High performance teams don’t just happen, they are consciously created
We cannot force cooperation or demand teams to function by decree. Like in a volunteer organisation, cooperation and working together are a product of choices, and these choices are often unique to the individual member of the team. A High performance team is a group of people who are able to achieve extraordinary results by working together towards a common goal.
Here are 5 keys to help you consciously create an engaged team:
Create a clear, common purpose
The foundation of any high performing group is a clear, common, and compelling purpose. Too often, a team’s purpose is poorly defined, uninspiring, or vague, leaving the team to try work out what success is supposed to look like. Ultimately a team is a means to achieve a desired outcome that is too big to be achieved through individual efforts. It is not an end in itself, a team is a tool to achieve the desired end. This team purpose should provide a compelling reason for collaboration, giving members a reason to commit to the team.
This compelling common purpose can also help hold the group together and help them overcome the inevitable challenges and turbulence they will experience along the way to their goal. A key element of leadership and the source of a team’s power is the alignment of each team member to the purpose. Misaligned teams are often poorly led teams. A common cause of team failure is launching too quickly before members have had the opportunity to connect to the purpose of the team. This purpose should also be SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time based).
Clear empowered aligned roles
It is essential to know your team’s strengths and talents. We require less motivation to do what we are best at. It is necessary to ensure we have the right people who are able to deliver on the team purpose. As necessary as skills are motivation and a positive attitude are often more valuable than experience alone. In a high performance team effective leaders motivate and coach the individual as well as the team. This helps and develop less experienced colleagues and helps each member align to the group purpose. Effective leaders listen to everyone and help create a sense of belonging by helping each member understand what each has to offer, and how they help achieve the shared objectives together. Team roles are a product of the strategic design, division, and deployment of the work of the team.
When teams divide the labour, they become interdependent (and risk increases). For a team to reap the rewards of interdependence, its members must communicate, collaborate and share knowledge. This is not always easy as collaborating is a choice. Despite the seemingly obvious logic and rewards of collaborating, many teams begin to struggle when interdependent people act independently out of alignment to the team purpose. How we align the roles and share the team purpose directly determines the team synergy. High performing teams leverage each individuals’ strengths against the collective work product, as such it is essential that each team member is clear about their own role as well as the role of every other team member. As the team’s purpose for being is the reason for cooperation, the development, alignment and division of roles is a team’s strategy for cooperation.
The mark of a dynamic successful team is the level of open, honest and transparent communication. High performance teams actively increase trust by building a culture of shared values and partnership, this begins with open and honest communication. When honesty and transparency are lacking trust is the first thing to go. When trust is absent teams fail to solve problems or make informed decisions and conflict becomes a recurring issue. Clear communication is the basis of effective cooperation. One of the key benefits of team-based organisations is that they can be more agile and move faster, however a team cannot move faster than it can communicate.
Successful teams all master the art of straight talk. Robust and honest communication delivered with respect reduces misunderstandings and confusion. Teams who understand the essential nature of effective communication approach it with a determined intentionality. To further reduce conflict and increase effective communication it needs to be clear how decisions are made. Whether the team leader makes the decision, or they are made by a consensus process, the team needs to understand beforehand how decisions will be made as this clarity around decision making reduces conflict when a decision or choice has to be made.
Build a diverse learning environment
A respectful learning organisation does not hide failure but learns from them in a constructive manner. It is essential to meet regularly to discuss progress, concerns, and ideas for improvement. Regularly identify, map business processes and evaluate their effectiveness in achieving the team purpose. Learning organisations are always asking “How are we doing?“; “What are we learning from this?” and “How can we do it better?” This does not mean team members all get along all the time. A common misconception is that to work and communicate effectively, team members must be friends. In reality, friendship is seldom the basis for highly effective teams. Research has shown that, in fact, the more differences that exist in a team, the more effective it can be in solving problems creatively.
Teams with similar outlooks and a common view of the world often get caught in the trap of cyclical thinking as they all see the world in a similar way. Teams with more diversity who look at the world through different lenses of function, gender, ethnicity, personality, experience, and perspective can have a problem solving advantage over more homogenous groups. Diverse groups tend to see more creative solutions when they can channel their differences into synergy rather than conflict. Solid team relationships based on honest feedback, trust, acceptance, respect, understanding, and courtesy build a foundation for high levels of collaboration. Trust, however is the non-negotiable element of interdependent relationships as people will not collaborate easily and be interdependent with people they do not trust.
Share the good news. Make some noise about successes and lessons learned. Share stories of what people did, and how they did it. Behaviour breeds behaviour. Let everyone know when the team or a team member does something exceptional, whether that is a goal achieved or how they overcame a challenge. It is easy for even a high performance team to become stuck in cycles. These cycles can be positive (can do attitude, accountability) or negative (mistrust, lack of responsibility) and these attitudes set the stage for how we work together.
As leaders it is up to us break the negative cycles and attitudes; one of the best ways to do this is by gaining perspective and understanding what success means. Success stories are a great way to help the team reconnect to their sense of purpose and how each member fits into the whole.
5 Keys to building a high performance teams #Infographic
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