CXO

Use these techniques to build a high-performing team


High-performing teams are a magical, but rare, convergence of the right people, processes, and environment. They work much more effectively and have a much higher productivity rate than most teams. Best of all, they are extremely fun and motivating to work on.

There are some common characteristics of high-performing teams. Knowing these characteristics can help you move your team down this path.

Set common objectives. Teams cannot perform at a high level unless all of its members are striving toward a common set of objectives. Even if members of your team do different jobs, you can usually write a set of objectives that will encompass all of them. If possible, the team should also be rewarded based on achieving this common set of objectives. Establish good internal work processes. You can't build consistently good products or deliver good services with poor work processes. The high-performing team has a set of internal processes that guide how members act and react in particular circumstances. For instance, if problems arise, they know how to invoke problem-solving techniques. If a customer makes a request for a change to specifications, they know to invoke scope change procedures. Instill good work ethic. This probably goes without saying. High-performing teams rarely form in an environment where people complain about their workload or where team members complain about the work habits of other team members. High-performing teams find the challenges associated with their work and work hard to complete their assignments within expectations. Keep everyone focused. The high-performance team is focused on the objectives and the deliverables, and understands how to achieve them. They don't get sidetracked by rumors or politics. They don't get absorbed in gossip. They don't spend more time complaining than working. They know what is expected of them and do the best they can to meet those expectations. Strive toward a balanced set of key skills. A high-performance team has all the skills needed to complete the work on its plate. Team members have the skills needed from a technical standpoint, as well as the right set of role-based skills. For instance, it's hard to be a high-performance team when everyone wants to be the Team Leader. If some of these "leaders" are asked to build deliverables instead, they may not have the right skills or the right motivation for the team to be successful. In a high-performing team, people understand their strengths and weaknesses, but they're also willing to work outside their comfort area when needed. Foster mutual respect. Members of high-performance teams typically get along with each other and like each other. They have respect for each other and trust that the others are working as hard as they are. They assist other team members when they're in need and understand that team members will do the same for them if needed.
19 comments
mark
mark

In all projects I have lead over the past 5yrs, I have made it a point to ensure that I am the leader rather than the manager. I believe that team selection is the key to success and sucessful projects. Clearly identify the skills required and fill with the right resources and lead the these people to project sucess. Sounds simple, but the key is in the leadership, adjust you style to suit the environment. This may be more applicable to those of use who are contractors or consultant project managers?

femijumo
femijumo

Its true but some members don't want to be a subordinate but leaders all the time, thereby causing problem in the team,I will advice that everyone should learn to persevere.

gpellett
gpellett

Okay, but we've all heard these utopian values before. How about some practical application tips? Like, in the situation where: 1) team members are temporarily assigned, and answer to managers who are outside of the project. 2) team members have many simultaneous projects, most of which have the same priority as yours. 3) some team members are contractors with no particular loyalty ties to you or your company. 4) you did not get to pick the team members -- they were assigned to you. And some may not be a good fit. 5) company politics and/or economic problems are distracting people and hurting morale.

chabrik
chabrik

Hmm, I would say this is pretty obvious things that are mentioned there. Could you give some more concrete ways to achieve it?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

for the existance of management. If you don't have a common goal, it's not a team. Let the team set the internal processes, they'll be much better at it than you. Good work ethic and mutual respect must exist already otherwise you simply have a group. Keppe everyone focused, ah you messed about with he objectives again or were they blurry in the first place. Strive towards a balanced set of skills, well duh, Team ! These aren't techniques, but aspects, in my experience all management have to do to engender them in their teams is to set a clear measurable objective and then get out of the way. It's brilliant when they do, take advantage of it though, next game of musical chairs they are bound to screw it up. Six beautiful years ended by some short sighted nerks, subsequently proved to have made a vast error.

sdjohnson
sdjohnson

This isn't common knowledge?

