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Breathing new life into soft skills

In 2013, Google carried out a study into the most important qualities of their top employees. The findings surprised many, including Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Project Oxygen, as it was called, identified the eight fundamental characteristics of Google’s most successful people. The eighth characteristic, STEM expertise, was surprisingly low on the list considering Google is a STEM dependent company. The eight characteristics in order were:


1. Being a good coach

2. Empowering your team and not micromanaging

3. Expressing interest in team members’ success and well-being

4. Being productive and results-oriented

5. Being a good communicator and listener

6. Helping your employees with career development

7. Having a clear vision and strategy

8. Having technical skills to advise the team


They followed this research with Project Aristotle, an exploration of what made the perfect team.


The four important ingredients of a successful team, in order, were:

· High psychological safety: Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking a risk. In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident no one on the team will embarrass or punish them for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.


· High dependability: Members reliably complete quality work on time (vs the opposite - shirking responsibilities).


· Structure and clarity: Having set individual and team goals, understanding the job expectations, the process for fulfilling these expectations, and the consequences of one’s performance help bring the team together to collaborate.


· Meaning and impact: Having a sense of purpose in either the work itself or the impact of one’s work gives teams a reason to want to contribute to an organisation’s goals.

As we start 2018, I reckon that this research can give us all a little food for thought; teachers, business leaders or sports coaches alike.


So, find a little breathing space and give it a little ponder.

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