Have you ever been a member of a really outstanding team?
Take a moment. Search your memory. Recall a time when the feeling of flow, drive and camaraderie permeated a team you were a part of. It felt a bit like magic, didn’t it?
But, this experience can be quite rare. And the stakes will be high as we move into the unchartered waters of hybrid teams.
According to Team Coaching International, only one in ten teams rate themselves as high-performing. They are held back by a myriad of addressable team limitations – unproductive conflict, being too nice, finger-pointing, lack of accountability, poor meeting habits and ineffective decision making.
If these behaviours sound familiar, the good news is there’s a cure.
Put simply, becoming a high-performing team takes practice. Think of your favourite sports team. They combine the discipline of practice so that they perform better on game night. The same holds true for work teams.
Practice = progress = better results.
Here are 7 practices of high-performing teams that boost performance.
- High-performing teams have formal Team Agreements. Sometimes called team norms or social contracts, a team agreement optimizes how a team works together. Team agreements make expected behaviours clear for all members. They provide an opportunity to discuss what will work best and allow the team to come to an agreement before they have to get down to business. These agreements are regularly reviewed and adjusted as the team membership and environment change over time. A well-known team agreement is Amazon’s “Disagree and commit.”, which states that individuals are allowed to disagree while a decision is being made, but that once a decision has been made, everybody must commit to it. Other common agreements include “We will provide timely, constructive feedback, even if it feels uncomfortable” and “We will not make a decision that impacts another team member without them present”. An effective team agreement also provides a safe way to call out when an agreement is violated and places accountability on all team members to govern team culture.
- High-performing teams are also keenly aware of their unique Team Purpose. It is different from the organization’s purpose. It is also different from any other team. This team knows what it needs to do given its position, what impact it wants to make and to whom. When I facilitate this exercise with leadership teams it often forces members to grapple with competing stakeholders and competing “jobs”.
- High-performing teams are aware of and manage Team Toxins. While conflict on teams is inevitable, conflict itself isn’t necessarily bad. Productive conflict helps teams harvest diverse methods of thinking and solutions to difficult problems. Conflict becomes bad when it becomes toxic. Understanding the 4 Team Toxins is a preemptive way to deal with team conflict. Are team members capable of naming toxins as they come up? How will each individual deal with them when they come up? What can you count on from each other to deal with them? Developing a conflict protocol can help teams notice and manage conflict before it becomes toxic.
- High-performing teams know their team strengths. Have you ever noticed how you are more likely to notice what you aren’t good at than what you excel in? The same happens in a team. A team is a system that has strengths as well as areas for improvement. When a team knows its strengths, it finds ways to use its strengths in service of team development. It also sheds light on how unmanaged team strengths create undesirable results. For example, a team that values diversity may struggle without an effective decision-making process.
- High-performing teams decide how to decide. This might sound silly but think about your last few team decisions. How clear were all members about what the team was actually making a decision on and why the decision mattered? Did you even need a meeting? Did you understand who was making the decision, what your role was and who should be involved? Was the team explicit about how the decision will be made and by when? Optimizing team decision-making can go a long way in removing barriers to team productivity.
- High-performing teams understand that when it comes to resources, there will never be enough. They learn how to manage their available team resources effectively and protect their time together like the finite resource it is. They are clear on what is their work and what is the work of others and they find creative ways to deploy limited resources in service of their objectives.
- High-performing teams enlist the help of others, like a team coach. Engaging in team coaching can result in an average improvement of 20% across 14 team performance indicators. Team coaches work with the team to identify team strengths and areas of opportunity and provide a system of learning and accountability to help the team improve its performance over time.
Bottomline. All teams have the ability to dramatically improve their performance.
Just imagine, what becomes possible when your team improves by 20%.
All the best,