Building High Performing Teams

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How do you create a high performance team?
A clear and compelling purpose
A powerful mission is more than a goal. It is the broader sense of purpose that supplies meaning and the emotional energy people need to make their involvement on a team a priority.
Establish specific goals (collectively when possible)
To maintain on-going energy the team will need to be able to track their progress. Well-stated goals invite members to focus their efforts, provide leverage for actionable strategy, and serve as mile markers that clearly communicate that the valuable time they are investing in the process is producing a desired outcome.
Ensure that team members feel like vital participants
Telling people that they are important to the process isn’t enough. Get the right people gathered for the task and then be attentive to inviting every voice forth. Members must feel heard and see their ideas contributing to the end product/s produced.
Have effective facilitation and shared agreements about process
Effective teams need effective facilitation. Whether that role is assigned to a team leader, is undertaken by a company executive, or is contracted to a professional facilitator, the entire team needs to make some decisions about how meetings will be conducted and decisions made. The facilitator must then be able to orchestrate the many voices accordingly–managing but not getting enmeshed in the process.
Encourage different points of view
In order for each voice to be vital, it must also be unique. Rather than getting frustrated by differences or simply tolerating them, high performance teams count on them. When the various ideas emerge, each is explored fully before it is compared or disregarded. The group seeks synergy, a higher level of idea formulation, without resorting needlessly to the diminished returns that compromises often reflect.
Acknowledge conflict and resolve it within the group
Dynamic tension is a wonderful catalyst for brilliant ideas. Exceptional teams create space for keeping dissenting views or intense feelings within the group process. When there is “an elephant” in the room, the group talks about it and makes decisions about what to do with it.
Supportively confront members when necessary
As people with very distinct perspectives or different roles within an organization come together, teams of excellence ensure that there is no tolerance for finger pointing, inflammatory accusations, or the shirking of responsibility. With the support of the facilitator, constructive probing and clean, direct communication ensure that all issues are addressed thoroughly and respectfully.
Manage time well
Start and stop meetings on time. At the beginning of each meeting be clear about what is to be accomplished and manage the flow accordingly–always with an appreciation that some of a team’s best work often emerges after a good laugh! Before dispersing, summarize what has been accomplished, clarify with members the tasks each has agreed to undertake following the meeting, and establish what happens next for the team.
Expect an outcome without controlling the outcome
Although a team’s purpose and goals provide direction, specific outcomes must not be prescribed. It is one thing to develop a cross functional team with the intent of creating seamlessness between departments, but in the design stages it is important that no assumptions be made about exactly how the team will achieve that goal. High performance teams are about an unleashing of creativity. Honouring and acting upon that creativity is the fuel needed to ensure on-going productivity and commitment to the process.
Conclusion
High performance teams are high-energy, collaborative process groups. Never could they be mistaken for informational meetings or as groups waiting for their marching orders! They are the playground and work centre for capable people with strong, respectful voices who understand and appreciate the power of aligning diverse perspectives. When designed and facilitated effectively, there is no need for hype or outside motivation, the team process is intrinsically rewarding for all members and the results produced are far superior to what any one individual could possibly generate.

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