When we measure the performance of teams objectively, we find that only 10% are truly high performing and 38% are dysfunctional. This is stunning when one considers that most companies’ current bottom line, and even more importantly, the viability and profitability in upcoming years, depends on the results of their team initiatives.
When we analyze high performing teams we find four keys which are all or in part lacking in ok or low performing teams:
- Diverse team make-up
- Team member motivation and trust
- Team leaders’ leadership style based on building trust and on understanding the stages in the teams’ development
- Support and guidance the company leadership extends to the team
All four areas need to be above a certain threshold level before a team can fully develop and perform. Let’s look at the team diversity and make-up first. The first rule of thumb is that the more diverse the team members are the more diverse their ideas and contributions will be. If we capitalize on this input, then a team made up of ordinary employees can create truly unique and extraordinary approaches to solving problems and creating possibilities. Yes, it is much easier and faster to have all team members communicate and think alike. If this is the case, however, you do not need a team; each team member will come up with the same suggestions and we have seen in this international environment that we need diverse input to succeed. The second important step is to look where the potential team members’ strengths lie. So don’t just select members by looking at the organizational chart. We are looking for highly motivated individuals who will add to and complement each other. From analyzing teams we know that we need a balance between:
- Innovators who can envision new solutions and thrive on innovation and the opportunity to create possibilities
- Communicators who can create excitement for new ideas and can communicate it to others
- Analytical team members who objectively and logically analyze the ideas with the goal to eliminate unnecessary risk and to ensure a sound approach
- And lastly, team members who can execute; who pay attention to details and the bottom line while implementing the idea
Each function must be well represented. For example: if we have only innovators, we end up with unique ideas and no follow up; with a team of analytical people, nothing new is created and they will procrastinate on the decision to implement. Using assessment tools like the DiSC® team dimension, will speed up the selection process and ensure the proper make-up.
After forming this well balanced team we need to speed up the team building process. The five stage team building process shows that teams must go through the stages of forming –team members are eager, have high expectations and anxiety and have not learned yet to trust each other to create meaningful outcomes; storming – when reality sets in, frustration mounts, morale dips, but surprisingly, performance tends to improve; norming – purpose and goals become clear and cohesion and performance grows significantly; performing – team members trust and respect each other, and truly enjoy working together, while meeting or exceeding high performance standards. The last step is mourning when a team is disbanded after achieving its goals. Most dysfunctional teams never make it past the forming or storming stage! As you might guess, the key here is to bring the team as quickly as possible into the performing stage. We recommend using off site meetings and outside facilitators to get Team members acquainted and to learn about each other as much as possible. We urge our clients to use the time with productive exercises like discussing each team member’s communication style based on behavioral assessments like DiSC® or Myers Briggs and sharing experiences. Team building exercises like golf, rope courses and the likes are excellent morale builders. However, good morale is not correlating to high motivation, high performance or building trust between team members; therefore it accomplishes little to form teams while taking up a lot of valuable team building time.
The team leader’s style is critical for a smooth and fast development. Recent research results show that 25% of a team’s performance results are due to the team leader’s skills. The goal of the team leader is to move the team as quickly as possible into the performing stage and then to get out of the way: his task is first to clarify goals and create and guide the activities that build relationship and trust between the team members. In later stages he becomes a facilitator and coach for the team members with a delegating style for all the tasks which need to be accomplished. We are looking for candidates with vision, compassion, integrity and mindfulness. Autocratic leadership will guarantee that the team will never reach its potential.
Lastly, let us look at the company leadership itself. If teams are constantly given changing directions, assignments without the proper authority to decide and implement, or if team results and recommendations are not acted upon, even high performing teams will quickly slide into mediocre performance. A large percentage of a team’s performance is due to the work climate within and outside the team.
Do you have questions on how you can increase the output of your teams? We can provide assessments to evaluate your teams and can coach them effectively to become high performers.
About the Author:
Dr. Joe Mayer is the Managing Partner of the Mayer Business Group, which helps small to medium size businesses grow their employees and their bottom line by focusing on vision, leadership, teamwork and strategy. Joe is a certified business and executive coach and has 25+ years of experience in leading divisions of publically traded and privately held companies. Joe can be reached at JMayer@MayerBusinessGroup.com.