We can probably all think of some great teams we’ve been part of… and some terrible ones. What makes the difference between high team performance and mediocrity? You may think it’s the quality of leadership or a fault with how things get done around here. Both of these may be problematic but they’re also dis-empowering. This blog is for you, if you think the team you’re in now could do better and would like some proven ideas to improve team performance.
Achieving high team performance
In this blog post I’m going to propose five things that will help lead a team towards high performance. Implicit in all this is absence of trust, fear of conflict and other dysfunctions. See my book recommendation at the end of the article if you’d like to know more. Here I’m simply going to give you some practical tips to set you in the right direction.
Discover the shared goal
Find the single over-riding “thing” that everyone will sign up to. This might be the team Purpose, it may be called the Vision, or it may be a single overarching Metric that drives action. Tip: This should be agreed using the words of the team and may be different to the purpose assigned by the wider organisation. Tip: If it’s a metric, don’t build a KPI performance scorecard. Choose ONE overarching metric.
Choose improvement over defence
It’s too easy to blame things outside the team for a shortfall in performance, “we didn’t get the budget we needed” or “why did no one tell us about the new project?”. Treat negative experiences as an opportunity to learn. Build robust team processes with clear actions and responsibilities. Tip: Understand how to write problem statements for continuous improvement in the way to start taking action.
Build individual and collective self-awareness
Great teams have a mix of commercial, technical and behavioural skills. Sometimes though, each individual can be good but somehow the team doesn’t quite gel. One person just wants to get the job done, while another wants to understand the data a bit more. Tip: Do something practical about this by having individual behavioural profiles done, followed by a facilitated team session to understand how the team can fully use its combined strengths.
Practise being a team
Make sure that regular whole team meetings take place. If geography and travel are a barrier, set up online meetings to ensure everyone gets included. At these meetings don’t just send information in one direction – ask the team what’s important, check how you’re delivering against the team goal and previously agreed improvement actions have been completed. Tip: If you’re the team leader, ask other team members to take the lead for specific agenda items.
Measure how the team sees its progress
Ask, “How are we doing?” three or four times a year. One team I worked with used a “temperature check” to measure progress and collect team member feedback. Tip: Keep good notes so you can track how this changes over time, and to address team concerns when they come up.
The tips I’ve shared in this article can help you get started on your team’s journey to high performance. More questions? Then feel free to leave a reply on the blog or use the contact form on the website.
If you already know that your team needs help towards high performance and you’re ready to take action, then contact me for an informal conversation to discuss the best way for you to make the change.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (J-B Lencioni Series)
Amazon Associate Link
This has become the source material for quite a number of team development programs. There are now also a whole series of companion workbooks for team leaders and team members