So what's the secret to building a team? How do we know which team members are necessary to ensure a winning combination? Trust and social safety are the top of the list. Surprising I know. Isn't it intelligence, functional knowledge and creativity? Apparently not. Gregg Popovich, coach to the San Antonio Spurs has a habit of creating winning streaks by building relationships and modeling a family unit on his team. 'Pop' does this by making sure the team belongs to each other, that they believe they are special because of the high standards he has set for them and that everyone on the team can meet those standards. All of these messages send a clear signal to the brain "This is a safe place to give your full effort." Daniel Coyle, in his book "The Culture Code" outlines this recipe in 3 steps. Popovich's communication consists of belonging cues:

  1. Personal up-close connection (body language, attention and behavior that translates I care about you   
  2. Performance feedback that translates as, "we have high standards"   
  3. A big picture perspective. A larger conversation that includes politics, history, food, wine and underscores the message: we are more than basketball, we are family. 

Every sales executive will say that meetings are almost always more productive in person. Why is that true? It turns out that human productivity is directly linked to proximity and the frequency of meaningful communication that sends the message, "you are safe here." During the Cold War, Thomas Allen was asked to determine what made the most productive teams successful when solving very difficult engineering feats for the government. During the study Allen found that the most accurate indicator of a team's success had everything to do with the proximity of the their desks and the frequency of communication. That's it. Productivity and creativity grow when the team feels like they belong to each other and connect through communication. Another study also looked for which leaders manage to replicate this kind of culture. The pattern is, these leaders create a culture where they personally express gratitude to others regularly and are also of service to others first. This practice and intention spreads throughout a group quickly and permeates how they work together, think about and trust each other. In the book "Legacy" the New Zealand All Blacks have become world renown for building team through social ritual, discipline and among many other things a humble posture of service by 'sweeping the sheds'. The ritual is that even after winning a championship game the team will return to the locker room and clean up trash, sweep the floors and put everything in its place before celebrating. This practice grounds the players, builds a heart of service, and reminds them that glory begins with the simple stuff: humility, discipline, family, trust and social safety. The basics win again.