By Erica Ishida | President and Chief Operating Officer
May 3, 2021
The value of high-performing teams has long been known. They work efficiently, solving complex problems, increasing productivity and morale, and delivering innovative and creative results. However, building teams that function at this level is not always easy. Today, I’d like to share what I have learned about building, supporting, and guiding high-performance teams.
Be intentional in selecting your people.
The best teams are comprised of people with complementary skills and shared values. They understand how to collaborate, are goal-oriented, and focused. In most cases, assembling a team of people with different areas of expertise and perspectives will deliver the best and most innovative results.
“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” – Charles Darwin
Establish team norms.
Building a high-performing team requires more than a group of excellent people. Defining how those team members work together from the start fosters effective communication and helps shape the culture of the team into a positive one.
“None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Ken Blanchard
Create a culture of trust and respect.
Part of setting team norms is setting the expectation that there is mutual trust and respect amongst the team. Team members should be encouraged to bring their full selves to the job, and feel safe to speak up and take risks. Feeling comfortable enough to do this requires a shared leadership perspective, team members that practice continuous learning, and an understanding that diversity of thought and experience makes the team stronger.
“If you can laugh together, you can work together.” – Robert Orben
Have clear goals.
Clear, common goals align your team under a shared vision and result in members that are more engaged and productive. These team goals cascade into individual goals, allowing for all members to be united in their priorities.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford
Communicate regularly and intentionally.
When communication breaks down, performance suffers. Establishing regular meetings for the entire group, as well as channels for more frequent communication brings transparency and encourages collaboration. Meetings also serve as an opportunity to balance workload, track progress, and discuss what is and isn’t working.
Teams can be intentional in their communication by planning ahead. The person who called the meeting should create an agenda and send out to the group at least a day in advance. Having a structure for the conversation, allows people to come prepared, and stay on track towards the intended outcome of the meeting.
“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
Focus on value creation.
The best teams understand what value they are seeking to create, and they have a relentless focus on creating and delivering value. Teams who consistently ask themselves “Is this the best and highest use of my time right now?” will build a habit of clarifying priorities and using their time and energy to move the goals of the team forward.
High performing teams make their work visible. As they complete work, they share it, get feedback and move on to the next thing. This allows for ongoing collaboration and getting multiples perspectives on the work that is being done.
The best teams trust each other, and value each other’s perspective and experience. They understand that working together is always better than working alone. Instead of tackling work alone, people on high performing teams “pair”. They work with another person or a group of people as they move through the work together. This is ultimately faster and creates more value.
In today’s intensely competitive business world, high-performing teams are essential in helping organizations thrive. Building a high-performing team is not a matter of chance, and can seem daunting, but you will find that the payoffs far outweigh the efforts.