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High Performing Teams: 10 Things You Want To Know About Building A High Performing Team

"Conflict becomes politics, commitment becomes 'Only if it's in my best interest', accountability becomes 'Only when it serves me,' and results just fall by the wayside." - Patrick Lencioni, author of "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team", speaking about dysfunctional teams

Based on my experience as a manager, a member of many teams, an HR professional, and a coach, below are 10 things you want to know about high performing teams. Don't try to do everything at once. Choose up to 3 things that will give you the biggest lift in results.

Building a high performing team is not just about shared experiences. Yes, attendance at workshops, experiential and adventure kinds of activities, bowling, etc. often create an increased sense of closeness. You get to know others on a more personal, even human level and that helps foster a willingness to work together. Hopefully, you'll be more disposed to having conversations. But this doesn't mean you'll be much more effective back at the office.

High performing teams are not about high performing people just getting on with it.

Getting things done through teams is a strategic choice. Like any strategy, "getting on with it" actually requires some up front and on-going investment in building clarity, trust, relationships, accountability, commitment, and process.

If not, call yourself a working group not a team. A working group is a bunch of individual contributors who focus on their own piece, based on shared information, rather than getting things done that serve the whole. Be clear about what you're choosing.

High performing teams have high performing sponsors and leaders. High performing sponsors champion the work of the team and have the authority to make the work happen, including authority over the people who will implement the results and control over other required resources.

High performing leaders take the time to set context, create commitment, and engage the team. They define specifically what is expected from the team, including bottom line, process and behavioural goals and measures. They are attentive to patterns in their own behaviour that encourage what is happening or not happening on the team.

High performing teams have a clear sense of purpose and a vision that excites them to action and creates commitment. Otherwise it can just feel like more work, more stuff, added to an already overloaded calendar.

High performing teams are clear and follow through on accountabilities and authorities, within and outside the team.

High performing teams ensure team members have the authority to act and make it clear what others outside the team are accountable to deliver. So people are not left to waste time using influence skills, including bullying, cajoling, and complaining, nor are they left wondering when and if someone is going to deliver on their requests. They are also specific about how members will be held to account and the rewards and consequences for doing or not doing so. They manage performance within the team.

High performing teams focus on process and relationships as well as bottom line results and set measurable goals for each.

If you look at something like Outward Bound, which I attended, the group quickly focuses on goal setting and process ? what is the end game, what is important to the group (i.e. values), what decisions need to be made, how will we make them, who is in charge, who is best suited to do what kind of work, how will we work together, etc. It is this awareness that needs to be transferred back to the work setting.

Usually, goals are focussed on the achievement of financial, customer or task based results. Process is about how the work of the team gets done. Relationships speak to how people collaborate to accomplish process and bottom line results. Explicit objectives should be set for such factors as how the team will work together and behave with each other, how decisions will be made, speaking outside one's discipline, how conflict will be managed, and the giving and receiving of feedback.

High performing teams manage behaviours that have been linked to bottom line results.

What's the point of agreeing to team values and ground rules if people are not held to account for acting in accordance with them? High performing teams constantly monitor the "health" of the group and challenge values conflicts and habitual patterns of behaviour that impede high performance. The team is in charge of noticing what is working and isn't working from an internal operating perspective. What's going on? What needs to be done about it? Who is going to do it?

High performing teams have courageous conversations.

Work is done through people and relationships. High performing teams have conversations that lead to action, including the tough ones that are about passionate debate, arguments, and conflict. Assumptions are surfaced and conflict moves to creativity and results.

Otherwise, people hold back and won't commit, the issue pops later, or dissention surfaces in the hallways. Allow people to put their issues on the table. If they are heard, they are more likely to remain engaged, even if they are disagreed with.

High performing teams manage meetings effectively.

It's not the meeting that's the problem but the lack of process associated with calling and running them. Stop complaining about them. Do what is required to make them work.

High performing teams don't get together to just share status reports. Information sharing can be a colossal waste of time. It's what needs to be done with the information that counts. If all you want to do is share information, use voice mail or e-mail. Use the team to ask questions, seek clarity, make decisions, get creative, and figure out what to do about obstacles, including what's not working well in the team.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

? Think back about the teams you have been a part of. How many of them could truly be described as high performing? What was missing? What was present in those that were?

? What kind of assembly do you honestly lead ? a true high performing team or a working group? Under what circumstances does it really matter?

? How often do you neglect the up-front work required to create a true high performing team? To what extent do you allow yourself and your team to avoid accountability for the actions required of a high performing team?

"When the leader is morally weak and his discipline not strict, when his instructions and guidance are not enlightened, when there are no consistent rules, neighbouring rules will take advantage of this." - Sun Tzu, Philosopher

Copyright CoachingWorks2005

This article may be reprinted in its entirety with express written permission from Sharon A. Miller. The reprint must include the section "About the Author".

About the Author
Sharon Miller has worked in and with large corporations since 1978. She has distinguished herself in 3 different careers ? Investment Trading & Sales, Strategic Human Resources, and Coaching. She was noted as one of the top 3 salespeople in Canada in money market securities. She's been a high potential, exceptional performer, partnering with individuals as senior as Vice-Chairman, and has managed teams in both line and staff functions. She is professionally certified as coach through The Coaches Training Institute and has built a successful home based business on her terms.

Sharon helps high achievers have more impact with less struggle. Sign up for her FREE monthly e-zine, More With Less, which practically explores business, team, and individual challenges to high performance and high enjoyment. Sign up at http://www.sharonamiller.com

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