It’s basic human nature to form teams. After all, it didn’t take long for cavemen to realize the benefits of teamwork. It became fairly evident that a lone human out on the prairie was likely to be killed and eaten by predators, but a group of humans could organize so that what was originally a predator could become the prey of humans.
This is the synergistic effect of teamwork. What is impossible to accomplish alone becomes possible with coordinated efforts of a team.
In its simplest form, a team can be defined as “a group of people coming together, all working towards a common goal”. But that’s just the basics. Using that definition, ANY group of people can be considered a team. Smart business people know how to assemble high performing teams that can give them an edge on the competition.
A poorly managed or low performing team can create many more problems than they solve. On the other hand, when managed correctly, high performing teams are the best single assets any business can have:
- Promoting a sense of commitment – High performing teams promote a deep sense of commitment and loyalty to both the team’s goals and the organization.
- Better results – High performing teams will usually produce better results than a standard team no matter what metric is used to evaluate them. Quality of result, making deadlines, schedules, etc.
- Having clearly defined roles – Individual team members will have a clear understanding of both the team’s goals and their individual roles within that framework.
- Promoting healthy competition – Having each team member understand exactly how their contribution contributes to the success of the team fosters a sense of obligation to coworkers that can enhance performance.
- Complementary skills – A high performing team will consist of diverse members with varying expertise. This allows for constructive brainstorming sessions that build off of one another’s contributions.
- Building trust – Members of a high performing team develop an interdependence on the other team members in order to complete the project. This interdependence is what builds trust within the group.
As a manager, your success or failure can be determined by your ability to create and manage a high performing team. After all, in business, we are all judged by the results that we bring to the company.
If you can master the ability to form and maintain high performing teams, you become a very valuable asset to your company. Use these 9 tips from top business leaders to develop a high performing team:
1. Have a Clear and Concise Goals
This needs to start at the top. Upper management needs to set and clearly communicate the goals and values of the organization. This should be accomplished through the development of vision and mission statements so that the overarching goals of the organization are concrete and clear to everyone.
Using the mission statement as a framework, the department heads can then set clear goals for the teams within their divisions. In turn, managers, using the framework passed down from the department heads can set goals for their individual teams.
By using this approach, everyone is aware of their individual goals, their team goals and how those goals contribute to achieving the overall goals set forth in the mission statement.
2. Make It Exclusive
Successful business leaders know that people will actually work harder and be happier if what they are working on is seen as exclusive or special. Everyone likes to be apart of an elite group.
A good manager can create an air of exclusivity by using rigorous hiring standards as well as high performance standards. That, coupled with a compensation package that is unique to the group, (this can be higher pay, performance bonuses, extra vacation, flex-time, telecommuting etc.).
All of these things combine to create an exclusive atmosphere that encourages people to strive to gain entrance and maintain their position within the team.
3. Evaluate Skill Sets
This is an ongoing process. You should have a good idea of what skills are needed before you even form a team. Only when you are clear on the skill sets needed for the project should you then begin to assemble your team.
Once you have recruited the members of the team, don’t forget to continually monitor and evaluate their performance to ensure the standards and goals are being met.
4. Pull, Don’t Push
As a team leader, you need to lead by example. Anyone can bark orders and make demands of employees, but if you are willing to lead the way, it shows an understanding of the demands of the project as well as legitimizing your role as leader.
This rule should also be followed when an individual team member isn’t living up to expectations. Your first order of business should be to determine why they aren’t performing up to the standard.
Is it an issue of not having the right resources to do the job? A communication problem within the group, or a personal issue that is causing a distraction?
Whatever the case, a good team leader will take the time to understand the problem and then help facilitate a solution. Help your team tease out solutions instead of just demanding results.
5. Promote Collaborative Decision Making
Abiding by this one rule upfront can save you serious headaches down the road.
Start by having regular team meetings to discuss both the overall progress of the team as well as the progress of the individual team members. When done right, these meetings will highlight potential problem areas that are likely to arise. Remember, that every individual’s actions within the group can affect every other person’s performance so identifying potential conflicts early is the goal.
