All leaders aspire to have a high performance team. This is particularly the case when being appointed to a leadership role, but is often as important to those that have been in place for some while. However sometimes leaders fail to recognise the critical role they have in developing a high performance team.
The role of the leader is key and this is laid bare in the world of football. How many times have we seen an underperforming team suddenly move up the league table on the appointment of a new manager? The same team significantly lift their performance as a result of the influence of the new manager. Granted that the world of football and business are slightly different but there are also some similarities when it comes to developing a high performance team.
So what is it you have to do as the leader to develop such high performance team? The tips given here are in no particular order of priority but they are all important.
Am I Leading a Team?
The definition of a team is a group of individuals with a common purpose. So does your team have a common purpose, or are you actually leading a group of individuals. If you are leading a group of sales people who have both individual and a group sales target there is a fairly clear common purpose. This might be about sharing knowledge, leads, expertise and prospects. However if you are leading a group of functional heads across a wide range of areas there may be much less of a common purpose. For example a Finance Director who leads Group Risk, Financial and Management Accounting, IT and the Company Secretariat. In this case what might the common purpose of the group be (there are possibilities)?
So if you are not leading a team perhaps you need to consider the purpose of any group activities such as meetings. It may be that the purpose of the group is literally for communication of new policies, company results and initiatives.
If you are leading a group of individuals with a common purpose like a football manager then there are some specifics you need to put in place in order to create a high performance team.
What’s the Vision?
As a leader you are accountable for creating a vision for where the team is headed. This enables people to understand what will be required going forward and ensures all those in the team are pulling in the same direction. The vision can be fairly grand or very specific. Examples might be
- As a financial accounting team we will achieve a 100% annual audit rating
- We will become the largest retailer of food in the south east based on the volume of meals served
- We will achieve 10% average sales growth over the next three years
The creation of a meaningful and compelling vision clarifies the common purpose and enables individual team members to see how their objectives contribute to the whole. In our team development coaching we find that the process of creating a vision not only generates a sense of purpose but also contributes to some of the other building blocks for a high performance team.
For a team to function well there has to be an atmosphere of trust which allows team members to openly contribute their views. It is important that this includes the ability to constructively criticise ideas which may be of concern.
This type of transparency doesn’t happen by accident although it can occur over a lengthy period of time. If you are a new leader however you need to accelerate this trust among team members. This can be even more difficult if you have been managing a team for some while where there is a lack of trust.
One way of building trust is for team members to understand a bit more about each other. This can be done in a number of different ways but in team coaching we will often use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. This tool focuses on the strengths and differences between individuals. So it is non-threatening and enables team members to understand why people behave in the way that they do.
The team leader also sets an example of transparency. So it’s important that the leader facilitates open conversations and does not try to bury them.
The team needs a set of ground rules that state how individuals will interact with each other and what the team as a whole believe is important. This means that everyone understands what behaviour is acceptable and not acceptable.
It helps if members of the team have a clear understanding of each others’ objectives. This means everyone understands how individuals are contributing to the whole team. It demonstrates transparency and everyone can see who is under what pressure to deliver.
Where individuals agree to take on a tasks for the team it is important that they are held accountable by team members for delivery. So if for example two team members agree to take an additional savings target to cover overspends elsewhere they must know they are expected to deliver.
Consistency and Fairness
As leader it is critical that you are seen to be consistent and fair in the treatment of team members. This is one area where problems may occur because the leader is seen to be too lenient or indeed to hard on certain team members.
Deal with the Stragglers
Occasionally there will be those in the team who do not buy in to the approach taken by the leader. If after doing all the right performance management activity their attitude or behaviour does not change it must be dealt with quickly. There is nothing worse for undermining team morale than knowing there are one or two that do not demonstrate the right performance, behaviour and attitude, but get away with it.
So the answer is to move the under performers out! Don’t wait for them to leave. Set the example and move them on. This might be to another team where they are better suited and may be happier, or they may have to exit the organisation.
Reward and Recognise High Performance
Build and maintain a high performance culture by rewarding and recognising those that show the right behaviours. Bonus schemes will normally reward the right financial performance but there is so much more you can do as a leader. Create a pot of money to allow you to give recognition. This could be high street vouchers, a meal for two, a weekend away, an additional day off or a team night out. You can reward for all sorts of things, for example
- Doing something on behalf of the team
- Speaking on a subject to develop the team
- Contributions to a team project
- Successful completion of a team project
This reward and recognition highlights the behaviours you expect and gives an incentive for showing it.
Team Development Coaching
Sometimes you can be fortunate and all these things fall in to place naturally. Often that is not the case and leaders cannot afford to spend the time necessary to get the team performing at the highest level. This is where team development coaching can speed things up. As a consultancy we can work with you to design the interventions you may need to create a high performing team
Keywords; team coaching, team development, team building, high performance team, team performance, team development coaching
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