CEO`s and organisations are constantly seeking new ways to ensure their management and employees are more productive and their businesses are more profitable.
Executives spend a sizable portion of their time focused on improving their management teams. They want their teams to perform better, innovate more, resolve conflict, and independently solve any problem that emerges.
Changing team behaviour, once ingrained, is no small feat. A lot of social nuance goes into creating the culture of any group, and once it’s established, can be hard to affect. Cultures rest on spoken and unspoken norm.
The four most significant behaviors consistently demonstrated by high-impact leaders are:
- defining clear goals or a vision of the future in accordance with overall organizational aims (the “big picture”)
- creating blueprints for action to achieve those goals
- using language to build trust, encourage forward thinking and create energy within the team (“powerful conversations”)
- getting the right people involved (“passionate champions”)s. Think of team culture like a web. You can take out one piece of it, and it will re-form to its overall shape.
High Performance teams are created with a mission or purpose in mind. This purpose or mission should be expressed in the form of a written charter. Over time teams develop their own set of norms. Norms are rules or guides for team behaviour and decision making. The idea of using teams to solve problems and achieve results is based, in part, on a concept that the collective brainpower of a team far exceeds the ability of any manager. Therefore, to a large degree, teams are self-directed.
Imparting a clear vision of where the team should be headed, and inspiring its members to make it a reality, is fundamental to team success. This takes considerable effort on the part of a leader, so it’s useful to reflect on why it’s worthwhile.
In a high performance group or on a sport team, over 90% of the participant’s time is spent practicing -standardising their routines or processes, identifying roles and responsibilities, improving communication effectiveness, working on their coordination, alignment or teamwork. The focus is on learning from their mistakes until they are ready to perform for an audience or fans.
In the corporate world, less than 5% of an individual’s time is devoted to off-line learning. In fact, nearly all the learning in organisations happens after the fact and in front of customers, where mistakes are costly to the organisation’s reputation, and bottom line and/or an individuals’ career development.
The complexity of organisational processes can be way beyond one individual’s control. A key way to efficiently tackle operational and organisational improvement is through the use of effective team performance.
The power of teamwork can be summed up; if you could get all the people in the organisation rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.
Here is what high-impact leaders do. They create a clear vision and describe it in simple language. They take the time to get people to subscribe, or buy in, to that vision. Next, they assess the current situation, then work through the courses of action which are likely to yield results. It is the up-front work in getting to a clear end state that makes the process work.
This foundation-laying aspect of leadership is a determining factor in why some teams seem to grasp and then do their utmost to achieve organizational goals. It’s all about how the leader continually visualizes a positive end result. So, when things get tough for the team (as they always do), these extraordinary leaders reintroduce the big picture with phrases like: “Remember our objectives,” and “Let’s keep our eye on the ball.” This consistent single strategy of starting with the future and then moving back to the present allows leaders to make the tough decisions which enable the team to recognize and articulate problems (“What’s really up?” or “What’s really so?”), sort through possible solutions, and then take action
High Performance Teams are also empowered. Teams are motivated by the challenge of achieving dramatic results within a short time-frame. It is quite normal for teams to thrash and churn during the early stages of development.
Team members are expected to learn as they work together. Often the scope of work of a team touches or involves the activities of many people beyond the team itself–this external group can be referred to as the community of interest that must be included in the team’s communication loop. All teams experience a shortage of resources. This phenomenon must be understood, expected, and available resources defined for the team from the team’s inception.
A critical element in the establishment of a team is the development and acceptance of the team charter. The team charter defines the task, scope and boundaries in which the team will operate. In one sense the charter is the team’s license to operate. Either organizational leaders or individual teams can create the team charter. No matter which approach to charter development is used the organization’s leader or leadership group still must approve the team charter;
- Define and Create Interdependencies. There is a need to define and structure team members’ roles. Think of football teams, everyone has their position to play, and success happens when all of the players are playing their roles effectively.
- Establish Goals. Teams need to be focused on shared goals and outcomes. Commitment to that goal is essential for success. Ideally, team goals should allow both the team as a unit and the individual members to achieve both personal and group goals.
- Determine How Teams Will Make Decisions. Whether the leader makes the decision, or it is a democratic or consensus process, the team needs to understand beforehand how decisions will be made. This reduces conflict within the team when a decision or choice has to be made.
- Provide Clear and Constant Feedback. Teams need to know how they are doing in order to stay motivated and to correct performance problems or inefficiencies. Ideally, a system should be in place so that team members receive ongoing feedback while doing their jobs. A simple example from manufacturing is when the team members do both production and quality control testing. They find out immediately what their success/failure rate is and can take action to improve.
- Keep Team Membership Stable. Particularly in complex tasks, it takes a lot of time for team members to learn to work together at an optimum level. In sports, there is a relationship between how long team members have played together and their winning record.
- Allow Team Members to Challenge the Status Quo. If innovation is important, it is critical that team members feel secure in being able to challenge processes if they feel that there is a way to improve. In order to innovate, teams need to be open to considering and constructively criticizing existing practices when needed.
- Learn How to Identify and Attract Talent. Just as processes sometimes need improvement, teams can get better by attracting new talent. Organizations that put a lot of resources into identifying and recruiting talent simply do better.
- Use Team-Based Reward Systems. Too much emphasis on individual rewards can lead to in-fighting and resentment. A combination of individual and team-based rewards is often best.
- Create a Learning Environment. Emphasize the development of the team, learning through successes, but particularly through mistakes. A team with a culture of continuous improvement and where members are motivated to develop their skills and knowledge are high-performing teams.
- Focus on the Collective Mission. Mission-driven teams and organizations perform better because they see beyond their individual workload and tasks and feel as if they are working for a higher purpose. It is imperative that team members be committed to the shared mission, or they should be replaced.