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“High Performing Teams” defined
High-performing teams are cohesive groups of individuals who collaborate effectively, trust one another, and consistently achieve outstanding results, driven by clear goals and a commitment to continuous improvement.
Patrick Lencioni, in his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” defines high-performing teams by focusing on the absence of common dysfunctions. According to Lencioni, a high-performing team is one that exhibits the following characteristics:
- Trust: Team members trust each other and are comfortable being vulnerable in each other’s presence.
- Conflict: Healthy and constructive conflict is encouraged and embraced, allowing for open and honest discussions.
- Commitment: Team members are committed to the decisions and plans made by the team, even if they initially disagreed.
- Accountability: They hold each other accountable for their individual and collective performance and results.
- Results: The team prioritizes the achievement of collective results over individual or departmental goals.
Lencioni’s model suggests that high-performing teams exhibit these qualities by overcoming common dysfunctions that hinder teamwork and productivity.
Charateristics of High Performing Teams
High-performing teams exhibit several key characteristics that distinguish them from average or low-performing teams. These characteristics include:
- Clear and Shared Goals: High-performing teams have a clear understanding of their goals and objectives, and all team members are aligned and committed to achieving them.
- Trust and Psychological Safety: Team members trust each other, feel safe expressing their opinions, and are not afraid of making mistakes. This fosters open communication and innovation.
- Effective Communication: High-performing teams communicate openly and effectively, ensuring that information flows freely among team members.
- Accountability: Team members take ownership of their responsibilities and hold each other accountable for their individual and collective performance.
- Complementary Skills: Team members bring diverse skills, expertise, and perspectives to the table, allowing for a wide range of problem-solving approaches.
- Leadership and Roles: High-performing teams may have a designated leader, but leadership responsibilities can also be distributed among team members based on their strengths and expertise.
- Collaboration: Team members collaborate seamlessly and support each other’s efforts to achieve common goals.
- Adaptability: These teams can adapt to changing circumstances, be they external factors or shifting project requirements.
- Continuous Improvement: High-performing teams are committed to learning from their experiences and improving their processes and performance over time.
- Results-Oriented: Ultimately, high-performing teams consistently deliver exceptional results that align with their goals and objectives.
Practical advice on how to create a High Performing Team
As a leader, how do I create a high performing team?
1. Set Clear Goals and Expectations: Clearly define specific and measurable goals, such as “Increase online sales by 20% in the next quarter.” Provide a detailed plan outlining the steps required to achieve these goals and assign responsibilities to team members accordingly.
2. Build Trust: Trust is nurtured through actions. Demonstrate trustworthiness by sharing sensitive information with your team, admitting when you’re wrong, and keeping your promises consistently. For example, if you share important data with your team, it shows trust in their ability to handle it responsibly.
3. Effective Communication: In addition to regular meetings, encourage an open-door policy. Make use of communication tools like email, messaging apps, and project management software for written communication. Use video or face-to-face meetings when discussing critical matters. Address team members by name and actively listen to their concerns during meetings.
4. Empower Team Members: Empowerment involves giving team members the autonomy to make decisions within their areas of expertise. For example, if you have a skilled marketer on your team, allow them to make decisions regarding the marketing strategy for a specific campaign.
5. Cultivate a Diverse Team: During recruitment, actively seek candidates with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and skills. For example, when hiring for a product development team, look for candidates with different expertise areas, such as UI/UX design, software development, and quality assurance.
6. Foster Collaboration: Promote collaboration by creating a shared online workspace where team members can collaborate on documents, share ideas, and provide feedback. During project discussions, explicitly ask team members for their input, especially from those with differing perspectives.
7. Provide Resources and Support: Ensure team members have the necessary tools by conducting regular check-ins to assess their needs. If your team relies heavily on software, provide licenses and training, and have an IT support system in place for technical assistance.
8. Set a Positive Example: Lead by example by demonstrating punctuality, high-quality work, and commitment to team goals. For example, if you expect team members to meet deadlines, always meet your own and exceed quality expectations in your work.
9. Promote Accountability: Create a system for tracking individual and team performance. In weekly check-ins or performance reviews, discuss progress toward goals and address any performance gaps. Provide regular, constructive feedback to help team members stay on track.
