What are high performing teams?
"Individual commitment to a group effort, that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work."
— Vince Lombardi, American Football Coach of the Century
Features of high performing teams (HPTs) vs non-high performing teams
HPTs are transformational powerhouses that are often used when making changes in strategic processes within an organisation. Effective leadership is essential because their role is to take a vision and transform it into reality. HPTs often involve members from different functional areas of the organisation. Team leaders are unlikely to be experts in all the areas concerned so they need exceptional leadership skills to coordinate, monitor, and unite the efforts of the team to deliver.
- Non-high performing teams by contrast may be locked into an inflexible leadership style based on expert content knowledge alone.
HPTs display three key characteristics of trust, respect and support. Support in this sense means proactively monitoring opportunities to help out fellow members. All these aspects involve building relationships and taking risks – shifting people out of individual comfort zones towards collective results.
- In a non-high performing team, individual pursuits dominate the collective goals of the team, diminishing trust, respect and support. They don’t value a relational approach.
HPTs make effective use of coaching inside the team for teambuilding and building the leadership skills of the team leader. Coaching of team leaders by an expert, external coach can also develop skills that team leaders can then pass on to their team members. The coach can also work with the team stakeholders to develop the initial mission statement and charter. It is this process of cohesion that makes best use of the collective resources of the team and to make sure that the whole far exceeds the sum of the parts.
- Non-high performing teams on the other hand don’t ‘get’ coaching or what it can achieve. They may stagnate or lack the cohesion that comes from collective growth.
HPTs are focused on outcomes and communicate regularly about them. Communication in the HPT is multidirectional: team members discuss between themselves and with the team leader their progress toward goals and objectives, give regular updates, discuss challenges, successes, and so on. If communication skills are not yet up to the standard needed, specific coaching can enhance this aspect of team performance.
- By comparison, non-high performing teams often operate in a reduced communication mode, at best two-way between the team leader and members, sometimes only one-way from the team leader down.
As well as constantly progressing towards its goals, the HPT also seeks to understand how it can improve its own processes and way of working. Input from individual team members is important for these improvements and requires leadership styles that foster this behaviour. In some teams, the team leader takes half the responsibility for the team and its performance, and the team members collectively take the other half.
- This extra dimension is often lacking in non-high performance teams that don’t take responsibility for improving their own processes, either by leaving that up to the team leader alone, or adopting an attitude of ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it, so why change?’
Networking by team members and especially the team leader is also part of HPTs. To optimise performance and benefit to the organisation, the HPT needs to understand and consolidate its relationship with other teams and stakeholders. Building relationships through networking is a great way to do this.
- Non-high performance teams usually toil away in isolation and diverge away from organisational usefulness.
"A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skill of the others."
— Norman S Hidle
Most teams that are first brought together may show a ‘hockey stick’ curve, where performance starts low and then accelerates rapidly towards the end of the allotted time for the team mission. This is often due to a learning process for the contributors who enter the team, plus the time necessary to understand how to work together and resolve friction. In many cases, the ‘80/20' rule applies, where eighty per cent of the work gets done in the last twenty per cent of the team’s lifetime.
There are ways to improve the “hockey stick curve” and get even ordinary teams to perform faster and better. This includes accelerating the formation of good relationships, focusing on goals, accelerating team development and coaching. All of this and more can be supported by Leadership Evolution, using proven team building tools.
HPTs make sense for your organisation. If you want to put such a team in place, or you want to increase the performance of an existing team, then call Alison on 0400 340 171. We’ll be happy to help you turn your vision of HPTs into reality.