A high-performing team is one that is driven, united, and focused on achieving the best results. Building a successful team that meets its goals can be challenging, but it is not impossible. By following this six-step guide to create a high-performing team, you’ll have what it takes to drive unity, strength, and success.
1. Team Purpose
Providing clarity on team purpose and responsibilities is a crucial role for leaders invested in building strong and effective teams. When everyone understands this it makes it easier to align their efforts towards a common goal.
Ensuring clarity on team purpose is more than a one-time effort and needs consistent and repeated attention. It’s easy for the team’s purpose to drift, for people to forget the importance of what they are doing or how it connects to the bigger picture – especially when the world and our operating contexts are changing so quickly.
So what does that look like in practice:
⭕️The purpose of the team defined and clear to everyone (both inside and outside of the team) – when everyone understands what the team’s purpose is and how it contributes to overall organisation goals there is less opportunity for friction and misalignment.
⭕️It is clear what the team is responsible for accomplishing – when it is clear what the team does – and doesn’t do – there is less confusion and ambiguity about the team’s objectives. This makes it easier to prioritize tasks and make decisions.
⭕️The team believe their work makes a positive impact – Knowing that their work makes a positive impact on the organisation and more widely can motivate team members to go above and beyond what is expected of them and work more creatively to achieve their goals.
⭕️The team understands what the wider organisation needs from them – When the team understands what the wider organisation needs from them, they can work more effectively with other teams and departments to achieve common goals. This alignment can help to avoid duplication of effort and ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives.
⭕️The team know who they are accountable to – When team members know who they are accountable to, it creates a sense of responsibility and ownership over their work. This accountability can help to ensure that everyone is working towards the team’s objectives and that there is clear communication about progress and challenges.
By creating clarity on team purpose leaders can motivate their team members, foster a sense of ownership and accountability, and build trust, all of which can contribute significantly to achieving the team’s goals and making a positive impact.
2. Team Membership
As Richard Hackman, Professor of Psychology at Harvard and author of great books on effective leadership and teamwork, suggests, for teams to be effective, they need to be a real team.
So, what does a real team look like? Here are some characteristics to consider:
⭕️Shared Task – A real team needs to have a common goal that they are working towards. This shared task provides direction, promotes collaboration and establishes shared accountability.
⭕️Clear Team Boundaries – It is crucial for everyone in the team to know who is part of the team and equally importantly who is not. Teams with unintentionally blurred edges can cause confusion and undermine effectiveness. People also need to understand the rationale for why certain individuals were chosen to be part of the team. This clarity helps to build a strong team identity, fosters a sense of belonging, and promotes effective communication.
⭕️Stable Team Membership – Team membership should be relatively stable, and the criteria for future membership should be clear. This helps to establish a sense of stability and consistency within the team. Research shows that, in general, more stable teams are more effective than those with frequently changing membership.
⭕️Right Mix of Skills – Each team member brings a unique set of skills and knowledge to the table. The team should have the right mix and volume of skills, expertise, knowledge, and experience needed to achieve its current goals – and make sure they are leveraging this mix fully and effectively to ensure success.
⭕️Commitment to Growth – The team should have a clear understanding of how it needs to grow and develop to achieve its future goals. This includes identifying areas for improvement and actively seeking out opportunities to develop new skills and expertise. The team must be committed to continuous learning and growth to ensure it stays ahead of the curve.
3. High-Performing Team Mindset
We often hear about the importance of having a growth mindset and being able to adapt to change. However, when it comes to teams, there’s another aspect that’s just as important: team mindset.
When we have a team mindset, we recognise that we are part of a larger group and that our success is linked to the success of the team as a whole. The key elements of a team mindset are:
⭕️Shared commitment to the team -Having a team mindset involves recognising that our own success is intricately tied to the success of the team as a whole and that our individual achievements are only one part of a larger picture.
⭕️Collective accountability for the team’s results – Team mindset involves taking ownership of our actions and holding ourselves and others accountable for delivering results. This requires a willingness to take on difficult conversations, constructively challenge each other, provide honest feedback, and not shy away from holding each other to high standards of performance.
⭕️Adjustment of activities to facilitate group accomplishment – The team mindset recognises that our contributions are interdependent. To facilitate this we actively adjust our activities to align with the greater needs of the team in any moment. We recognise that the success of the team depends on everyone prioritising the team’s needs first rather than pushing on with our own work and agenda regardless.
