High-performance teams strengthen every part of an organization’s structure, from groundskeeping, to payroll, to technology support, to C-level executives. Regardless of the team’s objectives, their methods and efficiency are worth studying.
First, we need to understand there is a stark difference between a high-performance team and a work group. The individuals of both may have similar education, skills, and work ethic. The disparity exists in conflict resolution, accountability, and leadership.
As the leader of a high-performance team, you have challenges. Anyone can muster high level workers, but not everyone can form them into an extraordinary team. Which brings a couple questions. Why doesn’t every team perform to their potential? As a leader, what are the problem areas to look for, and how can you help?
A high-performance team likely has several assertive individuals with strong opinions. Left unchecked, it may lead to excess competition and positioning for influence. Worse, cliques may form within the team and you’ll spend your time on reactive solutions. Good leadership is proactively recognizing the signs of conflict and resolving them quickly.
When a team member isn’t performing or appears unhappy, ask questions. Instead of immediate feedback, critical or otherwise, ask them what’s going on. Being a leader often means mentoring over giving orders. The questioning process might reveal unknown problems within the team, or it may lead to a shake-up of the team’s composition. Either way, you’ll get valuable insight and perhaps some information to help you avoid other pitfalls.
With the rise of remote workers, teams may consist of people who rarely see each other. The same group dynamics still apply. The one additional challenge is communication. Different mediums don’t always make it easy to convey the tone or intent of an email or chat log.
When conflicts arise in virtual teams, leaning on the old fashioned face to face meeting might do the trick. If gathering in a physical location isn’t feasible, set up the meeting using video conferencing software. Seeing faces, reading expressions, and hearing tonal inflections go a long way towards dissolving friction.
Purpose and Goals
Bluntly stated, the team needs a clear purpose. Does it matter what their educational credentials are if they don’t know what they’re supposed to do? Do varied and sharpened skillsets make a difference without defined objectives? No. Lack of direction is the source of disorientation and conflict more than any personality quirk or political maneuver.
To realize the connection between the bigger picture and day to day tasks, some questions are in order. In the big picture, what are they to accomplish? What are the deliverables expected of them? What are the targets and deadlines, and the steps to each of them?
This is where your leadership is required. Seeing the road ahead and deciding exactly what the team will deliver when they reach the end of the project. Each team member is given assignments according to their abilities. Along the way, milestones are met and celebrated (but not for long – keep pushing!). Make sure they always understand how they fit into the larger scope.
All teams are different, of course. Some are self-driven and only need a light touch. Others struggle and demand more oversight. The blend of personalities and skills are as varied as the people themselves. That includes leaders.
So remember: Define their purpose and goals. Lead them in deep discussions about ways to achieve them. Watch their interactions and head off any conflicts. Most of all, ask questions, encourage their growth, and trust their instincts. Simple, grassroots efforts create high-performance teams that will transform your organization far more than any single person.
How are you working with the teams in your enterprise? Share your stories and experiences!
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