Lead your team to become high performers by understanding the qualities of high performing teams, why teams fail, and what strategic management you can do to build and develop a high potential team for your organization.

First, for building a good team, accurately assess how your team is currently functioning:

Do you have a team of high performers working together to achieve a common goal? Or are they simply a group of people working on the same project? If team members are continually bringing their problems to you in private and expecting you to rescue them by solving these problems, it’s time to ramp up your team’s performance.

What is a Team?

Katzenback and Smith in The Wisdom of Teams identify the qualities of high-performance teams:

“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”

Why do Teams fail to perform?

Reality is that teams typically fail because they don’t take the time to discuss and define their common purpose and approach. If you’re ready to ramp up your team’s performance, consider presenting Katzenbach & Smith’s definition of a team at your next team meeting to get things started.

Use the following questions to guide your team through the discussion for ramping up team performance:

  1. What is our common purpose?
  2. How can we transform the broad directives into a set of specific and measurable performance goals?
  3. How will we hold each other accountable? (Consider using scenarios to determine how team members will support each other in following through on their commitments.)
  4. Finally, make time to discuss and develop team norms (participation, confidentiality, interruptions, time management, etc.) to ensure all members are committed to the common approach.

Once your team is clear on their common purpose and approach, step out of rescue mode and get them to drink the kool-aid by encouraging team members to work through critical issues together.

Setting an expectation that whatever affects the group must be talked about in the group, means your team will have to start facing reality and begin working through the tough stuff together.

Successfully resolving issues as a team can be intoxicating. Knowing they can solve real issues by working together is a confidence booster.

Repeated success in tackling real issues leads to a sense of invincibility; a key requirement for high performing teams. Leading a high performing team means keeping them focused on real issues.

Building Your Team:

You can support your team’s ability to address real issues by increasing their capacity to deal with risks. Team members need to be open, honest, and direct with each other. Try building your team’s risk-taking behavior by attending to the interpersonal needs of team behaviors while giving them the tools to work effectively together.

Here are 3 strategies to get you started in building a high-performance team:

1. Initiating:

An early contribution to a discussion is vital at the beginning of a meeting, as well as when the group becomes bogged down, or needs to examine a new perspective of the issue. Initiating includes proposing ideas, defining a group problem, and suggesting procedures or ideas for solving a problem.

2. Clarifying and Elaborating:

Half-stated ideas are frequently not acknowledged or understood. Encourage team members to elaborate on their suggestions or attempt to ensure the idea is not lost. Ask the member to clarify or elaborate on the suggestion. Alternatively, attempt to clarify and elaborate on it yourself and then ask for confirmation.

3. Pay Attention to Group Dynamics:

Get to the root of unproductivity by focusing on the undercurrents. Encourage team members to share their thoughts and feelings on what is contributing to the lack of productivity. Is one member of the team monopolizing the discussion?

Are members defending their positions rather than seeking opportunities to find common ground? Naming the circumstances that have led to the lack of production is the prerequisite for generating solutions.

Support your team in becoming high performing by building a shared understanding of the team’s purpose and approach. Help them focus on solving real issues and give them the skills they need to be successful as a team.

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