“Alone we can do so little, and together we can do so much.” -Helen Keller.
This powerful quote by Helen Keller will forever stand the test of time. When we all work together on a common goal, we can achieve things beyond our most incredible imagination. This is especially true if our intentions are true, and the purpose is for the greater good. When we all work together with the mantra of being a high-performing team, that greater good can positively impact the company you work for and for your employees’ growth.
What is a high-performing team?
Building a high-performing team is about striving for excellence through many facets of communication – mutual trust, common goals, shared leadership, and precise job roles. In addition, each team member accepts accountability for their workload and actions. The ideal team should look like this:
- A broad range of talents and skillsets.
- A group of innovative thinkers, each with their own ideas and suggestions to bring to the table.
- Little requirement for management input
- Improved morale
- Better productivity
It’s easy enough to outline what a high-performing team looks like, but high-performance building teams isn’t always an easy task. So here are four key areas to focus on.
1) Create a Team that Compliments Eachother
Ideally, team members have complementary skills helpful in completing tasks necessary to accomplish the shared goals. These skills are different skills that, when combined, become more valuable than individual skills in achieving a goal due to the coordinated efforts of individual team members. For example, some team members may have technical or functional skills necessary to complete tasks, while others may possess decision-making and problem-solving skills.
2) Create a Diversity of Thought
Diversity and inclusion are more critical than ever, but the extra benefit of hiring for diversity is including a diversity of thought in the workplace. Diversity of thought refers to the range of mindsets, thought processes, and perspectives found within an organization’s workforce — a direct result of an effective D&I strategy.
Hiring folks with diverse skills and strengths is complicated but essential to get multiple viewpoints. The hard part is not getting people with different perspectives; it’s integrating those multiple viewpoints to make better decisions. We’ve seen that people with different perspectives often have different styles and approaches to things, which can cause conflict. However, these differing viewpoints in the workplace can benefit the company. When people of diverse backgrounds work together, it can sometimes produce a slower but more effective process. For example, we’ve all worked for companies with leadership teams with similar behaviours and motivators. They get behind an idea and believe this is the way to go, but the missing puzzle in this is a team member with different experiences providing insights that allow leadership teams to see all sides of a situation before rushing to act—the result, an aligned group that moves in the same direction.
Different life experiences lead to unique and diverse thinking.
3) Work Through the Five Dysfunctions of a Team
The five dysfunctions of a team, as identified by Patrick Lencioni, are as follows:
- An absence of trust
- A fear of conflict
- A lack of commitment
- Avoidance of accountability
- Inattention to results
Lencioni’s book outlines a powerful model and practical, actionable steps to overcome these common hurdles to build cohesive and high-performing teams.
Build Trust: To build trust, teams must be confident that respective vulnerabilities will not be used against them. For trust to develop, the team must invest in shared experiences and an in-depth understanding of each team member’s unique strengths and weaknesses.
- Utilize team-effectiveness exercises to identify the most critical contribution that each of their colleagues makes to the team, one area where they must personally improve or eliminate for the good of the team.
- Utilize personality or behaviour exercises like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to increase personal self-awareness and understanding of the impact each has on others.
- Ensure leaders also demonstrate vulnerability to create an environment that recognizes without punishing vulnerability.
Constructive Conflict: The most positive conflict is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period. Teams that engage in productive battles discuss and resolve issues more quickly and thoroughly than teams that don’t.
- The leader must acknowledge that conflict is productive and that many teams avoid it.
- Members of teams that tend to avoid conflict must come to the surface to shed light on and resolve them.
- Team members need to encourage healthy debate.
- Team leaders need to allow a resolution to occur naturally.
Ensure Commitment – As Lencioni writes, “people aren’t going to hold themselves accountable if they haven’t bought into the same plan.” A lack of commitment leads to a decline in performance among team members.
- Invite team members to review key decisions made during meetings.
- Use clear deadlines for decision-making and respect those dates with discipline.
- Clarify the worst-case scenario for major choices the team struggles to create and agree on the contingency plan.
- The leader must constantly push the group for closure around issues.
Ensure Accountability: Great teams hold themselves accountable as individuals and one another.
- Make clear what the team needs to achieve, who needs to deliver it, and when.
- Team members must communicate with one another about how they feel their colleagues are doing against stated objectives and standards.
- Create reward structures towards team achievements rather than individual performance.
Focus on Results: Leaders must set the tone for focusing on results.
- If team members sense that the leader values anything other than results, they will follow suit.
- Results are an incentive to work with passion and feel like they achieved something in their workplace.
- Leaders should reward and recognize those who make a real contribution to achieving group goals.
4) The Importance of Learning
Fostering a continuous learning and growth culture to navigate skills gaps is essential to building a high-performing team. If you had hired for diverse skill sets, a significant amount of education could occur between team members but ensuring that a team’s upgraded abilities are documented through training is essential in building a highly effective team.
Investing in employee growth should become a priority for any company. Learning can be done online through a variety of platforms. These certified and industry-recognized courses are likely to be more effective than merely reading or watching course material on company web pages or knowledge bases. Invest in corporate training programs conducted by reputed online education companies that utilize interactive learning tailored to training that aligns with your development plans.
The Way Forward
High-performing teams are critical in helping organizations thrive in today’s intensely competitive landscape. But you’re not going to build an effective team through chance. Instead, effectively developing such teams involve identifying strengths and ensuring you’ve grouped folks who collaborate well and complement the different talents, skills, and attributes. Although this may seem like a daunting exercise, the payoffs far outweigh the efforts.
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