"Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much." – Helen Keller
Can one man build a real empire without a team, and how? In the vast majority of cases, a success story is a well-chosen and well-coordinated teamwork – a high performing team, is what will lead your business to success. As for a team itself, its simplest definition is as follows: "A group of people united by a common goal." The strength of a high performing team lies in this common goal.
Here we will consider the main aspects affecting the quality of teamwork and give some practical recommendations for startups and novice leaders, showing how to build your high performing team, get the most out of your people, and achieve the goals set for the group.
When creating high-performance teams, you must understand well the essence of this type of work.
So here are its main features:
- Teamwork: a team is not just the sum of the individual parts, but a single unit – a structured group of people, each member complements others;
- Communication: each participant is open and honest with others in a team, ready to resolve conflicts even at the stage of their inception;
- Autonomy: Each team is an autonomous unit in the organization. It has several ways of interacting with top-managers and other teams, but they do not interfere with the processes in this particular group;
- The positioning of each participant. That is, each member of this group fully knows the situation and is aware of strategic goals, has a number of tasks and is responsible for their implementation;
- Synergy: the effect of teamwork is qualitatively superior to that of individuals. That is, the joint work of specialists can add up to much more than the results of their work alone.
Thus, we see that work in a high performing team is not just a parallel operation of several people working on the same project in the same premise, but rather cooperation between individual employees, which extends to various fields and tasks, the work of a group of people focused on solving a specific problem. A team, but not its individual members, is a single unit in the organization. A high performing team promotes achieving ambitious goals.
Teamwork significantly affects the effectiveness of individual team members. People working together will more effectively interact with other specialists in their team (compared to those who are not in a team). Teamwork makes a person more open and tolerant of others. This helps to set up connections with people and organizations more easily. A person working in a team cultivates higher emotional intelligence. That is, shows empathy and respect for colleagues, knows how to listen carefully, shows respect and tolerance to others. Team players are highly valued in the labor market. This increases the importance of a person as a specialist and becomes an excellent point in a CV.
So let us summarize the importance of teamwork: firstly, it is a powerful tool for effectively achieving the goals of an organization and implementing the tasks set within it. Secondly, teamwork is a tool for personal and professional growth of each employee who is a member of this team. The ability to develop high performing teams is one of the most valuable skills of any manager.
How to develop a high performing team – several practical Tips
"If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself." - Henry Ford
Now let us turn to practical aspects of building and leading high-performance teams. Here are several tips that can help you in this process:
Be an example for your team.
Sounds tritely, right? But as practice shows, building team performance, many managers forget about this simple rule. If you are a leader and want others to believe in your idea and think like you, you will succeed if you set a good example. Your attitude to the matter affects your behavior, and it, in turn, affects the attitude and behavior of your colleagues. You must set the right example for your team building a high performing team culture. The way you speak, act and think directly affects the confidence, dedication, and enthusiasm of your people. Do not forget about it.
Freedom instead of micromanagement.
There is a type of leader who tries to control ALL the processes that take place in a team. If this is a small group of several people, the situation is not so critical, but what if a top manager uses micromanagement? This is a particularly relevant topic in building high-performance project teams for startups. This approach can literally kill a young business.
Here are the results of a study that showed that freedom and opportunities (rather than tough control) have a positive impact on employee motivation, job satisfaction, and productivity. Here are several good practices on managing a high performing team:
- Working hours. Try switching to such a management model where only the result of work is taken into account.
- Methods of work. Let employees choose how to complete the task you assigned to them (Agile, Waterfall. etc.).
- Colleagues. Give employees the opportunity to choose who to work with. This item will be difficult to implement, especially if you have a small startup.
- Tasks. Make “creative days” during which team members can choose which project to work on. For example, Google practices the following 20% rule – every company employee has the right to spend 20% of his work week on third-party projects.
Building a high performing team, you need to strike the happy medium in terms of freedom and control. Too much or little freedom can lead to chaos and ruin your business.
Use the objectives and key results method (OKR).
Objectives and key results method is an effective tool for creating the structure of a company or team. This approach was first proposed by Intel. Here's how it works in practice:
- First, set the goal for your team. For example, to accelerate the site load time by 30%, increase customer engagement by 15%, and so on.
- Then choose a scale for evaluating key results. For example, Google teams have one from 0 to 1.0. If you managed to achieve an ideal result with a score of 1.0, then the goal was not ambitious (usually Google engineers should perform the task at 0.6-0.7).
- Perform tasks and calculate all possible outcomes.
The OKR method is a simple process that encourages all team members to report results – a great tool that helps a leader to create a high-performance team. Many large companies using this method in their teams (including Google, Zynga, Palantir, and Square) have recognized that this technique has really helped them increase productivity.
Focus on internal motivation.Freedom of action makes team members rely on intrinsic motivation. Unlike external motivation (for example, a strict boss), internal motivates them and the desire to work on a project.
There is no bonus that motivates a team member to work better than personal interest. This is how the following factors influence motivation:
- Tests. Employees try harder to succeed if they face complex personal goals.
- Curiosity. Intrinsic motivation and curiosity depend on each other and make people learn and explore something new.
- Teamwork and competitive aspect. In some cases, people are motivated if they help others or participate in a friendly competition.
- Recognition. According to McKinsey, sometimes praise and recognition motivates employees more than money.
Regular teambuilding classes.This is another thing that can help you to create a high performing team. Although very few employees enjoy teambuilding classes, they really can have a positive effect on a team, in particular, to improve the level of trust, coordination, and communication. But remember the following thing – there is no need to engage in team-building in unnatural situations. Have you ever told your team that the whole company would pass the team-building training in the woods next weekend? Remember, what was their reaction to that kind of news? This is what "unnatural situation" actually means. Good team building classes are conducted in a normal and familiar environment.
Minimize formal meetings and appointments.A study conducted by Atlassian has shown that employees working in technology companies spend an average of 30 hours a month attending various meetings, which for 50% of cases are completely unproductive for the whole team. In addition, it turned out that at such meetings most employees usually think about something else or doing their own duties, and a little less than half of the employees complain that meetings are useless and/or held too often. Surely, this does not mean that you should never arrange meetings in your team. The main thing is that they must be productive. Before organizing a meeting, ask yourself a few questions and proceed as follows:
You can also withdraw from the standard boring team meeting format and arrange daily short meetings lasting no more than 15 minutes.
Never stop learning
"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships." – Michael Jordan
In addition to the tips listed above, there is one more important thing that anyone building a high performing team should take into account – continuous self-improvement. In order to succeed in that matter, use the following approaches:
Read specialized teambuilding literature regularly. Books are a valuable source of experience and knowledge of other people. Do not miss the chance to learn from mistakes (of other people). These are the most popular books on building team performance:
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable.
- Lead ... for God's Sake !: A Parable for Finding the Heart of Leadership.
- Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives.
- Mentoring 101.
- The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People and Teams That Win Consistently.
Not only books with several hundred pages will help you shape your approach to team management. Sometimes you can learn a good lesson from short articles.
- Regularly attend specialized leadership training. This can be a training course that addresses the general issues of team management, such as High-Performance Leadership Management, or courses, exercises on specific, workshops and other training activities on various aspects of high performing team management (communication, motivation, time management, etc.)