A high performance team can be like an elite fighting unit in an organisation. They have their eyes on a specific goal and move together to achieve it. They innovate, collaborate, resolve and always strive to produce superior results.
They are an asset in all organisations, from non-profits to sports teams and large corporations. It is no wonder that organisations of all kinds crave these teams. However, they do not happen out of the blue. It takes careful planning and deliberate action combined with great leadership and conducive culture, for an organisation to nurture and grow these kinds of teams.
Below, we look at five key factors to consider in order to build your own high performance team.
Clarity of vision and goals
All teams work better when they buy into the vision and are aware of the goals to be achieved. For high performance teams this is doubly important. The team leader needs to make sure that the vision and goals are constantly top of mind for every member of the team.
During the course of the job, it is not uncommon for people to lose sight of the goal. One way a leader can help them out is by having the team break down the overall goal into smaller time bound pieces. Once these are achieved, the leader informs the team and updates them on the progress.
It is not enough that the team knows what the goal is, each team member must be shown how their specific role and input helps in the realization of the overall goal. And to increase team cohesion, members should be shown how their roles feed into and support other members’ roles.
Leaders of high performance teams set not only goals, but also stretch goals: those that are a bit more challenging to achieve. If not achieved, it is not viewed negatively but if they are, it will build the morale of the team. They will take pride in the fact that they applied their skills to tackle something challenging.
Selection of team members
Organisations need to select the people who constitute a high performance team with care. It is important to pair people with complementary skills and skills that brought together make the accomplishment of the goal a lot easier. In the same way a duplication of skills needs to be avoided. It might lead to some team members being redundant.
When putting the team together, the personalities and not just the skillsets need to be put into consideration. It is important to select people who:
- can work well together;
- are respectful to each other;
- communicate well;
- can resolve conflicts;
- are accountable to each other and the team, and;
- feel responsible for the results of their work whether, good or bad.
Managers can easily put together excellent employees and yet fail to create an excellent team. No team is without a leader and this individual can make a break the team; the team leader should typically be one who can inspire team members.
Leaders of high performance teams are aware that they are guiding highly driven people who do not need to be micro managed so they allow for autonomy and champion diplomacy. Leaders should:
- focus on the goals;
- provide opportunities for team members to excel;
- be an engaged team member, involved in the work and not just lead;
- solve bottlenecks that stand in the team’s way;
- prioritise communication, and;
- be able to make tough calls.
High performance teams can neither be too small nor too big.
A smaller team facilitates faster decision making as there are fewer opinions to consider. In addition, every members’ opinion will be given audience and when members feel that their opinions are taken seriously, it improves morale. However, for the same reason, small teams are less than ideal. Because there are fewer options, decisions might be lacking.
Too big teams (over 10 people) are vulnerable to forming smaller teams within the team. This can undermine the general goal as these sub sets will have their own interests. Some members’ opinions can also be over looked in discussions.
Without clear and effective communication, high performance teams cannot succeed. Some research goes as far as suggesting that this is the most important skill a manager should acquire.
How the team will communicate, amongst themselves and with management should be refined with time. At the same time, all members need to feel free enough to share ideas and opinions and should have access to all information shared within the team.
There should be a commitment to constantly improving how the team communicates if they want to maintain high performance status. To ensure this, some leaders or managers invite people outside the team to sit in on their discussions and meetings. A non-member might be able to point out communication gaps that the team might be neglecting.
Prioritise conflict resolution
With a group of high driven individuals, it will not be uncommon for conflicts to emerge. They can be toxic enough to tear the team apart and lead to deadlocks in execution. But the team’s ability to resolve them and keep working towards their goal is a key marker of a high performance team.
Team leaders need to prioritise this and facilitate the environment to resolve conflicts quickly and fairly. While team members might be able to handle this one on one, a leader should not hesitate to step in when necessary. Conflict resolution is that much easier to pull off when the team already has good communication in place.
While high performance teams consist of individuals with different characters, the team as an entity must and will develop its own character. If other elements like the leadership and size have been taken into consideration, this will happen over time. The team’s growth will however require proper communication and a willingness to try new methods that allow the team to perform beyond expectation.