The belief that working in teams makes us more creative and innovative — that teams are a better way to get things done — is deeply entrenched. However, I can tell you from working with hundreds of leaders and teams, it is often not true, but it can be fixed!
From experience, there are three kinds of teams:
First, there are a small number of teams that are committed to the personal struggles of their leaders above sustainable high-performance. As a result, these kinds of teams can be dysfunctional nightmares. However, such teams tend to self-destruct so they are relatively rare.
Second, there are teams that are committed to social harmony above sustainable high-performance. Most teams are these kind of team. Naturally, in the beginning these teams experience a creative push to get established. However, once a minimum acceptable level of performance is reached social harmony becomes the goal.
And third, there are high-performing teams. On these teams the leaders are committed to sustainable high-performance above individual comfort or security.
A high-performing team is an ideal state in which team culture and business models are aligned to make higher sustainable performance inevitable. It is a state in which four key conditions are optimized: 1) compelling leadership mindset, 2) complete system-of-roles, 3) aligned strategies and 4) competitive advantage metrics.
When data is applied these four key conditions can be measured. And, the resulting analysis can be used to reveal what it will take to move a team to a higher level of performance. With repetition a team can develop into a high-performing team.
Why would you want to invest to create a high-performing team?
High-performing teams adapt and learn more quickly that other kinds of teams, while also producing practical results. On such teams, a higher performance level becomes inevitable. And frankly, they are exciting and rewarding to be around.
As such, they are the best solution to a wide rage of challenges including: focusing on a shared vision, addressing dysfunctional leaders and teams, integrating multiple organizations and making organizations scalable.
However, they do required an ongoing investment, mostly in the right kinds of performance assessments, training, meetings and coaching. High-performance teams rarely occur spontaneously or naturally.
What are some examples?
The top team at a medical devices company was producing good results. There was only one problem, some team members wouldn’t stop fighting with each other and it was driving the leader crazy. He didn’t like coming to work. So he decided to develop himself and his team to become high-performing. Steps included: working on his personal habit of avoiding conflict, aligning incentives with effective team behaviors, specifying very clear decision-making and conflict resolution protocols and defining metrics for competitive advantage.
The three founding partners in a real estate development company felt stuck. They wanted to grow their company. They knew that they needed to delegate key responsibilities to others. But they couldn’t seem to find people who they trusted enough to delegate to. So they decided to develop themselves as leaders and to become a high-performing team. Steps included: promoting one of the partners to be the CEO and giving him final call on incentives, roles and hiring, committing to a formal system-of-meetings and defining metrics for competitive advantage.
A large professional service organization made a series of acquisitions. As a result, they found themselves with at least four competing legacy factions. To achieve target returns, they needed to bring these many factions together as a single team. Steps included: defining a new high-performing team culture, aligning incentives, defining a clear system-of-roles in which the most effective leaders not doers were at the top and developing and aligning strategies.
Questions to consider:
- Is higher-sustainable performance more important than personal struggle or social harmony your team?
- What would it take to make high-sustainable performance inevitable for your team?
- What are the implications of your current team atmosphere?