‘What creates high performance teams?’ – I often get asked this question but there is not a proven formula: if you do a + b + c = ‘a high performance team’. Teams are dynamic, calling a group of assembled people a team does not make them one. Telling employees they need to collaborate does not translate into collaboration. Teams do not just happen naturally. Successful teams have great leadership and a shared vision:
“Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centred and that gives their work meaning.”
– Warren G. Bennis (Have a look at ‘What makes a great leader?”)
- Leadership is not so much about technique and methods as it is about opening the heart. It’s about inspiration of oneself and others.
- It’s about human experiences, not processes. It’s not a formula or a program, it’s about human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others…
- It’s an attitude, not a system:
- They want to see their people shine
- They care about them to want them to achieve the best they can
- They have strong beliefs that drive them to do things really well
- They understand the truth about ‘tough love’ – it’s a sign of real respect
- They want to enjoy their work
We can look at the characteristics of successful teams to guide us:
Strong focus on long-term achievement: the whole team’s energy and drive is focused on achieving the overall “big picture” i.e. what the organisation is aiming to achieve in the longer term and there is a clear understanding of how the team will achieve this goal in the short, medium and long-term.
Clearly aligned team roles: each team member has clearly defined responsibilities for team issues as well as their own functional role or specialism, and these team roles are assigned based on their strengths and preferred behaviours for working within a team. For example, a team member within the sales function may take on responsibility for liaison with customer service on behalf of the whole sales team as they enjoy networking with others and are good at building strong working relationships. Above all, in a high performance team, every team member is very clear of who has responsibility for which task.
Shared leadership: although the leader of the team clearly holds the vital leadership role, in a high performing team, team members complete some tasks that a traditional leader holds, for example, chairing the monthly team meeting. Team members also accept far more responsibility for resolving issues on behalf of the team when there is a sense of shared leadership and ownership for the business.
Clear open lines of communication: within high performing teams, foundations are not only in place for team members at all levels within the organisation to ask questions and provide feedback on how the organisation is performing, but also simple methodology for team members to share ideas and propose potential solutions to growing the business or increasing the effectiveness of the organisation’s systems and processes. Whatever system used for this, the key is to ensure that there is a quick method for providing feedback to the team member after submitting their question, feedback, idea or suggestion. An “open door” policy along with regular team meetings and feedback sessions with senior managers also supports this approach as its face-to-face two-way communication that wins hearts and minds not notice boards and emails!
Utilisation of team members’ talents: Playing to your strengths is key if you wish to be successful. The same applies to teams. Leaders of high performance teams recognise this and ensure they are aware of all the team member’s talents inside and outside work and continuously look for ways to utilise these to benefit the organisation and its people.
Regular evaluation of the team’s output and effectiveness: High performing teams schedule and spend time frequently reviewing their team objectives to ensure they are on track to achieve their goals within the original time frame set. By doing this they are also able to effectively manage any difficulties that arise and plan additional resource to achieve the goal. In this type of environment, team members are very clear on their responsibility to deliver results whilst feeling supported by other team members when challenges and issues arise. Time is also set aside to review the effectiveness of each goal or project to ensure sufficient learning is acquired and applied for future goals and projects.
Shared recognition of team’s success: At appropriate and relevant times such as the end of a large project, winning of a new contract etc, the leader of a high performance team will arrange for the team’s work to be recognised in the most appropriate way. This could be, but not limited to, internal or external publicity, nomination for an internal award, a “thank you” meal, a personal “thank you” at the team meeting, an email copied into the senior leaders of the organisation. Whatever the method chosen, it should be relevant to the level of achievement, how teams are rewarded throughout the organisation, and above all, pertinent to what really motivates and inspires the team members to produce outstanding results in their next piece of work. Each team member may be different in terms of what motivates them; so taking time to learn about what motivates your team members will ensure you get this recognition stage right.
References and further reading on High Performance Teams:
Thanks to KSL Training for permission to use the above content. KSL Training is a West Berkshire based training provider which operates across the UK.
Read more: http://www.ksl-training.co.uk
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