Michael Schneider summarized the two year Google study of exceptional teams.

Google Spent 2 Years Studying 180 Teams. The Most Successful Ones Shared These 5 Traits

The listed important key characteristic traits are really open to considerable debate.

Dependability seems to be an important key but it is more complex a characteristic then just doing work in a timely efficient way. In order for a team to be dependable the group or team members must be competent and smart hard workers. The leadership too has to be exceptional and that means that the management has integrity, is trustworthy, has emotional intelligence, provides good feedback, coaches well, and is good at making the right decisions. All these additional key characteristics are those of a good manager which an exceptional team must have.

Structure and clarity is another key characteristic and that is a leadership skill which means organizing a team with minimal overlapping responsibilities and clearly defining the goals which the team must achieve. Good personnel choices and coordinating diverse skill sets to achieve a greater goal in unison is a function of good planning by the leadership and successful follow through by the team. Structure and clarity is really management making good decisions.

Meaning should imply that the work has personal significance to each member which is another way of saying that each team member has been clearly assigned a task or tasks to do which are an integral or important part of the ultimate goal or goals to be achieved. In effect team members feel that they are making significant contributions to the success of the combined team efforts. Meaning is really a vague poorly defined word which seems to imply that some teams are given meaningless tasks to do which could broadly be considered to be make work assignments.

Impact is a feeling by group members that they are contributing to the general good of the company. Impact is also a vaguely defined characteristic and seems to imply that exceptional teams are given very important tasks to do which greatly affect the bottom line of the company and some teams are given relatively unimportant tasks which don’t significantly impact the general good or bottom line of the company. Both meaning and impact are very subjective characteristics of exceptional teams and are more dependent on the importance of the assigned tasks rather than dependent on the characteristics of team leadership and team members.

Psychological safety is a work environment which encourages the sharing of opinions and ideas with a freedom to be vulnerable and ask questions. It is leadership which encourages both good and bad feedback from and among team members. Participatory interaction is encouraged rather than a standoffish authoritarian demeanor with minimum interaction. It appears that workers are more satisfied and dedicated to their work if they feel that they can be interacting contributing participants rather than just cogs in an authoritarian machine.


An exceptional team by definition has greater impact on the organization so it is also probably doing more meaningful work so these two are really not key characteristics of an exceptional team. Psychological safety is just management providing good feedback in a minimally authoritarian style of leadership. Structure and clarity grows out of good decision making by the team leadership.

They key characteristic of an exceptional team is dependable or competent, smart and hard working team members. The other key characteristics are good leadership skills and I have listed 6 of them which were mentioned in another research project done by Google to determine what exceptional leadership skills it tries to instill in it’s managers.

There is really no mystery what an exceptional team is. It is exceptional team managers and exceptional team members. List the most important characteristics of both and you have 7 key characteristics of an exceptional team. Yes, you might ask why only 7 and the deeper you probe the more you may come up with by explaining the 7 in greater detail.

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