When it comes to constructing a team of people who work well together to create winning outcomes, knowing “how to” and understanding “how to” are two very different phenomena.
The strong and astute organizational leader is one who is committed to optimizing their resources and maximizing the return on their investment. Given that people expense can be the largest cost in an enterprise, creating this kind of culture is simply smart business. As a leader, empowering your workforce to unleash their strengths and encouraging people to collaborate and innovate leverages people’s ability to act as a team and produce results.
Work cultures where people focus on only their piece of the puzzle lead to a siloed mentality and ultimately breed ineffectiveness and inefficiency. A high-performance team cannot exist in an environment where competition and one-upmanship prevail.
When people on the team focus on each other’s limitations and detriments — and why things cannot be done — they all too often miss opportunities to make the organization better. Additionally, teamwork is adversely impacted when the people on the team feel the need to focus on fighting and jockeying for authority or power. This need to be “better than” decreases collaboration and limits innovation. It is a recipe for stagnation and conflict — neither of which drive long-term results.
As leaders, it requires rewiring our minds and our teams to repair an absence of trust. However, before you can rewire, you first need to be aware of and responsible for the absence of trust in the first place.
Whether you are seeking to create a high-performance work team or a high-performance culture, there are seven steps for creating an environment where high performance and teamwork can thrive.
1. Identify and Clarify the Purpose for the Team
People must understand the why behind what they are doing. Once the purpose for the team is crystallized and talking points are clearly outlined, it is the initiator of the team’s role to connect the dots for people to see how they connect to it. Communicating an inspiring vision for the people on the team and mapping what success looks like when it is achieved is a foundational element for congealing a group of people together and getting them geared up to work together in unison.
2. Select a Leader
The team’s leader does not have to be the person who invents the possibility and purpose for the team; it does need to be a person who accepts the responsibility for shepherding and guiding the team to success. The leader’s job is to be present — to be there for the team. The best leaders select the right people, inspire them towards a vision, and back out of the way during the planning stage — unless they are specifically asked for guidance.
3. Establish Rules
People need to know what is expected from them, and from the team. People need to know and understand where the boundaries are regarding decision-making, autonomy, and performance. Giving people the rules of the game before they agree to play, allows for people to opt in or opt out of the team and the game. Advanced clarity of expectations also reduces unnecessary problems, reduces ambiguity and confusion, and serves to mitigate poor performance and unwanted turnover on the team.
4. Select the Players
Whether you are building an enterprise or a team of people to accomplish a project, it is crucial that you select the right people for the right roles, for the right reasons. When this happens people join the team for the right reasons, which is the baseline for team engagement. When people are engaged, they have a strong desire to bring value — to be a contributor. They enjoy the type of work they are doing and are able to connect their work to the bigger picture.
The best team dynamics happen when there is a variety of people who bring their uniqueness to the team. Beyond competencies and skills, it’s important to consider unique traits that each team member brings to the table and how those unique traits can be leveraged for optimal creativity and innovation.
5. Set the Level
Level setting allows each member of the team a new opportunity to begin again. During a level set, team members explore their limiting beliefs and barriers to working with others in a productive and effective manner, and do the necessary work to unpack those factors that get in the way. The team as a whole is challenged to work together in experiential learning in ways they never considered.
Even the most effective, astute, and self-aware people discover limits that were previously hidden from their conscious view. The team lays out the pathway for the best way to work together, how they will resolve personality conflicts and internal challenges with dynamics on the team. At the completion of the level set, the team creates a collective possibility for the team that is inspiring to each and every member of the team.
The best approach for a leader during planning is to be a source for inspiration, questions, and guidance. Leaders who step too far into planning create teams that are dependent on the leader and lack creativity. If the leader notices a problem with the plan, rather than pointing it out, it is much more empowering to ask questions that provoke the team members to activate their critical thinking skills to answer and think potential challenges through.
7. Check in, Track Progress, Celebrate Success
When people are aware of the milestone meetings and rely on regular feedback, it reduces uncertainly and unnecessary stress. Laying out the stages of organizational effectiveness, beginning with what it means to be operating in formulation and concentration and then defining criteria for low, moderate, and high momentum gives the team an opportunity to self regulate, correct, and celebrate as they see fit.
Utilizing a customized version of the agile methodology is an excellent means to keep progress on track and support the team in attaining momentum with their project, program, or goal. Daily stand ups, bi-weekly declarations and intention setting, as well as bi monthly retrospectives give teams a structure they can count on and gives the team healthy guardrails to work independently and remain responsibility to each other and the organization as a whole.
While knowing and understanding are distinct, doing is the link that shifts knowing to understanding. For the impatient leader, doing may be a challenge because progress is most often only experienced incrementally. Building a high performance team is not about exponential breakthroughs. If they happen, great. However, if sustainability is your goal, impatience is your enemy. Teams respond best to a system that allows them to learn, move forward, fall, learn from mistakes, move forward again, and sustain progress over time. When high concentration and effort is celebrated, and low momentum is acknowledged and genuinely appreciated, teams build confidence and fortitude to stay the course.
Magi Graziano, as seen on NBC, is the CEO of KeenAlignment, a speaker, employee recruitment and engagement expert, and author of The Wealth of Talent. Through her presentations, Magi provides her customers with actionable, practical ideas to maximize their effectiveness and ability to create high-performing teams. With more than 20 years’ experience as a top producer in the recruitment and search industry, she empowers leaders to bring transformational thinking to day-to-day operations. For more information on Magi please visit www.KeenAlignment.com.