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Building a High Performing Team

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Fri. 15th July 2016.

Have you ever been in any of these situations, or are you in one of them now?

  • One of your key team leaders has moved on.
  • A significant number of your team members have left.
  • You unexpectedly have to create and build a team, with only a short time to do so.
  • You’re changing roles and have to form a relationship and build credibility with an already established team and help its members develop.
  • You’re asked to join a team that you weren’t expecting to be part of.
  • You have to form a new team to deliver a project or contract that you never expected to win.
  • You’ve got to refocus and redevelop your team so you can challenge your competitors more effectively.
  • Your business is in a political or economic environment that in is uncertain or changing and you need to respond.

Does any of this sound familiar? 

What you need to do is to build and develop a high performing team. Using a structured framework to do this can help you to consider all the key elements needed. This will give you the best opportunity for your team to be high performing and for you to be an effective leader and member of that team.

The foundation for the team should be a clear, well understood and shared purpose or delivery challenge. Why does the team exist? What does the team have to deliver? What problems are the team expected to solve?

The structure of the team, the roles within that structure, and the accountabilities of those roles, should be defined. These must be focused on the delivery of the team’s purpose or challenge. The technical skills (the ‘hard’ skills) and the behavioural competencies (the ‘soft’ skills) required by each role and those required across all team members should also be identified.

Team and individual goals need to be set which will allow progress towards the purpose of the team and successful delivery of the challenge. Identify some relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which will allow you to monitor, measure and communicate the team’s progress across the team members. These KPIs can also be used to communicate the team’s progress and results externally to stakeholders.

Team members must understand each other’s preferred style and ways of working. There’s no right or wrong, better or worse preference. People are different and the team should value and exploit those differences, and play to the strengths that different styles and preferences bring.

The team needs to define its processes and ways of working. These should cover areas such as how and what the team members will communicate internally and externally, the meetings the team will have and how they will run, how the team will make decisions, how they will resolve any conflicts, and how they will celebrate successes.

It’s also key that the team considers how it will capture and share knowledge, learning and experience across team members. Where relevant, this knowledge and experience should be shared across the organisation to improve performance more widely.

Team members must be willing to give open and honest feedback to each other. They should have a coaching mindset, with a focus on developing all team members and their skills further. Skill and competency gaps in the team and its members should be recognised and decisions taken on what to do to address the gaps.

Critically, all member of a high performing team must demonstrate leadership and a genuine commitment to the team. They must fully buy-in to, and engage with, the team’s purpose and its delivery challenge and they must put the team’s needs above their own personal agenda.

A Team Charter is a great way of capturing all the above aspects into a single document. This document can then be shared across the team, with all members committing to work to the Charter. It also forms a great way of introducing new members into the team, inducting them and engaging them with how the team operates.

These principles apply to any type of team – for example, a senior management team, a project team or a team that works together on an on-going day-to-day basis. They are also relevant to teams in any type of business or organisation, in any sector, whether that’s manufacturing, engineering, professional service providers, retail, creatives, education providers, charities, and so on.

So get in touch if you need, and want, to work on these areas. I can help to start up and build a new team, develop an existing team whose performance isn’t where it needs to be, and to produce a Team Charter to capture how a team will operate and move to becoming a high performing team.