‘Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships,’ said Michael Jordan. The same philosophy applies in business.
A high-performing team requires less management, solves problems, identifies opportunities, creates and innovates, takes appropriate risks, and is personally connected to an organisation’s success.
When we handed the daily operations of our business to our management team in 2017, right before we left to travel Australia for 12 months, we had to feel confident that they would take care of the business as if it was their own, knowing they could contact us for our expertise and support if needed.
Six attributes we focused on developing in our team:
Living the values of the business
A high performing team lives and breathes the values of your business. They demonstrate these values in the attitude they bring to their work, in how they communicate as a team, with other team members and with customers and suppliers.
- When recruiting, prioritise candidates’ values over skills and experience
- As the leader, it is your role to clearly define, articulate and consistently demonstrate the values of your business. This reinforces your specific values and provides a framework within which your team can make decisions, communicate, and problem-solve.
Committed to vision, purpose and goals
High performing teams stay focused on the goals for which they are responsible, knowing that their work aligns with and contributes to the overall vision and mission of the business. Knowing the vision, purpose and goals of the business, within a clearly articulated values framework, gives individuals the opportunity to exercise initiative, make decisions within their delegation, and problem-solve, without needing to raise every new issue with you. Understanding the roles individuals and teams play in achieving the overall vision and purpose of the business enhances motivation and engagement.
- Ensure the vision and mission of your business is clearly articulated and reinforced regularly.
- Explain and document how the roles and responsibilities of each team member contributes to the vision and mission of the business.
- Ensure all roles and responsibilities are acknowledged and rewarded for their contribution to business successes.
Personal accountability but team successes
Individuals within a high performing team take personal responsibility for their contribution and their individual responsibilities. They also take personal accountability for their own mistakes and for rectifying errors. Successes and accolades, however, are shared as a team, the combined efforts recognised and celebrated.
- Lead by example – always take personal responsibility, acknowledge errors, rectify mistakes, and acknowledge your teams’ contributions to your success.
- Don’t punish mistakes – use them as opportunities for learning and growth. None of us are perfect, we will all occasionally slip up. What we learn from a mistake is what matters, and that we don’t repeat it.
- Reward team performance, not just individual performance.
Authentic, respectful connection
Teams work best when their members connect on a personal level, authentically and respectfully. Genuine interest, care and regard for other team members enhances engagement and teamwork.
- Again, lead by example. Make time to engage with your team members. Learn about their family situations and what they enjoy outside of work, and connect authentically on things you have in common.
- Provide opportunities for your team to connect and engage with each other outside regular work, ideally both during and outside of business hours. These occasions don’t have to be major events, just something your team members will appreciate.
- Address any instances of inappropriate conduct swiftly and professionally.
Open and effective communication
Effective leaders know that group communication drives business efficiency. High performing teams communicate frequently, honestly and respectfully. Issues are addressed quickly, without blame, without offence or unnecessary emotion. Strong group communication will create shared understanding, and that shared understanding will create powerful working relationships within a team.
- Start with transparency from the top of the business down. Share as much information about the business and how it is performing as you can (without jeopardising information that must remain confidentiality). In our businesses, our team has access to all pertinent information, including financial performance. Consequently, high mutual trust has been developed, which translates to the team’s enhanced problem-solving, decision-making, ideas generation, and more.
- Encourage the flow of information up and down the line, as well as sideways, of both positive and disappointing information.
- Try different methods of communicating in your work environment and have communication systems in place for different functions, for example, some teams embrace instant chat, whereas some find it distracting, in which case you may need dedicated quiet time. We use a range of different systems of communication. What might work for a specific project or job may be quite different to communicating general organisational information.
Diversity of skills, talents, perspectives and experiences
Team members with diverse backgrounds will bring diverse solutions to the table, which leads to a more informed decision-making process and improved results; to more accurate group thinking. Greater diversity will also provide for a melting pot of ideas for creativity and innovation. Higher-level innovation, problem-solving and decision-making will give any business a competitive edge. Teams that value diversity and inclusion have also been shown to deliver higher levels of employee engagement.
- Prioritise diversity and inclusivity factors in your recruiting decisions
- Encourage contributions from all team members and ensure they are properly heard. Ensure each is afforded their appropriate value according to personal and lived experiences.
This is not a totally exhaustive list, but if you consistently achieve these aspects, you are well on your way in the development of a highly performing team.
This might sound daunting and a lot of work, but for leaders who themselves live according to their values, connect authentically with people, communicate honestly and effectively, value diversity and share their successes, it is not so much work, but just how you do things.
A great team starts with purposeful leadership.