26 Jun 1 + 1 = 3: How to create the highest performing teams
I’ve been involved in developing high performing teams and leaders as a performance coach for a little over three years now. I’d been building the same teams and leaders as a fighter pilot and entrepreneur for more than two decades before. And now, I have the unique opportunity to observe teams across extremely diverse functions and frankly, it’s been fascinating.
By understanding conceptually why teams are important, we can prioritise the simple methods that achieve alignment of the individuals within the team. If you’re worried you’ll lose the acknowledgement we crave as individuals, then don’t. Whilst there’s no “I” in team, there is in “winning team”! Individual empowerment comes about as a function of being part of a high performing team.
Through the creation of alignment around simple objectives – the key differentiator between good and great companies. Wasn’t it Jim Collins himself who stated “Visionary companies are 1% vision and 99% alignment”? Through a commitment to effective team work you’ll achieve a productivity multiple that delivers impressive results.
What I find most interesting is each organisation fundamentally believes that they are different. In some respects, it’s true – one organisation may be a charity, the other a public service, another may be an elite sporting team or a corporate entity. Very different products and services. However from a human performance perspective, you may be surprised to learn that these organisations are by and large the same. How so?
There is a trend in organisations to focus on the individual, they call it “talent” or investment in individual development. Astonishing amounts of money are spent on recruiting, on-boarding and training individuals into an organisation. Depending on where you look, studies show that recruiting can be anywhere from 5%-30% of an employee’s salary. Then there is training and integration into the organisation, which takes on average 32 hours.
Losing employees and re-hiring, if occurring in a two year cycle, can cost up to 30% of an average employee salary for entry level positons, and 200% + for C-suite levels. With the constant hunt for “new talent” and the next big thing we run the risk of neglecting the most important part of any business – our existing and dedicated team.
By effectively managing a team we harness the diversity of human beings, something we are unable to achieve in a single individual. According to David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom the essential traits of effective team are:
- Creating dependability through trust in the team to get things done, when they need to be done. Trust is driven through accountability by each team member to deliver on their objectives.
- An understanding of how each team member will contribute to the overall “big picture” or the organisation’s long term vision. Each team member knows what they have to do to achieve the objectives.
- Communicating clearly to ensure everyone is ‘on the same page’ and understands their roles in delivering the organisation’s objectives. Encouraging open and honest communication in the form of debriefing to build respect and trust amongst the team.
- Once alignment and trust is established we can move from subjective chatter to an objective assessment of performance. This in turn creates constructive conflict and this type of conflict or critique should be encouraged!
One of the most common human traits I have observed is the unwillingness of team members to admit their mistakes or that their assumptions were incorrect. This stifles growth and erodes trust, and is a response to either poorly planned objectives or weak leadership.
5. Appreciation of each other. Individuals appreciate recognition for a job well done and the team appreciates the efforts of the individual. Sharing the appreciation and achieving small tasks regularly is a huge motivation driver and it’s why these companies are so successful.
- First and foremost, there must be a commitment to the process of becoming a great team, whether you’re a team leader or a team member.
- Work together to create a simple plan that sets three simple objectives for the year, quarter and week ahead, that are aligned to your organisation’s strategy.
- Each team member must develop and commit to three enabling objectives, aligned to the whole team’s plan, to create accountability to deliver on these objectives within 90 days.
- Meet once a week as a team, for no more than an hour, to allow each team member to review their progress against their objectives.
- Participate in a team building exercise every six months. This is a great way for the team to work together on a new task with new subject matter. This helps keep the relationships invigorated and provides an opportunity to develop and observe the natural strengths and weaknesses of the team (without the security blanket or bias of our own organisation’s structure). This is really valuable for all team members to reflect on how best they can contribute to the team and who to go to when they need help.
- Share leadership roles amongst the group. The team leader has the casting vote on all matters, however allow a different team member to lead the weekly “how are we tracking” meeting. It helps develop their confidence and allows the team leader to observe the team and reflect on the “bigger picture”.
We meet the deep rooted social needs of individuals seeking a sense of community through our teams supportive peer group. We then align this empowered team to the long term vision of our organisation, creating a disproportionate effect in our business, manifesting our “1 + 1 = 3” equation.