leadership isn’t being well-received. But step back and thoughtfully listen to your teammates’ concerns. This is your opportunity to improve the inner workings of your team. Your leadership style may not be the best to elicit the intended outcomes of your team. You will be better served to adapt to the needs of your team to encourage them to be successful rather than to expect your entire team to adapt to your preferred leadership style.
  3. Fail Fast:  In the book, The Confidence Code, Kay and Shipman discuss the ideal of failing fast. Their research has found the fear of failure prevents people from taking risks. Their idea of failing fast encourages you to try lots of different ideas without fear of failure. Take that risk, because something miraculous could happen!  Team members will often hold back on new initiatives and taking risk for fear of your response as their leader. Instead, encourage their creativity and innovation by making them feel safe to fail.
  4. Be Transparent: Help your team members feel secure in the direction of your organization by being transparent about the state of the organization. This means sharing relevant information about budgets, policies, partnerships, and future plans. Your members will have more clarity in their roles and potential accomplishments if they have a full and transparent understanding about what is going on within all aspects of the organization.

To be a leader rather than a boss means to invest in people. Think about who the people are on your team and their needs to help your organization grow and thrive. An investment in the people of your organization is an investment in the organization itself and their success will mean the group’s success!