HIGH PERFORMING TEAMS
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
– Phil Jackson
I’ve been fortunate to be part of 50+ teams. While a few were painful experiences, the vast majority were amazingly rewarding, where we formed and fostered friendships, had focused and boundless energy, and scaled mountains.
What are the conditions for a high-performing team?
There is something magical about high-performing teams, but there isn’t anything magical about creating the conditions for them. Let’s go over the best practices for creating high-performing teams.
While high-performing teams typically overcome their fair share of adversity and challenges, they often share the following four attributes of a meaningful mission, the right people, the necessary resources, and an empowering environment. Most postmortems on failed projects will uncover the team was missing one or more of these necessary conditions of high-performing teams.
1. A meaningful mission
High-performing teams need to work on missions essential to the organization. Also, the mission needs to be clear and have SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals.
2. The right people
High-performing teams are assembled with the right people, skills, knowledge, talent, and chemistry to achieve the mission. It’s also essential to dedicate enough of their time to the team.
3. The necessary resources
To be successful, high-performing teams require the necessary resources. Whether it is time, training, equipment, budget, or access to information, they get what they need to get the job done.
4. An empowering environment
For a team to perform at a high level, they need an environment that empowers them, including leadership support and a supportive culture.
Why are high-performing teams important?
Much of what an organization tries to accomplish involves teams. I’ve witnessed CEOs who spend no more than 30 seconds throwing together a ragtag team to solve high-priority problems. The projects almost always end up a complete waste of time. If you want high-performing teams, then you have to do some heavy lifting before launching a team.
How do you create and ensure high-performing teams?
It is a bit of art and science in putting together high-performing teams. Here are some of the best practices.
Think before committing resources
The “let’s get a team on that immediately” mentality drives people crazy. Before committing a team to a problem or opportunity, ask the important questions.
o What will their mission be? Is it a priority of the organization?
o Is this mission-critical now, or can we focus resources on it later?
o Do we have the people and resources to tackle it now?
Develop a meaningful mission
Before launching a team, do some fundamental problem solving. Build a problem statement and hypothesis tree to create more context about the problem. And, once you’re ready, have the team build a team charter, outlining the mission, necessary resources, a RACI chart, agreed-upon team norms and values, governance (meetings, decision-making signoff), timeline, and milestones.
Have the right number of team members
A lot of research has been conducted on the ideal size of a team, and the magic number is between 5-9 team members.
Assemble the right team
Teams need the appropriate level of skill, will, and chemistry to get the job done. Any time you have to assemble a team, spend some time identifying and recruiting the right people that are enthusiastic about the team’s mission, bring a portfolio of complementary skills, and are the right combination of personalities.
Co-Locate the team
One of the most important drivers of team productivity is co-location, or creating a work environment where everyone on the team is either next to each other or very close. Co-location can keep a team lean, eliminating a lot of unnecessary waste such as waiting and motion.
Support the team with the appropriate resources
We’ve all been on a team that didn’t have the appropriate resources to efficiently and effectively accomplish the objective. Make sure the team has the resources they need by building a team charter and having the leadership sign off.
Create an empowering environment
High-performing teams typically need to run fast, and can’t be slowed down by bureaucracy and roadblocks. It is the responsibility of the team and leadership to ensure the team has an empowering environment. Let the team make most of the decisions, and make sure they get the support they need from other parts of the organization and ample mentorship from leadership.
DOWNLOAD THE PROJECT TEAM CHARTER WORKSHEET
To get you going on assembling and launching a high-performing team, download the free and editable Project Team Charter PowerPoint Worksheet.
I hope you've gotten some new ideas and perspectives from Stratechi.com. If you want some one-on-one support from me, Joe Newsum, set up some time here. I'm a McKinsey alum who has also been the COO of the 9th fastest growing U.S. company, managed $120 million marketing budgets, led the transformation of 20,000 employees, successfully started two companies from scratch, and amassed a load of experience over my 25-year career. I really enjoy coaching clients and they get a ton of value too. You can see some of their testimonials here. I have deep experience with this topic, strategic planning, career development, scaling up, workshops, leadership, presentation development & delivery, ramping up new roles, and much more. Read my take on developing a strategy. Click here to learn more about me or book some time.