What is a high performance team?
A lot has been written about this topic. I would like to keep it simple.
For me a high performance team is:
- A team that is truly cohesive, aligned and trusting
- Everyone has each other’s back and people feel they are “in this together”
- Team members address and discuss any topic, no matter how difficult – in an open, honest, authentic, courageous and effective way
- People give feedback, coaching and hold each other to account
- Everyone is comfortable taking a stand and being explicit about what they are committing to
- And lastly – there is no tolerance for gossip, blame and negative conversations
So, how do you develop a High Performance team?
Here is a simple and powerful four-step approach for starting the process:
Step One – Choose high performance:
First, you have to make sure your team members genuinely choose to become a high performance team. Becoming a powerful team is no small mission. It requires a huge commitment. You can’t assume that people want it enough that they will do whatever it takes. Also, if you are the leader or manager of a team, you can’t mandate it.
Once you have determined that your team members are genuinely on-board and committed to doing whatever it takes to go the whole way you can begin the forming work.
Step Two – Take stock of your starting point:
In order to reach the next level you have to first take an honest look at your starting point; at your current reality – especially the areas where you and your team members have the biggest high-performance gaps.
It’s not enough to just be honest about the gaps. You have to own them too.
Team members that keep blaming others or circumstances for their lack of team effectiveness will not be able to become a high performance team. Why? Because one of the key characteristics of a high performance team is its members’ ability to always take responsibility.
By owning, I do not mean that you team members have to beat themselves up or feel guilty, you have to be able to see your circumstances at least from the standpoint that you and your team members had something to do with your lack of high performance.
It would be much more powerful if your team members can look beyond and take full responsibility for their misbehaviors. For example: instances where people didn’t communicate or collaborate; they looked out for their own agendas; or they sold out and didn’t act with courage.
Step Three – Create a bold strategy for becoming a high performance team:
A team can only become championship team if its members are aiming for a championship, and they have to rise to the occasion in order to win it.
So, in order to become a high performance team, your team has to create a bold vision and strategy; one that would require you to interact and operate at a significantly higher level than you ever have.
Obviously, your vision has to be desirable. But, it also has to represent a stretch end-result that, even though your team members don’t yet fully know how to achieve it, you all believe it is achievable.
If you do a good job in this step, everyone should feel excited about the aspirational future they created.
Step Four – Align on ground rules for working as a high performance team:
Once the external game is set up you should spend some time on your team’s internal game. You and your team should align on simple and powerful ground rules for how you will work together as a high performance team.
You should think about things like:
- Addressing issues directly and quickly and not letting issues fester
- Speaking with one voice
- Recognizing each other’s efforts and achievements
Team principles and ground rules are a great way to cement commitment and begin to turn commitment into action. Keeping the ground rules simple, clear and plain language – not PPT language – will make them more powerful.
In this step you should also discuss anything else your team members may need in order to feel equipped to stay the course, no matter what, and deal with the inevitable ups and downs of your future journey.
I have helped teams reach high performance many times, and to be honest, taking this game on is demanding and challenging. However, it is also very energizing and rewarding. In fact, through this process, I have seen many teams generate amazing spirit that led to extraordinary results.