Teams are undoubtedly the greatest asset of any company. It only makes sense that building teams be viewed as a top priority. It is by selecting, hiring and assembling the right people, followed by motivating, mentoring, training and collaborating with these people that the business will realize the best possible outcomes.
Skillful leaders know how to bring people together in ways that enhance performance, enjoyment, and fulfillment. Simply throwing people together and asking them to operate as a team doesn’t guarantee success. There is a difference between a group of people who just work together and a group of people who work effectively as a team.
Bringing new insights to the team
Often times, new hires can help build stronger teams. One of the key reasons for adding new team members is they have no vested interest in guarding the past or the old way of doing things. New team members bring innovative ideas and experiences with them. Fresh interactions can serve to open up new thinking and greater flexibility. Why? Because new hires are focused on the future.
Regardless of how good a new hire may be, if the position was not defined accurately, the individual will not be in a position to increase the team’s chances for success. Hiring people who complement the skill set of an existing team will always be a great way to ensure the company has no blind spots.
So what happens when a team become dysfunctional because one member behaves badly or undermines teamwork? Don’t be misled by perceived ‘rock stars / super stars’ or the like. Individuals who are lone wolves, march to their own drum, harbor professional jealousies or refuse to share and support the group’s direction are not really “stars”. On a team it is the sum of the whole that is important.
People learn and improve, but they do not change. Building teams and expecting people to convert is as impossible as trying to change the people in your life. The best teams will always be the ones whose members play well together.
There have been many studies on how the size of a team affects performance. The best teams start out small – ideally 6 and no more than 8 people. Productivity and results are best when the team is slightly undersized and never oversized. For teams to reach a high level of collaboration, their members must be able to get to know each other, learn how to work together, and have developed a feeling of mutual trust, accountability and responsibility for and with each other.
Establishing the rules of engagement is critical, so everyone understands that each one on the team has a responsibility – as a team member – in addition to their basic duties. Having minimal hierarchy, coupled with a clear understanding of responsibility and structure produces the strongest teams.
There are ways to get the most out of a team, however the single most important method will always be clear, precise and direct communication. Communicate what is expected, ask for input, give feedback on how people are doing, let them know what else is going on and support them to be the very best they can be.
”The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves, not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.” They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.”
~Peter Drucker, founding father of the study of management
The following article, Common Denominators of High Performance Teams, by Bob Whipple of Leadergrow Inc., provides some excellent insight on this subject. Please enjoy!
Common Denominators of High Performing Teams
Unfortunately, many teams in the workplace have various symptoms of dysfunctionality. You can observe all kinds of back biting, laziness, sabotage, lack of support, passive aggressive behavior, grandstanding, and numerous other maladies if you study the inner workings of teams.
Yet some teams are able to rise above the petty problems and reach a level of performance that is consistently admirable.
I have studied working teams for decades and have concluded that there are four common denominators successful teams share.
If your team has these four elements, you are likely enjoying the benefits of a high performance team.
If you do not see these things, then chances are you frustrated with your team experience.
A common goal-
This is the glue that keeps people on the team pulling in the same direction. If people have disparate goals, their efforts will not be aligned, and organizational stress will result.
If people on your team are fighting or showing other signs of stress, the first thing to check is if the goal is really totally shared by everyone.
Often people give the official goal lip service, but have a hidden different agenda. Eventually this discontinuity will come out in bad behaviors.
When there is high trust between team members, the environment is real.
Where trust is low, people end up playing games to further their own agendas. Achieving high trust is not simple, nor is it the main topic of this blog article.
I have written extensively on the creation of trust elsewhere. One caveat is that trust is a dynamic commodity within a team.
You need to keep checking the trust level and bolster it when it slips. Constant vigilance is required.
Good Leadership –
A team without a leader is like a ship without a rudder.
But the leader does not have to be the anointed formal leader. Often a kind of distributed leadership or informal leadership structure can make teams highly effective.
But beware if there is a poor leader who is formally in charge of a team. This is like the kiss of death. No team can perform consistently at a high level if the official leader is blocking progress at every turn. The best that can be achieved is an effective workaround strategy.
A Solid Charter-
I have coached hundreds of teams and discovered that the ones with an agreed-upon team charter always out perform ones that have wishy-washy ground rules.
A good charter will consider what each member brings to the team, so the diversity of talents can be used.
Second, it will contain the specific goals that are tangible and measurable.
Third, it will have a set of agreed upon behaviors so people know what to expect of each other and can hold each other accountable.
Fourth, the team needs a set of ground rules for how to operate. Ground rules can be detailed or general, it really does not matter, but some ground rules are required.
Finally, and this is the real key, there needs to be specific agreed-upon consequences for members of the team who do not abide by the charter.
The most common problem encountered within any team is a phenomenon called “social loafing.”
This is where one or more members step back from the work and let the others do it. This inequity always leads to trouble, but it is nearly always avoidable if the consequences for social loafing are stated clearly and agreed upon by all team members at the outset.
People will not knowing slack off if they have already agreed to the negative impact on themselves, or if they do it once and feel the pain they will not do it again.
This last element of successful teams is the most important ingredient. When it is missing, you are headed for trouble eventually.
There are numerous other elements that can help teams succeed, but if you have the above four elements, chances are your team is doing very well.
All high performance teams have these four elements in play everyday. Make sure your team has these as well.
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP is CEO of Leadergrow Incorporated, an organization dedicated to the development of leaders. He has spoken on leadershipleadership and trust in numerous venues across the country. Mr. Whipple and was named one of the Top 15 Thought Leaders on Leadership Development in the nation by Leadership Excellence Magazine and as one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders on Trust by Trust Across America: Trust Around the World for the past five years.
Mr. Whipple is the author of four leadership books:
- The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003)
- Understanding E‐Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006)
- Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009)
- Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014)