⭕️Spirit of mutual support, encouragement, and cooperation – Perhaps most importantly, a team mindset involves creating a culture of mutual support, encouragement, and cooperation. We recognise the inherent fallibility of humans and acknowledge that each individual possesses unique strengths and weaknesses. Rather than competing against each other, we collaborate and provide support and assistance to one another in order to achieve the team’s collective goals.
Embracing a team mindset is one of the critical elements that will help teams achieve great things and navigate today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business environment more effectively.
4. High-Performing Team Practices
High-performing teams are intentional about how they work together and the practices they adopt to support their work. Here are five practices that you can optimise to help your team perform at its best:
⭕️Communication norms, tools, and channels have been agreed – This ensures seamless coordination among team members, avoids duplications, and sets expectations about which channels should be used when.
⭕️A regular cadence of meetings has been established, each with a clear purpose and structure – This helps keep the team aligned and focused on shared goals and ensures that any meetings are consequential and a good use of the team’s time. Avoid meetings that are simply status updates.
⭕️Decision-making processes have been articulated and understood -This ensures that everyone is on the same page, can contribute to the decision-making process, and is clear how and when decisions are made.
⭕️Opportunities for open dialogue and collaboration are created – This ensures you can tap into diverse perspectives and experiences regardless of seniority or specialisation. This means you can leverage the collective IQ of the team to generate creative solutions and make informed decisions.
⭕️Everyone has easy access to data, insights, and knowledge – Make as much information as possible accessible to everyone and set information-sharing norms and expectations. This helps ensure your team has the information they need to execute their roles and enables them to make informed decisions and take greater ownership of their work.
By implementing these practices, your team can build a culture of collaboration, communication, and shared ownership that leads to high performance and success.
5. Team Alignment and Clarity
High-performing teams need a well-crafted combination of alignment and clarity. Here are 4 things to pay attention to in order to help you foster these vital elements in your team:
⭕️Shared Understanding of Direction, Goals, and Priorities – A high-performing team thrives when everyone is on the same page, united by a common vision. As a leader, ensure that your team’s direction, goals, and priorities are clearly communicated and understood by all. This unified understanding will serve as a strong foundation for your team’s success.
⭕️Clear Roles, Responsibilities, and Accountabilities – Nothing sows confusion and hinders progress quite like ambiguity. Make sure each team member is aware of their own role, responsibilities, and accountabilities. By establishing clarity in these areas, you’ll empower your team to work more efficiently and effectively.
⭕️ Overlaps, Interdependencies, and Collaboration – High-performing teams recognise that collaboration is key. Identify areas where your team members’ skills and responsibilities overlap or are interdependent. Encourage open communication and collaboration to help your team get clarity on when and how to best involve each other and avoid unnecessary friction and conflict.
⭕️ Connecting with Other Teams and Groups – Your team doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Identifying and connecting with other teams or groups is crucial for achieving wider organisation goals. Foster a culture that promotes cross-functional collaboration and keeps lines of communication open, ensuring that your team knows what other groups/teams it needs to connect with and involve in its decisions and work
When you invest in alignment and clarity, you’re setting your team up for long-term success. By fostering a shared understanding of direction, goals, and priorities, clearly defining roles and responsibilities, and encouraging collaboration both within and beyond your team, you’ll unlock the full potential of your high-performing team.
6. Team Conditions
Even the most talented and capable individuals can’t reach their full potential if their work environment doesn’t support their growth and success. By fostering these 5 key conditions, we can boost our teams’ performance and elevate their achievements:
⭕️ Embracing Challenges and Productive Conflict – High-performing teams tackle difficult issues head-on, engaging in constructive debates to reach the best solutions. By not shying away from conflict, they foster a culture of continuous improvement and growth.
⭕️ Inclusive and Empowering Atmosphere – Every member of a high-performing team feels valued, heard, and empowered to contribute their unique talents. By creating an inclusive environment, these teams harness the full potential of their collective expertise.
⭕️ Social Cohesion and Bonding – Social cohesion in teams has a direct link to improved team efficacy and productivity. Actively encouraging and intentionally creating opportunities for informal social interaction during the working day builds a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose that drives productivity and collaboration.
⭕️ Trust and Psychological Safety – A foundation of trust is vital in high-performing teams. When team members feel safe to voice their opinions, make mistakes, and take risks, they can fully engage in the creative process and contribute to the team’s success. And importantly, not shy away from holding each other accountable.
⭕️ Confidence and Self-Efficacy – High-performing teams believe in their ability to solve problems, navigate uncertainty, and overcome challenges. This collective self-efficacy drives them to take on ambitious projects and deliver exceptional results.
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