By Craig Gowan
“Let’s work as a team!” It’s the catchcry of a generation of leaders who have abandoned the autocratic leadership styles of the past. Project teams, expert teams, cross-functional teams, self-managed teams and virtual teams – all are attempts to harness the power of collective effort. Teams that perform well together provide organisations with tremendous power, so how do you build a high-performance team?
Great teams rise and fall on the back of their leadership, and in my experience teams need leaders with the following skills:
- Role modelling: As a leader, you must walk the talk and consistently display the values and behaviours expected of the team.
- Clear goals: In every conversation, during every meeting, a leader should constantly provide input to the team on what is needed from them; how the team is tracking in achieving its goals; and what will come next.
- Balance: You must allow time for team members to perform their work, gain new knowledge and skills, and enjoy themselves. You also need to balance your own focus between individuals, the team’s performance and results.
- Know what’s needed: Sometimes a team needs direction; sometimes team members need space. Judging what’s appropriate, and when, is key to a team’s success.
- Know where your team is at: Psychologist Bruce Tuckman’s model of team development identifies four stages: forming (agreeing on team goals), storming (developing team relationships), norming (establishing group identity and cohesion) and performing (working together successfully with little supervision). Teams go through stages, sometimes regressing before performing. This is natural, let it happen, but adjust your leadership approach accordingly. As a leader, you must help your team move through these stages before they can become high performing.
High-performing teams are built on people who want to be there. Call it morale, motivation or engagement; successful teams draw people in and keep people going. People give more of themselves, because they want to be part of the team.
Great teams accept that every person is different; that each has their particular skills, insights and styles. Yet, as in a sporting team, it’s how members combine their individual skills that is the key to success.
Members of a high-performing team share similar approaches to:
- Problem solving
- Dealing with conflict
- What is acceptable behaviour
- The freedom to take risks, innovate, and yes – to fail.
When all these aspects align, a high-performance team follows. It echoes the TEAM acronym – together, everyone achieves more.