10. Celebrate Achievements: Celebrations can take various forms, from small daily acknowledgments to larger milestones. For instance, if your team completes a major project, hold a team lunch, recognize outstanding individual contributions, and distribute certificates or awards for outstanding performance.
11. Adapt and Improve: After each project or major phase, conduct a post-project review to discuss what went well and what could have been better. Use this feedback to adjust and improve processes for future projects. Ensure that the entire team is involved in this reflection process.
12. Lead with Vision: Articulate your vision for the team’s future clearly and passionately. Relate the team’s work to the broader organizational mission. Emphasize the meaningful impact of the team’s research or projects on society or the industry.
13. Encourage Innovation and Creativity: Create an innovation incubator within your team. Allocate a portion of resources for experimenting with new ideas. Set aside regular brainstorming sessions to encourage innovative thinking and problem-solving.
14. Develop Individual Skills: Conduct regular one-on-one meetings to discuss each team member’s career aspirations. Offer training opportunities and professional development resources tailored to their goals. For example, if a team member wants to improve their data analysis skills, provide access to relevant courses and workshops.
15. Measure and Track Performance: Define key performance indicators (KPIs) aligned with team goals and create a dashboard to track them. Share this data with the team through regular reports, so everyone is aware of their achievements and areas for improvement.
16. Address Conflict Constructively: Create guidelines for conflict resolution within the team, and conduct team workshops on conflict resolution. Encourage team members to discuss conflicts openly and find solutions that satisfy all parties involved.
17. Invest in Team Building: Regularly plan team-building activities, such as off-site retreats or even virtual team-building sessions, to build trust and camaraderie among team members.
18. Monitor and Adapt to Changing Dynamics: Establish a process for monitoring both internal and external changes. Adaptation is necessary when the market shifts or when there are internal changes like personnel additions or departures. Regularly review your team’s composition to ensure it aligns with your goals.
19. Communicate the Big Picture: Regularly remind your team how their work contributes to the organization’s mission. Share stories or testimonials from customers or beneficiaries of the team’s work to provide a real-world perspective on their impact.
20. Reflect and Improve Leadership: Invite team members to provide anonymous feedback on your leadership style. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and actively work on enhancing your leadership skills.
By implementing these practical examples, leaders can create a high-performing team that is motivated, aligned with organizational goals, and capable of consistently delivering exceptional results.
- “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni – This book explores common dysfunctions that hinder teamwork and provides a model for creating high-performing teams.
- “Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World” by General Stanley McChrystal – This book discusses how to adapt and lead teams effectively in complex and dynamic environments.
- “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t” by Jim Collins – Although not specifically about teams, this book examines what makes organizations exceptional and offers insights that can be applied to team leadership.
- “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel H. Pink – This book delves into the science of motivation and how it can be harnessed to build high-performing teams.
- “Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity” by Kim Scott – This book provides guidance on building strong relationships with team members and offering candid feedback to drive team performance.
- “The Team Captain’s Leadership Manual” by Jeff Janssen – Geared toward sports teams, this book offers valuable insights into leadership, team building, and creating a winning culture.
- “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t” by Simon Sinek – Simon Sinek explores the importance of trust, collaboration, and leadership in fostering high-performing teams.
- “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Al Switzler, Joseph Grenny, and Ron McMillan – Effective communication is a cornerstone of high-performing teams, and this book provides guidance on handling important conversations.
- “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” by Eric Ries – While focused on startups, the principles of continuous improvement and adaptation can be applied to team dynamics.
- “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups” by Daniel Coyle – This book explores the principles that underlie the success of various groups and how to create a positive team culture.
- “High-Performance Teams: The Foundations” by Brian T. Gregory – This book provides a comprehensive guide to building, leading, and sustaining high-performance teams.
- “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter” by Liz Wiseman – The book explores how leaders can amplify the intelligence and capabilities of their teams.
These books cover a range of perspectives and strategies for building high-performing teams in various contexts, from business to sports and beyond. Depending on your specific needs and interests, you can select the ones that resonate most with your leadership style and objectives.