5 things for high-performance teams

5 things for high performance teams

5 things for high-performance teams. Focusing on these areas can help you build supportive, sustaining, and resilient teams during times of uncertainty, struggle, and change

As a change management consultant specialising in helping organisations thrive through transformation, I know business leaders feel that they are facing stiff headwinds right now when it comes to keeping their teams motivated and focused.

Rampant inflation, layoffs, and fears of recession all have employees worried and distracted. And that’s after more than two years of pandemic, shutdowns, and virtual work triggered trends such as the Great Resignation and quiet quitting.

In times like these, it helps to know that you as a leader can help your employees rally to support each other and advance our shared goals. There are things you can do and circumstances you can foster to create high-performance teams.

In business, we use the word “team” for just about any group of people who work together. However, a team is more than just a group. Likewise, the most effective teams share certain traits that set them apart.

Recently I was a member of a working group. I was surprised by how quickly we transformed from an ordinary working group to a high-performance team.

To be clear, there are differences between a working group and a team. A working group is typically focused on the effort of each member, while a team’s focus is on collective contribution — creating something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

5 things for high-performance teams

Transforming any group into a team takes discipline, commitment and effort. That’s why when it seemed to happen spontaneously in the working group I was part of, I decided to take a deeper look at what made the rapid development of our team possible.

1.         Shared Purpose/Collective Contribution. The starting place for our group was a clear goal, a purpose for working together, and clarity on roles and responsibilities. As I noted, a group is not a team. A team creates new work from a collective capability, a contribution that you couldn’t get individually. Focusing on our shared purpose and collective contribution, rather than the individual members, helps build a team.

2.         Respect. Each person on the team is an individual and comes with a unique perspective, ability, history, and communication style, and those need to be respected and leveraged. Each person may be chosen because of their expertise and knowledge, but in a high-performing team, they are valued beyond that, as a whole person. Our group was able to become a team quickly because we respected and embraced each person. This meant respecting the diverse communication styles, personalities, and nuances of each member.

3.         Equitable Inclusion. MIT researchers found the collective intelligence of groups isn’t strongly correlated with the average intelligence of individuals in the group. What counts more is diversity of experience and thinking. Effective teams are inclusive. Each person feels actively connected and involved. In our case, the team leader made the time and space, without rushing, for each member to contribute. Our group was diverse in terms of industry background, gender, area of expertise, culture, and work experience. We also spanned multiple generations. Yet each person was given time to ask questions, contribute, and make recommendations. No one person dominated the conversation or the activity. Our different levels of thinking, experience, and perspectives were acknowledged and valued for their contribution to our collective intelligence.

4.         Trust. Here I am talking about a sense of trust that everyone in the group is smart and knows their stuff. When this type of trust develops, group members participate more fully in the conversations and problem-solving becomes a shared experience. The need to be right is replaced with the desire to find the best solution. For me, it meant seeing my work from a different perspective, which led to new insights.

5.         Have Fun. Our project had a firm and immovable completion date. Everyone in our group knew time was not our friend. The pressure to complete at the desired quality was intense. Yet we still made time to socialise and laugh at ourselves, with each other, and through the ups and downs of the work. In the moments of fun we shared insights, got to know one another, and celebrated our differences.

Whether your group, task force, committee or any other collection of people working together becomes a team depends on what happens during and after the group is formed. Remember, creating a high-performance team is not about putting a whole bunch of smart people together in the room. It is about cultivating different ways of thinking and different perspectives to solve problems faster and creating collective intelligence.