Every owner, leader, and executive wants a high performing team. Some even think they have one, when they don’t.
I’ve had the opportunity to serve on and lead several executive teams in my career. Some achieved high performance, others didn’t.
What makes the difference?
1. ENGAGED LEADERSHIP. This may seem unnecessary to mention, but I’ve been stunned at how many disengaged leaders I’ve encountered. They’ve been unresponsive to other senior leaders’ emails and calls, absent from key meetings, and silent when key input is needed.
As a leader, demonstrate the values and behaviors you expect from your team. Be approachable, respectful, and supportive, setting the tone for a positive work environment.An engaged leader provides direction, not micromanagement, to help their teams achieve success. Teams perform at their best when they have the full support and engagement of their leadership.
2. TRUST: Trust is the foundation of a strong team. Foster trust by being reliable, respecting confidentiality, and supporting one another. I’ve been in way too many situations where the leader of the team criticized another peer colleague to me. This destroys trust. If they criticize one of my peers, what are they saying behind my back?
Address any conflicts promptly and transparently. Tension, frequent miscommunication, missed deadlines, and reduced productivity are all signs of a breakdown of trust. When this happens, it’s important to step in as a leader and identify what’s causing the breakdown. Speak with your team, bring them together, and talk things over.
3. CLEAR COMMUNICATION: Second only to trust, communication plays a huge part in the success of a team. High performing teams have a system in place to streamline and optimize communication. You are hardly a high performing team without efficiency. They know when to call, when to email, when to Slack, when to (and not to) hop on a video call, and if they are working together in an office, when to simply pop into each other’s office. They also use technology to stay organized and track progress by using project management software or Google Docs to collaborate on a document (Forbes 1/31/21).
4. ORGANIZED TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES: You can find articles that are both pro and con regarding structured team-building activities. For me, like PowerPoint and annual performance reviews, this feels old fashioned.
I’ve played relay games, zip lined, pulled on ropes and swung a club at TopGolf. Some were fun, but really did nothing to promote high team performance. Here’s how you create better teamwork and success – do what you say you’ll do, be accessible, competent, accountable, polite, and humble. Without these qualities no amount of tricky word games and falling backward will matter.Here’s a quote from an executive with Mars Inc.,
“Once, we spent thousands of dollars to hire an orchestra to spend an hour with a group of senior leaders at an offsite retreat and help them work together in harmony. It was a nice metaphor and an interesting experience. It did nothing, though, to change how that group of leaders worked together.”
Harvard Business Review 9/11/18.
I’ve concluded the only people who really like staged team-building activities are the people who make money conducting them.
5. CLEARLY DEFINED ROLES: I don’t mean a pro forma job description that gets filed away and collects dust. If you’ve worked for your organization more than a few years, what you actually do now likely bears no resemblance to that ‘other duties as assigned’ job description. No document can predict what you will actually be doing five years from now.
At the same time, it is important for everyone to know how their responsibilities fit in with the rest of the team.
I prefer for everyone to create a document of their work priorities for the next 90 days. Every three months it gets updated. This keeps their role fresh and informative to everyone else on the team.
Check in next week for Part II.
Time for me to go play tug of war with my team.
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