12 Key Ingredients to High Performing Teams in the Workplace (From The Managers Resource Handbook)
It’s well understood that good teams get the best results. Sports provide a great analogy for this: we are all familiar with those underdog teams that pull together when it matters most and make a championship run. Everyone on the team does his or her part and they motivate each other every step of the way. And by contrast, we all know that dysfunctional teams that spend more time trying to operate than they do trying to produce. But what is it about those successful teams that make them do so well? What are the traits of high performing teams? We at MRH wanted to help answer this question, so with that, here are 12 characteristics of great teams:
1. Solid and Dependable Leadership
Guess what? Effective teamwork starts at the top! Strong leadership at the helm of every team serves as a steady and guiding force behind the team’s overall performance. Under strong leadership, team members feel supported as well as given the focus and resources to do the job well. Moreover, the leaders of these teams know how to bring individuals together and operate as a single unit that delivers results. Good teams need good leaders.
2. Internal Chemistry Between the Members
Every high performing team has chemistry. Again, sports offer us an example of this: we often hear coaches talk about the chemistry as key element behind the team’s success. By contrast, we also hear critics comment about lack of chemistry on losing teams: “their problems start in the clubhouse.” Chemistry within a team often implies that its members are like-minded. The members focus on the betterment and success of the team first, and individual advantage second.
3. Diversity Throughout
These days, the term ‘diversity’ is discussed at length in HR circles and businesses, but the value of its meaning is often misconstrued or missed all together. Real diversity is about having a team with depth and strength rooted in the prior experiences as well as the backgrounds of its members. Amid a multitude of challenge and outside forces, a blend of past experience and knowledge helps best prepare your team for any challenge that may emerge. Conversely, if you had an entire team of people all of whom possessed similar backgrounds and skills, while they may excel at one task they may not be equipped to handle the multitude of other challenges they will face.
4. Individual Talent, Maximized
In a similar fashion to the importance of diversity, the success of a team relies heavily on the individual talents and skills of its team members. As the manager, your challenge is to find ways to identify and tap into your staff members’ talents, as well as to maximize the individuals’ ability to use them. Bear in mind that talent does not necessarily mean the employee went to the best school, or has the best software programming skills (for instance). Instead, talent is about having a mix of both hard and soft skills that make the individual uniquely qualified to do the job at hand. Lack of talent or the inability to make use of it will bring down the success of the overall team.
5. Open, Timely and Effective Communication
Both within the group and to those outside, members of high performing teams are solid communicators. Efficient emails are sent when emails are appropriate; phone calls are made when a quick answer is needed, and meetings have agendas and start and end as scheduled. Communication, while extremely important, can also be a major vacuum of precious time. Strong teams have mastered the skill and know how to get key information out to those who need it in the most effective and efficient manner.
6. Trust Within
It should not be a surprise that a key ingredient among highly effective teams is trust – among its members and with its leader. If coworkers do not trust one another, silos form, communication breaks down, and speed is reduced. When employees do not trust their leader, results will always be compromised. Trust within a team brings its members together, which in turn, helps teams overcome challenges and adversity.
5 Examples of Trust Within A Team:
- Trusting the accuracy, quality and thoroughness of others’ work
- Trusting the intentions of our colleagues
- Trusting the decisions made by leaders
- Trusting that others will meet their commitments
- Knowing that others are counting on you for all of the above
7. Purpose: Clear Metrics and Goals… That Make Sense
Everyone talks about goals and goal setting these days. Few, however, talk about their substance. Specifically, goals need to be clear to everyone on a team and relatable to their job responsibilities. Further, effective teams set goals and metrics that help them improve performance, not just track failures and misses. If your team is tasked with goals that do not make sense, or do not drive them to do what their job responsibilities require, you are diluting your team’s focus. Great teams establish a clear purpose behind which the individuals can align.
8. Empowerment to Make Decisions
Nothing kills the strength and potential of a good team like the lack of empowerment. Effective teams operate best when individuals are allowed sufficient ability to make decisions and move forward. When excessive red tape or multiple layers of approvals are required for ordinary activities, speed is reduced and frustration within the organization are increased. Is the Vice President of a large company really the best person to decide how to manage the risk of a given project, or should it be the project manager ultimately responsible for its execution? Managers who empower their staff and let their talented individuals do the job they’re paid to do will always yield results.
“Great teams establish a clear purpose behind which the individuals can align.”
9. Accountability, Both Collective and Individual
Every manager and business talks about accountability. Do what you say, say what you do, meet your commitments, and take responsibility for mistakes. But these principles don’t just apply to individuals – they apply to teams as well. Like individuals, teams are chartered to deliver results and perform. Great teams recognize they are collectively accountable for meeting commitments and the individuals work to ensure the team succeeds in doing so.
10. Layers of Experience and Authority
Like in any military unit where there are lower level soldiers, junior officers, senior officers and generals, effective teams in the workplace also have a series of layers in them. Why are layers important? Three reasons: first, layers distribute routine decision-making to avoid a bottleneck at the top. Second, when individuals are absent, layers of experience allow other senior team members to act in the place of others. Third, layers offer growth paths and succession planning to the entire team.
11. Action-Oriented Individuals
The purpose of a team is to meet a given goal or objective. With all the bumps and turns it will encounter along the way, a team’s success will eventually depend on the individual actions of its members over time. To this end, the most successful teams in the workplace tend to have proactive employees who are not afraid to make good decisions in order to keep things moving forward. They do not sit and wait, but instead, find ways to keep making progress and overcome challenges.
Change is inevitable, as we all know. Customers, businesses, economies and people change. Highly effective teams are going to be able to weather these changes as a single unit and adjust plans in order to best face their ever-evolving environment. Good teams can adapt – with ease – and know to expect change before it arrives. Teams that are stuck in old ways, or try to apply old solutions to new problems will typically struggle.
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