By utilizing a collaborative decision making process, individuals within the group are more likely to be satisfied and take ownership of the solution than if the decision is imposed on them. This also contributes to the overall cohesiveness of the team.
Now, with that being said, there will always be occasions that it’s just not possible or practicable to make a collaborative decision. In those cases, the team leader must make the decision and move on.
6. Promote an “Open” Atmosphere
Nothing inhibits a team progress more than a “closed” environment. Every organization needs rules and guidelines in order to function, but they shouldn’t be so onerous as to stifle creativity.
Members of your high performing team should feel safe in expressing themselves without criticism. This is especially true in meetings and brainstorming sessions. These are the times when wild ideas that are “outside the box” should be encouraged. This is how you can encourage innovation.
This article explains more about how an open atmosphere encourages creativity: If You Want an Invincible Team, Make Them Feel Safe
7. Recognize High Performers
In any team or group situation, productivity can be measured and a norm or average productivity level can be determined.
By definition, half of the team will under-perform the average and half the team will outperform the average. When the highest 10%,20% or 30% are being publicly recognized, it encourages the rest to to achieve more.
It’s also a great way to boost the team’s morale. And it’s been shown that high employee moral is positively correlated with productivity.
Recognition is a great way to reinforce cohesiveness within the group.
8. Avoid the “Zero-Sum Game” Trap
A zero-sum game is one which, in order for someone to win, someone else has to lose. This is exactly the opposite of what you are looking for in a high performing team.
In a zero-sum game, individual successes are celebrated over the success of the group. This can quickly degenerate into group members hoarding resources, limiting communication and even sabotaging other team members.
Obviously, team cohesiveness falls apart at this point as does the chances of producing a good outcome for the group. Avoid this potentially disastrous dynamic by focusing on cooperation instead of competition, team successes instead of individual success and always encourage open communication.
9. Have Trusted Leadership
High performing teams must have trust in their leadership. This is a requirement, not an option if you are serious about creating a exceptional team. Without trust, a leader is hard pressed to inspire others to follow.
Building and maintaining a team’s trust means that individuals within the team will follow direction willingly, without coercion and are much more likely to produce a good result. They are also much more likely to stretch their boundaries and go above and beyond the call of duty to achieve better results.
When you are trying to build trust within a group, there are 3 important things to keep in mind:
First, people trust people that they like. Start by building a positive relationship with individuals on the team.
Secondly, we trust people with knowledge or expertise. This is especially true if that knowledge is used to help us solve problems. So use your expertise to help those within your team.
Finally, be someone your team members can count on. Stay true to your word, when you say you are going to do something, do it. Don’t make promises you can’t keep and always be willing to go to bat for your team members.
As we have discussed above, there are many facets to developing and maintaining a high performing team. And while the benefits of having such a team are obvious, being able to maintain that performance level over that long haul is much more difficult.
As with any human endeavor, the changes that occur over time that will inevitably erode performance. Things like complacency, job dis-satisfaction, employee turnover and even changes in upper management can all affect group dynamics and team performance.
Being aware of these issues so that you can deal with them early on is key to maintaining your team’s performance. It’s always better to anticipate and prepare for problems rather than react to them after they have occurred.
There is a huge difference being involved with a high performance team versus an average or low performing team. Not only in the quality of work produced, but also in the job satisfaction of the team members.
Most of us have been involved in a dysfunctional team at least once in our careers, with a lot of us it’s been several times. The sabotage, back stabbing and toxicity involved in these groups just perpetuates the very problems they were meant to solve.
If you suspect a team has devolved to this point, the best thing to do is to dissolve it and start anew. Even with high performing teams, the ability to maintain the same level of quality will diminish over time.
Technology changes as does the competition, so don’t be afraid to readjust, reconfigure or even dissolve formally successful teams to deal with these changes.
And while business, technology and staff all change over time, human nature does not. As long as there are human endeavors requiring teamwork, these 9 secrets of high performing team will provide you the best chance at success.
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