A special note: today is Veterans Day
we may struggle in business to consistently produce high-performance
teams, our soldiers in service of our country live this on a regular
basis. Thanks to those who have served, those who are serving and to
all who have sacrificed. Our gratitude has no end.
In Search of the High Performance Team
I regularly poll my seminar participants and MBA students on their team-focused experiences in the workplace and I am consistently surprised when very few report ever being part of something that they would classify as a “high performance” team.
The results of my unscientific polling are all the more surprising given that we live during a time when involvement in short-term projects with individuals across functions is a part of the regular work experience of most professionals.
The business literature is filled with articles and interviews from leaders and pundits on topics tied to innovation, business execution and team heroics. Of course, the same companies tend to be the focal point of these articles. It seems like we cannot get enough of the stories of heroics pulled off in companies like Apple, Ideo Google and the few others that seem to make the short-list for the popular business press. It’s curious that those companies got the memo on creating high-performance teams and the rest of us are relegated to reading about their successes.
When I ask about involvement on high-performance teams, there is invariably someone in the audience sharp enough to ask me what I mean. Admittedly, my definition is one of those kind of squishy, you’ll know it when you experience it answers. It’s also a multi-part answer that goes something like this:
- A high-performance team is a group of people that have figured out how to work together to knock down and succeed in pursuit of audacious goals. They’ve learned to leverage their respective strengths, compensate for weaknesses and tap into the power that a group of people uniquely focused on a goal are able to generate.
- High-performance teams thrive on challenges, revel only momentarily in successes and mostly seek the next big challenge. They tend to be paranoid about becoming overconfident and in general, they don’t seek significant public recognition.
- The working environment on this team is comfortable for collaboration, encouraging of disparate opinions and singularly focused on turning ideas into actions. High-performance teams are self-policing. Values and accountabilities are clear and there is an explicit expectation that membership requires honoring the values. Membership on this team is a true privilege.
- The leader on a high-performance team recognizes that his or her role is teach, to knock down obstacles and to constantly focus on creating the environment that allows others to succeed at high-levels. This leader may be tough, but this leader tends to be quiet, letting actions talk. You generally won’t find this leader to be loud and boisterous, although they may be a great cheerleader as well as a stern disciplinarian behind team walls.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Effective leadership is a pre-requisite for the creation of a high-performance team. Perhaps if more leaders focused on their responsibility to empower others, I would see some more hands raised when I ask about whether your employees have been part of a high-performance team. It’s not too late to start working on this.