High-performing teams are hard to come by, according to leading executive coach Phil Crenigan FAIM. “The vast majority of teams are dysfunctional in some way,” he says. “Leading teams successfully and what to focus on is not taught at business school and is not catered for well in executive professional development. A bit like parenting, it is assumed that we know just how to create high performing groups, much as we just know how to be great parents.”
Over the coming months Crenigan will be facilitating workshops as part of AIM’s Leadership Outlook Series around the country. Each workshop will address how to establish and maintain a high-performing team. Here, we look at the crucial factors needed in any high-performing team.
A cohesive team is one that actively encourages collaboration, cooperation and participation. Cohesion doesn’t rule out disagreement or debate - in fact, it encourages it, within the confines of respectful and professional discussion. “High performing teams thrive on conflict because they are constantly restless to not just do what they have always done,” says Crenigan. “But [everyone should] feel confident and safe in the environment they are in to challenge and propose, and once the team has made a call, they regroup and consistently support the team based decision.”
Methods to develop a cohesive team:
● Consensus reaching
Resolutions that are satisfactory to all team members are not always going to be possible. However, aiming to achieve a group consensus on a regular basis will ensure your team members feel a sense of agency and inclusion. Pool your options, hear each team member out attentively and encourage debate. There will be some situations where reaching a consensus is simply out of reach, due to time constraints, or to prevent a solution that merely satisfies the lowest common denominator. In these moments ensure all your team members are heard and have participated in the discussion, even if they do not ultimately get the result they want. Most people can live with disappointment as long as they feel they have been listened to.
● Get to know your team
While it is important to maintain professional boundaries with your team members, there is a comfortable middle ground between inappropriate intimacy and a complete lack of interest in your colleagues. Establishing yourself as a leader who is approachable and friendly will ensure your team members are honest and loyal towards you. Understanding your colleagues on a personal basis will also enable you to see their individual strengths and assign tasks accordingly.
● Establish team goals and values
Make sure your team members are explicitly aware of what they are trying to achieve, both as individuals and as a team. This will most likely link directly to your organisation’s overarching strategy, so make sure each team member knows where your team sits in the organisation’s structure. Identify the team’s role, what its goals are and how they will be met. Set regular smaller goals within the overarching strategy to ensure there is a regular sense of growth and achievement. Refer back regularly to the team’s purpose so that it remains front and centre within your team mates’ minds.
● Celebrate the successes
Just as providing feedback on areas to improve is important for growth, so is acknowledging your team members’ achievements. Make sure that you’re not only providing feedback when it’s critical - this won’t encourage your team members to see you as on their side. Instead, explicitly acknowledge successes, improvements and developments. Take the opportunity to share the achievement with the whole team. Employees who trust their efforts will be noticed will be more inclined to continue performing.