A manager’s most important asset in every business department, in every company is a high performing team of people. If you want a successful company, you need people who care about the product or service they provide. High-performing teams are a group of individuals with specialised expertise that complement each other. They are goal-oriented, motivated and focused on achieving extraordinary results. Together they can collaborate and innovate to reach the highest company goals.

Companies with the most technically advanced product or service are not an exception to this either for example even with the latest customer service AI, you can’t beat a great team of people. After all, would you rather talk to a bot or a human?

With these 7 steps, that combine education, planning, and persistence, you can not only create a dream team to accelerate and achieve your business goals, you can learn how to maintain one to future proof your business.

Read on to learn how to build a high performing team in 7 steps:

1.) Patient Recruitment

Get the right people on the bus even if you don’t know what seat they will take just yet.

This is an observation from Jim Collins and his team who wrote one of the all-time classic business books, ‘Good to Great’. His research team studied companies that far outperform other companies in their marketplace, with a view to understanding what were the elements that created this success. One of these elements they concluded, is focused on hiring the right people.

Hiring for a high performing team is more about attitude and desire, than any specific skill set. Skills can be taught, whereas attitude comes from an internal desire to behave in a certain way.

So important is it, that successful leaders would recognise an individual with the right attitudes and outlook on life and would hire them even if they weren’t sure in that moment where they would place them in the business.

One of the most frustrating parts of business is the hiring process. I’d compare it to going on 3 dates and then getting married. Which sounds absurd. But you will make a serious commitment to another person and will then spend many hours together each day (probably more than you actual spouse), all with very limited understanding of the true person in front of you.

Listening to your instinct is probably the most important part of the recruitment process. When considering if someone is suitable, it’s often said, ‘if there’s any doubt, then there should be no doubt’ as to that hiring decision. You are and they will both be investing a lot of time in this new relationship, so don’t rush the hire decision. Be patient and wait until you have the right person. To turn down all applicants on a recruitment drive, so you have to start over will feel like expending extra time that you don’t have. But consider the time saved over the following years having found the right person for your organisation and you’ll see it was time well invested.

There are lots of really useful things you can do in the process (ask your network for referrals, running phone and in-person interviews, personality profiling, contacting referees or past employers, setting tasks/tests/challenges, putting the shortlist group into a live and abstract teamwork activity with each other and observe their true personalities and more), but most of all, listen to your inner voice when making that final decision.

2.) Clear vision and direction from leadership

People want to be inspired. People love to follow the teachings of those brave enough to stand up and show a clear path to a better future. This applies to business as much as in any other walk of life.

And once inspired, people will go to amazing lengths to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

In pretty much every business book you come across, you’ll read about the benefits of setting a vision, mission and values. This is not a coincidence. Without sharing the bigger picture with your team, how can they possibly feel inspired?

The larger the organisation, the harder it is to feel connected to the CEO and the less personal any corporate messaging becomes. But remember, every team in a business is made up of a smaller group of people, reporting into a much more accessible manager. And setting a vision, mission and values for your team (that aligns to the corporate goals) can be equally as inspiring and motivating for the individuals within that team.

As a leader of a team, you have the power…no scrap that…the responsibility to inspire your colleagues to help them get the best out of themselves.

3.) Partnering personalities for perfect performance

Appreciate that your team will be made up of many different personalities. This is healthy and normal. None is ‘wrong or right’, they are just different. The key is then being able to use the right people in the right areas for the greater good of the team. This could even mean moving someone from one department or responsibility to another that is more suited to their natural style.

For example, personalities that are ultra-organised problem-solvers who thrive in fact-based tasks tend to work well with realistic, analytic thinkers who have energy and empathy. The key is that together their personalities strike a perfect balance.

You can use formal personality profiling tools to help you and your team to understand individual preferences. If you know all the individuals well enough, you could make the assessment yourself.

There’s an interesting book called The Culture Map by Erin Meyer. Meyer highlights the benefits of having people from different cultures discussing decisions together, to create new ideas and new thinking (rather than people from the same background who will be drawing on the same experiences and education and therefore come up with the same old stuff). With today’s global workforce, there is plenty of opportunity to partner personalities for improved team performance.

If you understand and embrace your differences, you’ll find ways to create greater success than you ever thought possible.

4.) Create a team value contract to facilitate more efficient communication

How do you treat people? And how does others treatment of you influence your productivity?

World-renowned Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung coined the phrase, ‘the meaning of your communication is the response you get’. What this means is that when you communicate with someone, it is how your communication is received by the other person that is the reality, which might not be the same as your intention behind it.

How often has a misinterpreted email or comment created friction, when it was intended to be a positive observation?

At the same time, why waste time skirting around a subject when the elephant in the room needs addressing.

So, how can you help your team of diverse individuals with different preferences get to the crux of the matter quickly and efficiently without upsetting anyone? One answer is to create a values contract between your team. This is where you agree on a set of behaviours that you all live by when working together. This helps avoid conflict, whilst giving a safe mechanism for providing feedback and observations to each other.

It might include things like, ‘be open to different outcomes’, ‘speak your truth’, ‘be present and pay attention,’ but really, it can include anything that is meaningful to your team. I’d recommend bringing in an external company to facilitate this process, so you can all contribute equally to the outcome.

Final note on this one; how you treat people should not be saved for your colleagues, but everyone you come in contact with in your working life including suppliers, colleagues and customers.

5.) Lead by example

A leader who lives by what he expects from others becomes a shining example of how to behave in different situations.

Doing so will be trust and respect from the team.

This might mean staying late to support a team trying to hit a deadline, not cancelling internal meetings at the last minute, being on time every time to internal meetings, demonstrating non-judgmental active listening skills when a colleague needs to vent, showing empathy whilst being firm, adapting your management style depending on who you are speaking to and so much more. The life of a leader is one of service, in particular supporting and developing your team to bring out the best in them.

Simon Sinek’s ‘Leader’s eat last’ is a great read on this topic.

6.) Recognition and training

Both items will motivate and inspire your team to do whatever it takes to create success.

In a fast-moving business environment, it’s easy to miss the opportunity to recognise an individual or team success. What employees value more than anything else (yes, even money) is recognition that their contribution is noticed and their work important. This can often be a simple thank you by the person who matters most…their team leader (it mostly doesn’t require a big awards ceremony).

Recognition feeds the basic human need for acceptance and contribution to the greater good.

Creating opportunities for individuals to learn and grow is closely linked. It’s a form of recognition that you value someone enough to invest time and money in their personal development. It also shows you care about helping them reach their full potential. Both these things will inspire loyalty and drive in individuals. And of course, will also give you a higher skilled workforce.

The need for training and development of individuals is encapsulated in the famous conversation between a highly budget driven FD who challenges, ‘What if we train them up and they leave? To which the CEO responds, ‘What if we don’t and they stay?’

7.) It never stops

Bruce Tuckman’s famous model of team development called, ‘Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing’ highlights the different stages every team will experience. And when there is a change in the team (even just one person joining or leaving), the team will go through the same stages over again.

Life is about the journey, not just the end destination. And in business, over the course of time, people will come, and people will go. There isn’t an ‘end’ to the process. It’s more a case of understanding where in the process are you at any one given time and what you need to do to spend as much time in the ‘performing’ zone as possible. And when you fall out of it, how quickly can you get back there again.

Once you appreciate that team cohesion is an ongoing process (not a box to be ticked once a year), you can focus your energy on a long-term team development plan, that should include all the elements described above.

Written by Ben Parkinson

Published on 26 November, 2021

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