Craig Goodliffe, CEO & Founder of Cyberbacker.
In the movies, even the most powerful heroes sometimes need to assemble a team. Nick Fury created The Avengers, Batman helped unite the Justice League and Gandalf created the Fellowship of Middle Earth. Each had a goal that they could not achieve on their own, so they brought together a group of talented and committed individuals to assist them. Once assembled, the teams performed in a way that was astounding and inspiring.
In real life, business leaders often do the same thing—they put together high-performing teams to accomplish important business goals that propel their organizations forward. By leveraging focus, motivation, expertise and synergy, these teams accomplish what the average work group cannot.
Ideally, businesses will have high-performing groups at work at all times, rather than just when special challenges or opportunities arise. I’ve found that accomplishing this, however, often requires a shift in the way teams are assembled, resourced and led.
Here are some tips and strategies that business leaders can use to develop and unleash high-performing teams in their organizations.
1. Make the mission clear.
Focus is a key factor differentiating a high-performing team from a normal workgroup or department. From the very beginning, the mission must be clear, for the more ambiguity there is, the more potential there will be for wasted time and wasted effort.
I find that a goal like “grow our company’s online presence” is insufficient. High-performing teams need detailed goals with a precise target, such as “double the number of e-commerce conversions within the next six months.” This allows them to focus their efforts and maximize their performance.
Leaders looking for guidance on establishing these types of goals for their teams should explore S.M.A.R.T. goals. The acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals that incorporate these components to increase a team’s focus and effectiveness.
2. Target team players.
I believe that recruiting for high-performing teams should go beyond identifying the most talented or qualified applicant. To achieve the synergy that is critical for high performance, team members must be committed to teamwork. The tension that big egos bring to a team might work in the movies, but it doesn’t tend to work on high-performing teams.
To achieve the collaboration that is a hallmark of high-performing teams, team members must be ready to learn from each other, embrace new ideas and compromise. Mindset is just as important as skill set when building high-performing teams, and team members who won’t treat others as equals can risk compromising the performance of the entire team.
The best team players will be flexible and adaptable, ready to pivot when needed as the project progresses. Great team players are also great communicators because they are able to listen actively and express themselves clearly. When poor communication leads to misunderstandings, a team’s effectiveness can suffer.
3. Embrace diversity of thought.
Complexity is a key characteristic of today’s business world. Therefore, to be successful, organizations should look to serve a global marketplace that expects high levels of accessibility, quality and efficiency. Meeting this market’s needs requires innovations that arise from a diversity of thought.
It is widely accepted in the business world that unique perspectives bring unique ideas. As leaders build high-performing teams, they must strive to include team members who bring a variety of backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints to the table. A team with a limited perspective will struggle to find creative solutions that meet the demands of today’s global consumer.
4. Provide ongoing leadership.
High-performing teams need high-performing leaders whose duty begins with the recruiting process and does not end once the team is established. Leaders must continue to provide ongoing assessment, feedback and encouragement until the goal is met.
One key role leaders play is managing team dynamics. To encourage collaboration, leaders can help create a safe and inclusive environment where all team members feel empowered to offer and challenge opinions. Creating that type of environment may mean stepping in to promote and support certain team members and highlight the value of diversity and inclusiveness.
While leaders may need to regularly tweak their teams to achieve high performance, I think they should resist the temptation to micromanage. Collaboration, innovation and efficiency all flow from trust, while I’ve found that micromanagement tends to undermine trust and introduce unnecessary stress.
Leaders also must constantly evaluate if their teams have what they need to be successful. As teams progress toward their goals, they may find they need additional support to be able to take the next step. This could include more resources, advanced training or the addition of new team members with new skills.
Building a high-performing team is not something that can be done overnight. In many cases, it will require leaders to embrace new paradigms and create new environments in which teams can achieve optimal performance. Once making the shift, however, I think you’ll find that you are better able to adapt to new challenges and accomplish goals with unprecedented speed and excellence.
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