ideallypc
ideallypc

I love Tom's column! The great feature is we can collaborate and add ideas to it.... Tom is absolutely correct, "High-performing teams are a magical, but rare." With that in mind, I humbly suggest that "Teamwork" doesn't just happen, even under Tom's framework. The process of getting the working machine well-oiled and operating smoothly takes steady communication, feedback and fine tuning based on those inputs. The art of communicating clearly and of establishing "success" measurements and an automated feedback loop (that are both clear to all the participants and non-threatening) isn't always easy, but when done right, it helps everyone strive towards a common goal. Ignore this and the project is doomed; even with the right team members. Jeff Adams, CPA & MCP

malhammami
malhammami

Hi, According to my experience in team work i have some inquiries: How does the employee background affect team work? What are main diffrences between team work and group work

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

it's not a team. Some members are better at certain aspects of the task than others, they are the ones you naturally follow. Following does not make you a subordinate, it makes you honest.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Teams manage themselves. If they have to be managed or you just have to manage them because you are a manager, it isn't a team, it's a group or a mob. I worked in a real team for six years, there was a change in management....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

is a synergy, a group is a cost centre. A group must be managed, a team manages itself, it doesn't have management it has leadership. Background, there has to be mutual respect for each others contribution to the common goal.

pmtk724
pmtk724

The team needs a person who emerges as the leader to remove obstacles, resolve conflicts, and develop the team. A manager makes sure all the right hoops are cleared to assure the team is not distracted or hindered. E.G., assuring the project management methodology of the company is satisfied....doing the grunt work to keep talented technical people productive. Going to bat when the team needs resources. This stuff doesn't happen by magic. I too have experienced the perfect team that was messed up by a management change. Just like any other roles, including the technical, there are good and bad apples. Much success to you....good posts.

mark2631
mark2631

Teams require "supervision" during the first stages of team formation (Forming and Storming) and need some assistance during the Norming phase. Once a team reaches the Preforming stage, they hopefully fit your idyllic vision. Once a project team reaches this stage (and few in my experience do), they normally are borken up and moved to other projects. In companies that have adopted more Agile methods (and these are realtively few in the US), the teams may stay together for longer and then you see that self-management (or, as one Agile thought leader has stated it recently - "light touch management") can occur.

ideallypc
ideallypc

I can think of no team that naturally "manages" itself to be the best it can be. There is inherent conflict in a perfectly flat organization and chaos, not efficiency, is the obvious result. Sure, they require the work of all of the teammates and yes, some are natural leaders, but some are still are assigned leadership roles. It's the organized process of establishing efficiency and accountability. Tom's post is really a framework to consider as we, the team members, whatever our roles, can refer to as a tool to focus and fine tune the inner-workings of the team to meet a common objective; to succeed as a team. Take the sports analogy (I dislike it too!) Some football clubs do better than others. All have players, all have coaches and their respective staff members, all have back-rooms that enable the "show"- the game day - to occur where the team does what it was hired to do. Even during the game, the captain or the coach has to make decisions that may not be universally well received, but his role is to lead and to take a higher level of accountability. It's the same with a team that is put together to accomplish a project or task. Teams are not established for the sake of the team; they are established to perform or produce a common objective. Without formal ?management? anarchy is an equal possibility as is success. If not anarchy, missed deadlines, finger pointing, "not my fault" and no one is accountable to the stakeholders because everyone is. The framework helps minimize the potential or chance for failure and maximize the project?s successes; and not just by chance. Karl Marx was ultimately proven wrong because he failed to adequately contemplate the individual?s ego, Tom Mochal has it right!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Perhaps I should have emphasised have. :( We were all picked because we had leadership training. We followed which ever one of us knew where to go next and of course how to get there. A single leader and followers all the time can work, but we were multi-disciplinary. We had a very small set of goals (another tip for team builders) but many ways of achieving them. Management does not mean leadership. Being at the head of the food chain, doesn't make people follow you, it simply gives you the power to push or perhaps drag. The greatest block to successful teamwork, is traditional 'management' both viewed from the top and the bottom. Both the managers and the managed, find it scary and threatening. Is management a skill or a role ?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Otherwise you'd be surplus to requirements wouldn't you? Forming the team, well yes, until you've done that you haven't got one have you? I've seen this once and from the inside, you want to know why it's rare? Not many managers have a light touch. Obviously we got better as we went along, we learnt more about each other. We learnt to use and cope with each others strengths and weaknesses. If you want a team, not a group or a mob, you must keep your fingers out. OK it may stumble at first, but picking each other up, smoothing out the bumps (eventually in advance) is formation. Our team probably was an almost ideal scenario, all had leadership experience , all up and comers, all from the shop floor, all bloody good at what they did. So the guy who picked us did a good job. The guy who set the team objective did a good job And the guy who realised, that the team wouldn't be a team, if he interfered with it's internal workings while it was successful, gave the best 'management' contribution of all. You don't construct teams, you grow them. Storming Norming, Forming blah blah, isn't going to do crap for you, if you insist on the manager not being part of the team. Most of them can't hack being judged based on their own performance, on that of their 'subordinates' ? Deity forfend. Management musical chairs, means no long term goals, concentrate on that and your success rate might go up.

