Every workplace is hoping for the ideal team with exceptional outputs and very little error or disruption. This kind of high performance team will look different from industry to industry but will likely share a lot of the same traits and characteristics. The skills and outcomes for a team of bar staff will be wildly different from that of an IT consultant team, or a team of construction workers but the aim for consistency and quality of their work is very much the same. Whether you’re in the business of water chillers or luxury goods, the standards and capabilities of your team will be enhanced or diminished by the ways in which you develop, train, and treat them. The efforts involved may seem like a lot, but more often than not, the payoff well exceeds the cost.
Often businesses are quick to assume that a high performing team is born and not made, however, this is not the case. High performing teams are rarely recruited fully formed. The hiring process and choice of candidates will no doubt increase the odds of generating an elite team, but it won’t be enough on its own. This should instead be used to ensure that you are adding members who are socially and professionally a good fit. The recruitment process is often purely geared for work capability where the benefit of a good cultural fit is overlooked. You can have a very capable and enthusiastic candidate, but if they do not match or add to the existing team dynamic, the balance will be thrown, and this can be disastrous.
Arguably the most important trait across all high performance teams is trust. Without trust between its members, a team cannot possibly function effectively. We’re not talking trust in that they won’t tell your secrets (though building a close social bond is also important), we’re talking trust in relation to the quality of work, but also support for individual development. A common issue within work teams is an unnecessary level of competition. That’s not to say the type that sees you both/all trying to beat each other’s KPI’s, it’s the cutthroat kind that will see one team member putting down or sabotaging another for their own sport or selfish gain. In teams where performance is at its highest, members are comfortable admitting mistakes, asking for help, or offering to cover where necessary. It is this environment that fosters growth and facilitates the discovery of new and best practices. High levels of professional trust within a team also encourage individuals to perform at their best, as they feel a sense of combined responsibility and motivation they might not otherwise feel.
The quality and style of leadership provided is key in any high performance team development. It’s been proven time and time again that people are best engaged when they have an active and proactive leader. There are plenty of different styles of leadership that are effective, but each will generally have the same outcomes. On the whole, individuals respond well to a leader who engages them through support and direction and not through micromanagement. A good leader will help individual team members establish clear and realistic goals as well as supporting them and encouraging them to meet them. They will extend this guidance to the team as a group, collaborating to set goals and will readily acknowledge or praise when they are achieved. The leader of a high performing team does not belittle or berate their team members, instead they provide constructive criticism, support for improvement and praise when a job is well done. The more recognition and appreciation individuals receive from their leader or other team members, the more likely they are to strive to maintain standards if not improve.
The kind of team who consistently achieve and exceed goals are also the kind of team that are experts at resolving conflict and solving problems. Because they have strong communication skills, their interpersonal relationships are solid, and their leader is supportive instead of critical, this kind of team has no qualms facing problems head on. Not only are issues or conflicts identified quickly, this kind of team is quick to collaborate, compromise and find the most effective solution in order to limit chances of a reoccurrence. These skills aren’t only ideal for exiting or short-term incidents, they are also conducive to an ability to foresee potential future problems and communicate them to the team or a leader to prevent the crisis from happening. This results in fewer disruptions and greater overall productivity.
The highest performing teams present open and inclusive attitudes both internally and externally from their workplace. They embrace diversity and endeavour to accommodate and welcome all new individuals. Historically, many workplaces adopted the attitude of ‘one size fits all’ (except with their branded promotional clothing) causing them to overlook the value of different perspectives. Their ability to openly communicate and effectively connect with their fellow team members fosters conversation and reflection from numerous angles. From both a procedural and developmental standpoint this capacity is invaluable.
Teams with high performance records are great under pressure. This is due to their understanding of how each of them contributes to their dynamic. They have a sound understanding of what is expected of them and what they can offer to their teammates, allowing them to function much like a screw compressor. When pressure situations occur, these teams will each step up to their role and can rely on each other to swiftly adapt and maintain constancy in quality and quantity of output.
Investing in the professional growth of your team is only ever going to provide positive outcomes. If you provide the individuals you employ with the right supports and motivations, encourage them to develop interpersonal relationships (including outside work) and appropriately challenge and reward them for their efforts, you won’t be disappointed with the result. In turn you will have a team that respects both each other and themselves, that is invested in reaching and exceeding targets, that is willing and happy to go above and beyond, and that delivers consistently high quality outputs.