Attributes of a High Performing Team
- Perhaps the single most important way to get more out of a team is to constantly demand a bias for action. A bias for action begins with the leadership. Teams who habitually fail to take action or procrastinate kill productivity.
- When a team embraces the core value of a bias for action, sometimes mistakes will be made. Managers must allow mistakes to occur. Teams that are not allowed to make mistakes do not push the envelope and do not reach their highest potential. Good managers ensure teams learn from their mistakes.
- Size matters. Smaller teams are often more productive than larger teams, especially on fire fighting tasks. Large teams frequently take on the “group grope” mentality. It is the manager’s job to limit or control “group grope”. Keep the size of your team lean.
- Keep the team focused. Clearly state the objective and the prize for reaching the objective. Straying = lost focus. Good managers recognize when the team is straying and will bring the team back in focus.
- Always focus on the customer. Managers should ask each team member to identify their customers and to build and execute customer call plans. Team members should spend at least 25% of their time with their customers. Listening (not selling) is the most critical skill when dealing with customers.
- Build and demand loyalty with team members. Good managers take care of their teams and fight for their teams. When a disloyal action occurs, the manager must call the team member on their action and work with the team member to avoid or eliminate future occurrences.
- Acknowledge problems. Problems seldom get solved if the team avoids discussing them. Hiding from problems can be the Achilles Heal of a team. Festering problems almost always have a devastating affect on morale. Good managers ensure each team member is a problem solver and critical thinker.
- Implement risk management systems. Ask team members to identify risks (an event that might happen that could impact cost or schedule), establish the likelihood of the event occurring, define the impact to the business, and develop risk mitigation action plans.
- Insert new blood. New ways of thinking are healthy for the team. Managers should work with team members on career development and transition plans. Good managers are not roadblocks to team members who desire to grow within the organization. Allowing team members to transfer to other teams provides a mechanism for bringing in new blood and develops alliances with other teams.
- Diversify the team. Homogenous teams stifle creativity and limit different ways of thinking.
- Encourage devil’s advocacy thinking. Different points of view challenge teams to think outside the box and may prevent teams from overlooking critical items.
- Ask team members what they think. This promotes buy-in with team members.
- Hold team members accountable. Again, this is a buy-in concept. Good managers work with team members to clearly identify tasks, ownership, and due dates. Managers should let team members plan and execute their assigned tasks (basically stay out of their way) and if they get into trouble, then bring in resources to assist.
- Ask team members to stretch. The saying, “a man’s goals should exceed his grasps” should be a core value for every team. Good managers implement reward systems for team members who achieve their stretch goals.
- Managers must keep the team busy and challenged. Idle time lowers morale and the good performers leave in search of more challenging ventures.
- Good communication is essential. Managers should let the team know when expectations are met and when expectations are not met. If a manager waits until the annual performance review to communicate that expectations were not met, then the manager has set up the team for failure.
- Managers should encourage mentoring and coaching and ensure that team members develop mentoring relationships with executives preferably outside their “chain of command”.
- Put proper incentives in place with each team member. Incentives motivate people to succeed. Good managers never say to a team member, “You should be lucky to have a job. Your salary is your incentive.” A statement like this will likely lower productivity. Incentives do not always need to be money-based. Incentives can come in the form of time, money, publicity, gifts, promotions, trips, etc.
- Allow the team to have fun. The majority of Americans hate their jobs. This is a giant indictment on management and leadership. Good managers create atmospheres that allow team members to have fun and enjoy their jobs.
The Sacramento Executive