5 Tips to Create High-Performance Teams

No leader sets out to lead an ineffective team. In fact many leaders invest a lot of time and energy agonising over how to create the perfect high-performance team that works effectively and consistently delivers results.

However, there is a problem. Many of the strategies leaders have adopted to improve teamwork, while well-intentioned, are not all that effective. Thompson, a professor of management and organisations at Kellogg and an expert on teamwork suggests five strategies that can help create a high-performance team that has impact.

1. Get The Chemistry Right

Many leaders create teams that lack diversity and are too large. It's human nature to hire people just like us, but that just creates a team of clones. This doesn't help the team leverage the myriad of different skill sets that are out there. Plus when the team is too large it can become difficult to build trusting relationships with your peers.

Teams need to have great chemistry between the individuals. A team flourishes when each team member implicitly understand each other and everyone is clear on the role they play. Just think of a soccer team. The greatest players in the world don't have to look up before they pass the ball. They just know where their team members will be. This certainty that your team members have your back creates a safe and comfortable environment in which to function.

2. Create The Right Rules of Engagement For The Team

A challenge for leaders when building teams is how to manage the rules of engagement. The best rules of engagement identify the goal of the team, establish the rules of operation, and define where responsibilities lie.

However, many leaders struggle with the dilemma of how to define these rules. Do we have no team rules so that the team can be agile, flexible and have autonomy, or do we impose a set of rules and risk quashing creativity and innovation? One of the challenges with the former approach is that no-one steps up to the plate as everyone is waiting for someone else to take action. This can create paralysis and has exactly the opposite effect to that which was desired.

Thompson discovered that teams that developed rules of engagement ended up being more nimble, having more proactive behaviour, and achieving their goals more often than teams that didn't bother. Plus, the process of developing the rules of engagement improved team cohesion and effectiveness.

3. Create Trust And Be Vulnerable

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni states that lack of trust is the number one reason why teams fail. So how do you build trust? By being vulnerable and sharing heart-felt stories about yourself and your experiences. This enables team members to connection emotionally to each other and is a rapid way of building trust.

As Thompson noted:

“It’s somewhat unintuitive that putting out our worst moment in the last six months can actually help our team. Almost all of our intuitions are wrong.”

4. Stop Wasting Time In Meetings

Whilst meetings are a useful vehicle to rapidly share information with a number of people, many meetings are poorly structured and rarely achieve the outcomes they were designed to achieve. Why? Because most meetings are designed to generate ideas rather than evaluate and expand on ideas.

Roughly 25% of your team are great at generating ideas, so encourage brain storming prior to the meeting and get all the ideas on the table, then during the meetings simply focus on sifting through the ideas and enhancing and developing them.

Also, meetings tend to fill all the available time, so focus on having shorter meetings with agreed outcomes. Often four 30-minute meetings can be more effective than one two hour meeting.

5. Encourage Team Members To Challenge Each Other

Great teams challenge each other and this fuels their creativity and innovation. However, for this challenge to be productive each team member needs to feel that they have a voice and can be heard without any fear of the consequences. When this level of trust and culture exists then the team can become high performing.

I’m curious, what strategies are you implementing to create your high-performance, high-impact team?