High Performance Teams: Foundations


High performance teams…….great buzz words, a great aspiration, we’d all love to be a member of one and to lead one, but how do you actually achieve it? How do you take the concept and turn it into reality? I am lucky enough to be a part of one and to lead several. I also work day to day supporting and coaching High Performance CEO’s to develop, lead and enable their Senior Leadership Teams. There is a link to high performance sports teams and to tight military combat teams and there is no shortage of information on the subject. What are the foundations of a High Performance Business Leadership Teams? Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” is a great read and outlines some great concepts. But how do you really do it? Here are the 12 foundation stones of developing a High Performance Business Team;

1.  Lead yourself well. It all starts with a team leader being prepared to be vulnerable. To be self aware, open to change, being comfortable with their own strengths and weaknesses and to have the desire to change and get incrementally better as a leader. They admit mistakes and learn constantly from them. They model behavior for their team.

2. High Trust is key. High performance teams trust each other. In fact I believe they actually like each other and hang out together. They know how the team works, their part in it and constantly get to play to their strengths. Constantly communicate.

3. Set the Culture. High performance teams train and practice together. The leaders create the space for high quality conversations to occur, for high quality thinking to occur which in turn leads to high quality decisions be consistently made. The highest priority is placed on Strategic planning, team time, training and measuring success. During busy times more time is spent in planning and supporting the team.

4. Take the wins. Celebrate success as it occurs. Big and small it is important to recognize the wins, to see the first signs a strategy or initiative is starting to deliver results. Have fun, reward your team, say thank you and make your team members the hero.

5. Embrace failure. If things are not working, constantly iterate the plan and involving the team in capturing the lessons learnt. At Stanford Design school we had it drummed into us to “Go early, fail fast and iterate”.

6. Coach and Mentor. High Performance Teams have the best coaches and a network of mentors that keep them at the top of their game. A High Performance Leader guides, develops, mentors and grows their people or recruits their replacements. Investing heavily in developing the team and the individuals in it is a big job. The best leaders are the best coaches. those in the team are unable to grow or are not willing to engage they need to be removed before they hold the team back. It may be they are not in the right seat on the bus or even that they are on the wrong bus. Addressing poor performance fast is more about protecting your “A players” than anything else. No one at the top of their game wants to be in a team that includes non performers. Remember that everyone in a team knows who is and who is not performing and they are watching the leader to see what they will do about it.

7. Measure and Manage. Measure the right things to keep it on track. Building high levels of engagement and buy in is key to being able to hold people accountable. Check in every week on reality vs targets. Support your team to get and keep things on track. Set stretch goals that inspire and challenge your people.

8. Have a Bias for Action. Be more focussed on getting started and making things happen than talking about it. High Performance Teams make things happen. They love action, challenges and what they do.

9. Authenticity Rules. Be open, transparent and honest. Articulating the Vision, Purpose and Values and bringing them to life is the basis for the teams existence. Good authentic Values align and guide behaviors and allow for scaleable and consistent decision making. Walk the walk and do the hard yards.

10. Be Consistent. High performance Teams are consistent in all they do. Do the basics right and build on them. Tell stories and manage by walking around. Build on consistency by basing decisions on the reality of your people.

11. Hire slow. Have a team that is hard to get into and easy to get out of. Recruit for fit, train for skill and induct those joining the team.

12. Lead from the Front. The best leaders are the best managers. Lead, accept responsibility and genuinely care about those in your team. Perception is reality, which means if you are feeling it your team will be too. Constantly look over the fence at what others are doing because often the best solutions and ideas come from other industries and when applied to your own become a game changer.

There are many things that make a team perform at a high level. Many are very easy to do but require the right attitude, approach and the passion to not only start the journey but to continue on through tough times and periods of change and uncertainty. Leadership is the ultimate challenge and leading a team of people who are smarter, better and more capable is very rewarding.

How do you develop your team?

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