Work teams are the backbone of modern-day business. Management teams run companies. Project teams create new products and services. Marketing and sales teams deliver products and services to customers.
High-performing teams are essential to the way most businesses organize and carry out their work, resulting in superior business performance, which translates into a significant competitive advantage.
Yet despite varying approaches to building team performance, some common characteristics seem to be strong indicators of a team that is not functioning at its potential:
- Lack of trust. Team members do not fully trust each other or the team as an entity.
- Inability to manage conflict. Not dealing with conflict openly and transparently and allowing grudges to build up can destroy team morale.
- Unclear goals. Team members are unsure about their roles and the ultimate team goals, resulting in a lack of commitment and engagement.
- Poorly defined roles and responsibilities. Team members are not clear about what they must do (and what they must not do) to demonstrate their commitment to the team and to achieve team success.
- Personal relationship issues. The bonds between the team members are weak, which affects their efficiency and effectiveness.
- Negative environment. An overall team culture that is not open, transparent, positive and future-focused results in a failure to perform at high levels.
- Nonparticipating leadership. Team members fail to use a democratic leadership style that involves and engages team members.
- Poor decision-making. Team members make decisions too quickly without a blend of rational and intuitive decision-making methods.
- Poor communication. Lines of communication are closed and infrequent.
- Diversity is not valued. Team members do not value the diversity of experience and backgrounds of their fellow team members, resulting in a lack of diverse viewpoints and less successful decision-making and solutions.
It could be said that in the 21st century it is even more difficult to get the best out of the team. The reasons for this include:
- People may be required to work in multiple teams at the same time
- A lot of teams are spread across geographic boundaries making contact more infrequent and more problematic
- Virtual teams coordinate their work predominantly with electronic information and communication technologies and may never meet face to face
- The time scales within which teams are expected to join, form and perform to meet a business challenge are shorter than ever before
- The business challenges themselves have increased in complexity
- Not all groups of people who collaborate need to be in a team to achieve the objectives
The result is that the leader has a very important role to play in helping people to work well together. For example, it can help people establish whether and when they need to be in the team.
What can we learn from high performing workgroups – those that deliver sustained profitable growth – that we can spread across our own organisations?
To achieve sustained profitable growth, companies need to differentiate through new products, services, and markets.
In high-performing groups that means having a very clear customer strategy including knowing who the target customer is, understanding what their target customers want from them and delivering against their customers’ expectations.
But that alone is not enough. The top reasons why strategy execution fails include inadequate resources, poorly communicated strategy, actions required not clearly defined and accountabilities for execution not clear.
In high performing groups there are clear processes for strategy execution that aligns individual contribution to the overall strategy.
Processes that include strategic planning for aligning vision, purpose, values & goals. A team meeting rhythm for communication and focus. A performance development planning process to align individual goals and contributions to the business strategy and goals.
Furthermore, if you create a sound strategy and execute against it but don’t create an environment where people can do their best work, the likelihood of the strategy failing is high.
A high-performance environment where people feel valued, the leaders lead by example, values are used to make decisions and people are not afraid to take risks.
People need to feel that their work matters – whether they work on the assembly line or own the company.
If people believe they can make a difference, they will come. If they are given the opportunity to do their jobs well, they will stay. Most importantly, if you build the right environment, they will perform.
Above a certain point – fair pay, good benefits & a safe place to work – people want to feel part of something bigger, a company with a great culture of connection, recognition and communication.
If a Business Owner or CEO isn’t deliberately creating that culture, they’re bound to fail.
So, for a team to deliver sustained profitable growth, three drivers are required:
- A clear customer strategy
- Business planning processes down to an individual level
- A high-performance environment that supports effective execution