Have you seen the recent work issue of The New York Times Magazine? It caught my attention with an interesting article on what allows teams to thrive. You'd expect such an article to expound on the importance of leadership and the crucial role we play in team building and communication. But you may be as surprised as me by its somewhat different twist on teamwork.
The reported results of extensive Google research found only two essential attributes of successful teams and they aren't about demographics, such as smart people or certain personality types. The first is that all team members have equal time to speak up. The second? The team is socially sensitive to its members. That's it...having a voice and feeling valued and safe. Now, this doesn't mean that as leaders we're irrelevant to teamwork; after all, we do promote expected behaviors that define our desired culture. However, it does inform what we should be encouraging within our teams.
Allowing everyone a chance to be heard is the foundation of shared governance: giving a voice to staff members to determine their practice. Of course, listening to each individual is more granular than governance structures; it's how we operate within the team. Do we stop one or two people from dominating discussions or meetings and seek out every team member's input? We should be doing so. And, clearly, our leadership style can't be controlling if we want to foster that type of environment.
Sensitivity toward our colleagues may be a little harder to realize. There's no recipe for social aptitude, interest in each other as people, and an empathetic atmosphere. This quality reminds me of emotional intelligence—a familiar concept often on the list of desired leadership traits. We can help our teams grow in this way by role modeling and making it part of our daily work lives. Let's welcome each other, listen, reserve judgment, and create human connectedness.
Combining these two attributes leads to joyful, high-functioning teams, according to Google's research. This type of teamwork is dream work. Bad days are little to none, you love coming to work, the energy is inspiring, you have fun while you work, and the outcomes are amazing. The results are always better than any one person can do on his or her own.
This year's Nurses Week theme is that a culture of safety begins with every individual, further distinguished by openness, mutual trust, and transparency. Isn't this related to the psychological safety of being heard and feeling respected? As always, the elements that are important to our leadership journey are connected to each other.
As we celebrate all that's beautiful about nursing during Nurses Week this month, let's not forget that we do our work in teams. This isn't a solo sport. Each of us contributes to the whole, and the sum is greater than its parts. There's plenty of evidence-based practice and research behind teams and collaboration to back this up.
Let's allow everyone to be heard and share without fear, and with sensitivity to our staff members' feelings and needs. It boils down to listening and respect—two themes that keep resonating in our work. We must continue living them.