What makes the BEST Teams?

That’s the question that leaders at Google sought to answer in 2019 with Project Aristotle.

Some of what they discovered wouldn’t surprise you, but perhaps this one thing would.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, currently employs over 130,000 people. CEO, Sundar Pichai, is most notably known for his genuine, inquisitive, and somewhat unassuming style.  A leadership style rooted in emotional intelligence.

In a recent Inc. Magazine interview, Pichai described his job as breaking ties – moving things forward incrementally. He said: 

There are very few decisions that are extremely high stakes, where mistakes are going to have major consequences. It’s the incremental decisions that lead to progress.

What did Pichai, and Google, learn from Project Aristotle?

According to a Forbes article, here are the Top 5:

1. Psychological Safety

An environment that is “safe enough to take interpersonal risk.”  

Psychological safety is a topic you’ve likely heard us discuss before.  In Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he discusses the importance of having foundational trust in relationships as the cornerstone of building a cohesive leadership team.



In his Inc. interview, Pichai said:

To lead effectively, you’ve got to understand the person you are working with, not just the role they play… get to know their family situations, form a deeper bond.






2. Dependability

On a highly dependable team, people can rely on high-quality work being done on time.

I’m reminded of the Bruno Mars song: Count on Me






3. Structure & Clarity

In her best-selling book, Dare to Lead, author Brene Brown explains the concept of “Paint Done.”  What will a project look like when it is completely finished?  



Brown describes the Structure & Clarity that comes from Painting Done as:

  • Not just assigning the task, but explaining the reasons behind it
  • Providing color and context – the purpose, not just the mechanics
  • Uncovers stealth expectations and intentions, cultivates commitment and contribution – facilitates growth and learning

Here’s a complete list of the language skills and tools from Dare to Lead.

4. Meaning

Google found that you can create meaning in many different ways:

  • In the work itself
  • In the finished product
  • In the individual’s financial security
  • In supporting the individual’s family
  • In the individual’s contributions and self-expression

I’m reminded of the research from Dan Pink’s book Drive which he summarizes by saying:

The secret to high performance and satisfaction- at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.



In a recent video, we reference some of Pink’s thoughts on motivation and team goal setting. You can enjoy our full thoughts on the summation of goals here.




5. Impact

Impact is one of Debbie’s favorite words.

The Google project described impact this way: 

Work is about creating value and impact for others. Team members want to know – from their subjective perspective – that the work they are doing is creating impact.


Two fun facts about Sundar Pichai:

  1. He is one of the highest-paid executives in the world, with 2019 compensation topping $281M.
  2. His first interview at Google was on April Fool’s Day of 2004.  The same day that Gmail was introduced.  According to Business Insider, like many Google employees, Pichai thought Gmail was an April Fool’s Joke.


Quick homework exercise:

Give yourself, your team, and/or your business a 1-10 ranking on each of these 5 qualities. 

Then ask: 

  1. What am I doing well?
  2. What could I do better?
  3. How could I facilitate that type of growth with your team members?


Let’s get to work.


Be Elite!






The Best Teams Have These 5 Things – Forbes Jan 28, 2019

The Emotional Intelligence of Sundar PichaiInc.   March 31, 2021

The Life of Google CEO Sundar Pichai in Photos 2017 – Business Insider  April 29, 2020