How to Build (and Keep) a High-Performance Team

"There's no ‘I’ in 'team.' There is a me, though, if you jumble it up."

Dr. Greg House, from TV’s House

 

Managers often think they must “do it all themselves,” as reflected in the following statements:  

“No one can do this as well as I can.”

“It’s easier just to do it myself than to explain how to someone else.”

“I don’t have time to train anybody.” 

When you think that way, however, you’re overlooking a critical component for long-term leadership success. And that is, building the right team.

What’s in a Team?

A team is a group of people with complementary skills who are mutually committed to working together toward a common goal with shared rewards.

Highly Effective Teams...

See “the big picture.” This promotes collaboration, increases commitment and improves quality. Each team member knows the greater goals of the organization and understands the context of their own (and each others’) roles and responsibilities toward those goals.

Have common goals. Effective teams know what the goals are AND know how to determine if they’ve reached them (or not).

Collaborate. Effective teams are all about interdependency. Collaboration reduces the need for playing “the blame game” while encouraging opportunities for learning and improvement. 

Smells Like Team Spirit

Whether you’re building a team from scratch or working with an existing team, here are some key strategies to help make the most of your team.

Effective Team Leaders Must...

  • Give clear tasks and set SMART goals.

  • Ensure that the team has the necessary support, resources, structure, and training to do their jobs.

  • Put a deadline on everything – whether it “needs” it or not. Remember, the task on hand will expand to fill the time allotted.

  • Over-communicate. Better to have the information and not need it than to need it and not have it (including timely, constructive and consistent feedback).

  • Promote problem-solving within the team. How? By seeing mistakes as opportunities (and encouraging the team to do the same). Instead of hiding mistakes, people become proactive.

  • Focus on structure. Poor performance is usually due to poor team structure, not individual performance. Poor structure leads to negative, ineffective behaviors in individuals and impedes communication. If team members feel that they are misunderstood or competing against each other, they’re more likely to hold back information or resources. 

What’s my motivation?

People are motivated by many things: getting paid, loving what they do, seeing a project come together, taking on new (bigger) challenges, the creative process, ego gratification or simply not being bored.

How to keep your team invested in your success:

•     Offer challenging work and opportunities for learning. This gives people a chance to grow into new roles and encourages responsibility.

•     Offer freedom and independence in the decision-making process to encourage self-empowerment. Powerful individuals make powerful teams.

•     Recognize the contribution of your team. This is critical to the success of any company, and most leaders fail at doing so adequately - a HUGE mistake. Noticing (and publicly acknowledging) the effort of each team member is an underutilized (and free) way to ensure team success. Remember, no one does it alone.

•     If subcontractors make up your team, offer a retainer for a certain number of hours each month so that they are likely to be more committed to you.

•     Pay them well.

•     Create win-win situations by making referrals to contracting superstars and watch their businesses grow (and make referrals back to you!)

 

Finding the right team is not about finding the perfect team, and it doesn’t guarantee success. Team members need consistent and ongoing support. Ideally, team members will be both independent and interdependent. Remember, nurturing a team (even a little) achieves better performance and better results.

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