Business Performance

Seven Keys to building a High Performing Team

1. Trusting environment leads to discretionary effort.   It’s more of a feeling than anything.  In battlefields, trust is the ethos of a winning army. You have my back, and I have yours.  With human beings, the helping relationship is key to building trust, as Dr. Egar Schien points out, and reciprocation is a most powerful influencing skill from Robert Cialdini, Ph.D.

In organizations, we can and should choose to think the best of each-other.  Communication solely with Email is not the best way for building trust.  Respecting the whole person is at the center of creating a trusting environment.  When in doubt, tell the truth!  You know your team is on the right track when; as Grandmother would say; you become “thick as thieves!”

2. Ground Rules lead to productivity — Holding one another accountable is key to creating the right environment for high performance.  Don’t be afraid to call out behaviors that are counterproductive, as this leads to convergence.

Identify exceptions to team rules.  For example, if one team member has a sick child, she may ask the team for permission to leave her cell-phone on during a meeting, and that is okay so long as the team agrees.

3. Risk Taking leads to innovation — A team that is willing to give a new idea space will open the door for surprise.  Sometimes managers stand in the way, so it is important to work with them to help release control so that the team can take the responsibility for their decisions.

Small scale experiments are low risk and the learning that comes from taking a risk is more valuable than the alternative.  Ask: “What’s the worst that could happen”.  Then be prepared to challenge people’s assumptions!  You mean that you could really lose your job over this?  Are you sure?

4. Passionate debate leads to sharp edges.  The best decisions were debated thoroughly.  All points of view are important. There is a time for withholding judgment.  At the wrong moment a “self appointed devil’s advocate” can destroy risk taking entirely, but then there is a time for working out individual differences.  Getting a consensus means taking time to allow people to advocate for their perspective, and then allowing that person to express their point of view.  There is value in differences!

5. Team Accountability leads to delivering on promises and execution.  Ask for volunteers and then seek public commitments.  Document promises and keep them visible, they become the key to execution.  Reward early adopters with ample praise.  Celebrate the small wins.  Bias always towards action!

6. Getting measureable results — leads to senior level buy-in.  Team leaders need to be able to articulate their value proposition and tie team’s performance to a measurable impact that is congruent with the organization’s mission. Surfacing key performance indicators (leading, and lagging) is a great starting point.   Ultimately, execution of rational plans is key to delivering results.  Show me the money!

7. Humble Servant Leadership — Your team leader makes or breaks the team!  A humble leader may not know the answers, but knows which question to ask.  A servant leader understands the connection between their personal goals and the potential force multiplier that a team could deliver.  No one leader could accomplish anything without people behind them.

Before answering any question in the presence of a team, ask yourself if you really know the answer?   Socratic leadership opens opportunities for growth, and organizational learning is a very high priority because it leads to a competitive advantage.  You can create a high performing team just by asking the right questions.

I would love to hear your helpful hints on my draft outline above. Thank you, Bob Petruska

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