What's the secret to high performing teams?
In my work as an executive coach and mentor, people often ask me what they can do to build and be part of high performing teams.
They are great questions and ones that have inspired the second edition of my leadership book, The Focused Executive, which has just been released.
The simple truth is that the single most important factor in creating and maintaining high performing teams is relationships.
In The Focused Executive, I refer to this as ‘synergising’ and have devoted a new chapter to it given the increased need for high performing teams in this fast-paced, post-GFC environment.
High performing teams are aligned on the business strategy, have complimentary skills, and share a common purpose, commitment and accountability.
It’s well documented that such teams build, lift and grow an organisation to possibilities no individual could achieve on their own. They create opportunities, ideas and provide the ideal state for growth.
Yet high performing teams – and organisations actively engaged in building this capability – remain relatively rare.
Over the past year we have worked with teams and team members from a number of organisations who recognised this need and who sought our help to find ways to be more collaborative and cohesive. This is always challenging work. Building trust and empathy takes time as each individual brings their own passion, emotion and reactions to working in a group.
The team leader needs to understand the drivers and motivations behind each team member’s behaviour, and inspire them to support each other through adversity as well as success.
I recently had the good fortune to attend the World Business Forum in Sydney and the standout theme was the pace of change. Leader after leader commented on the velocity of change, the view that change is here to stay and will only get faster, continued post-GFC uncertainty, and changes taking place across industries and organisational structures.
The global head of Saatchi and Saatchi, Kevin Roberts, spoke of removing hierarchies and job descriptions and giving people exciting opportunities to increase engagement. He said we need to move into a world of ideas where we listen to our people, assess, decide and execute, and that engagement comes from bringing your passion to work.
Applying this view to synergising and working in teams, our teams and organisational structures should eschew hierarchy and instead focus on enabling human beings to do their best work.
We should role model the behaviour we want to see in our teams, and ensure the team functions to create a secure base for ourselves, our peers, our managers and our direct reports. This may mean dispelling myths about what makes a great team leader, such as the myth that conflict should be avoided and all team members should always simply get along well.
In fact, the most effective teams include members with a broad range of operating styles and are not afraid to challenge each other. The difference is that it is done with respect and active listening, enabling different viewpoints to be heard. High performing teams recognise it is better to have these debates before committing to a course of action.
Stephenson Mansell Group