In my previous post, I outlined five principles for turning your team into a team that everyone wants to work for. In the next two posts, I will break down 10 characteristics of High Performing Teams (HPT).
I delivered a workshop on HPT’s in New York to the top sales group of a company. On a white board were listed the 10 characteristics of high performing teams. Those characteristics are:
- Open & Clear Communication
- Defined Roles & Responsibilities
- Mutual Trust
- Effective Decision-Making
- Coordinative Relationships
- Clear Goals
- Participative Leadership
- Managing Conflict
- Value Diversity
- Positive Atmosphere
The members of this 40+ team were asked to go up and put a check mark next to the top three characteristics that they believed the team already did really well.
This time there were four characteristics that did not get a single check from more than 40 people.
The leader of the team stopped me and asked her team, “What would it take for those four areas to reach the same level as the top 3?”
The conversation that followed was phenomenal as the team articulated real suggestions and gave the type of feedback that normally teams only divulge in a strictly confidential interview-style 360-degree-review. All feedback was received really well and it served as a rallying cry that propelled the team closer.
Let’s break down the first five characteristics of high performing teams in this post and then we will cover the other five in the next week's post. .
These characteristics are not in order.
Open & Clear Communication
On high-performing teams, people say what they mean. They express their opinions, preferences, and disagreements. Those of us who are more feeler-types on Myers-Briggs may say it with more tact than thinker-types often do. But sometimes, because of our tact, we are not as clear right away as our thinker-counterparts are.
Being open and clear is a skill that can be developed. Those of us who are extroverted often need to verbally process first, then we can get clear. Those of us who are introverted usually think before we speak.
You know you are being open if there is no marketing to what you are saying. That is you are authentic and can be pinned to your position. There is sometimes a sense of risk that I feel when I am being open, but that risk quickly goes away as I sense others drawing closer to me.
The communication is only clear when everyone can repeat back what you said or better yet, paraphrase it in a way that gets to the heart of what you said. Make sure on the major points that you ask your team if they understand what you said.
Defined Roles & Responsibilities
If you asked your team to write a job description for how they actually spend their time, would it match the one you would write as to how they should be spending their time?
As the book Essentialism stresses, everyone needs to know the most core part of their role. They need to go all in there. What percentage of your direct report’s time is on what is most essential? Find ways to increase that time if it is not where it needs to be.
It is important that everyone knows each other’s role and what they are specifically responsible for. If this is not clear, there is going to be some grief and heartache especially from the Judgers (see Myers-Briggs type) as they see people crossing boundaries. Moreover, you probably won’t be producing superior results without this kind of clarity.
Trust comes from understanding how each person is wired, that includes knowing their core driver. It also comes from repeated experiences where you can experience the other’s integrity.
I have seen team members, especially those who are being on-boarded on to the team, move to trust quickly with an understanding of each team members’ Myers-Briggs type and the one-pager that I mentioned in the previous post. You want a tool that helps people really get one another quickly and you will see trust soar.
You will know that it is there because you will sense the team fighting for one another and you will sense that the environment is positive and comfortable even though team members push one another to get the best out of each other.
In the cases where someone has acted without integrity or where there are misgiving between team members. Good effective conflict resolution that always includes ownership and forgiveness will also improve trust.
According to Bain & Company, the qualities of effective decision making are:
- Quality - “How often do you choose the right course of action?”
- Speed - “How quickly do you make decisions compared with your competitors?”
- Yield - “How often do you execute decision as intended?”
- Effort - “Do you put the right amount of effort into making and executing decisions?”
If you track the decisions you and your team have made a year or two ago, how would you say you and your team are doing?
What can you do to improve in any of those four areas?
Becoming a team that makes consistently effective decisions will increase productivity.
As result of the four characteristics listed above is that teams know how to communicate and coordinate tasks and responsibilities in a way that they outperform. They know when they are coordinating tasks how to support one another throughout the process. There is a sense of intrinsic accountability that will come through. Sometimes it needs to be formalized but for the most part the team members’ tasks are not only in their wheelhouse but out of desire to accomplish their goal with excellence.
Chew On This: Out of the 5 characteristics listed above, which one would you most want to strengthen?
Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.