ideallypc
ideallypc

Tony, I will go back to my original comment, and that was that success of the group project requires a communication plan and an accountability / feedback-loop as part of an overall project framework. Under your thesis, people will do their best, most efficiently and effectively, if there is no one to lead them other then their peers and no formalized structure to guide them other than a recognition that they are all equals. In fact, your repeated disdainful comments about authority (?diatoms?) shows a potential inferiority complex towards any authority implies that you may believe that someone has to be better than you at the your specific line of expertise (I?m not doubting that you are a competent programmer) to qualify, in your mind, to lead you is simply hogwash. ? give me a break! It?s a foolish position, and my experience with others who take such a stand is that they get in the way of their own and often their team?s success. It?s unnecessary friction. Yes, structure and defined roles is common sense, but so is teamwork, not only for the betterment of the team, but for the process and purpose the team was formed. ?Respect? was a term that Tom M. used in his original post, noting that it must be both given and earned, but you sound like you aren?t capable of giving respect to anyone but to yourself and your flat peers. My points here is mainstream common sense. You see, there are more stakeholders than simply the "team." You also apparently don't understand the basis of how important the "communication" component is, or you wouldn't be titling your reply "ROTFLMAO" which I have no idea what it means, and my guess is no one else does either. Or you would know that jargon or shorthand like ??Now you are taking the p1ss. Not me guv is a fail safe?? Huh? Seriously, I have no idea what you are trying to convey! If you had someone to ?lead? you who knows you and your style, that person would probably be suggesting that you don?t make sense to your audience ? he or she would be sincerely trying to help you improve. In your posts, you have not been ?communicating clearly? yet, communication is vital, even for members of a posting like this, to understand one another. To be clear, I don't understand half of your rantings. FYI, Karl Marx was a revolutionary who believed that the flattening of what in later days has become known as the "organizational chart" of nearly every aspect of our lives would set the common man free and be the demise of capitalism and the controlling capitalist pigs who were unfairly benefiting from the labors of the rest. His work, ?The Communist Manifesto?, might be good reading for you. In the end, Marx was wrong, and I believe you are too. Not because your ideas and his don?t and didn?t make sense in an ideal world, but because they doesn't make sense in the real world. About my ego being hurt...that?s not the point is it of this discussion is it. In my opinion, egos become a problem when other things aren?t going well and that?s when they become a factor. Fragile egos are the result in a poorly executed plan and the basis for the finger-pointing and blame being distributed when teams find out they don?t exist in an ideal world. My ego? It is fine and healthy. But thanks for asking.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Did I put a dent in your ego? So how did you get from not managed to unmanaged. Hope you're not a coder, your logic sucks. I was there, you weren't. I watched other teams where someone higher in the food chain 'obviously' could do it better, tried and failed. We were stakeholders, that's the point. Ownership. Without formal management... "missed deadlines, finger pointing, "not my fault" and no one is accountable to the stakeholders because everyone is" Now you are taking the p1ss. Not me guv is a fail safe winning tactic in management musical chairs. Along with responsibility spreading, decision avoidance, cooking the books, and of course the tried and tested plankton blaming. None of this in our team, nowhere to hide, nowhere to run, we were on perform or die. The business wouldn't have stopped, we wouldn't have even lost our jobs, we would have just had to go back to the traditional way of doing things. Being managed by people who couldn't do what we did, but thought they could because of their job title. What did Karl have to do with this by the way, our team would have horrified him? Were we accountable, obviously, just not to diatoms.

AYJE
AYJE

Leardership or Authority is not gained, it is given to you....! I think that's what it makes the difference between a team and a group.. AP

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