There are some foundational elements involved in supporting and growing a team to its potential. Unless these elements are present and fostered by the team leader, the team will not be motivated to accomplish its objectives. Furthermore, it will also be stunted in its growth causing it to continually underperform. I therefore want to share with you 7 key elements that need to be attended to on a continual basis in order to create a high performing team. I also want to give you some simple approaches to addressing and improving these elements.
In general, the purpose behind analyzing whether team expectations are being met is to promote, enhance or improve something within the team itself to help overcome or prevent specific problems, weaknesses or hindrances.
1. Clear individual and team values defined
It is astounding how many times people work in teams having individual values that conflict with team values. Much of the time, initially such conflict occurs without awareness from other team members, until there is a collision of perspectives. Hence, it is important for team members to know each other and to respect different ways of viewing things. There are great online assessment tools that can aid team leaders in assisting team members to grow in this process. Each team member can privately clarify what their own values are and how that affects their behavior and each team member also receives an aggregate score of what the team thinks of the organization. For a team to be most effective value conflicts should be minimised, then it will bring a greater natural commitment from individuals to the objectives of the team and to each other.
Some workshop ideas to foster discussions on team values revolve around getting individuals to share what is most important for them in a team. You could use a set of cards with each having a team value on it (eg. focus, challenge, vision, commitment, loyalty, unity, co-operation, trust, diversity, respect, organisation, outcomes, etc…) This works well, I spread them out and ask members to choose one or two that are the most important values for team success. I then get them to go around the room and share what they chose and why they thought it was important. It is not rocket science, but it sure deepens team member awareness.
2. Emotional Intelligence development of team members
Let me just simplify this for a minute by saying EI involves two key elements. Firstly, it is the emotional growth of individuals where they are more self-aware of their reactive patterns (triggers) and of the reactive patterns of their team members. Secondly, it is using this newfound knowledge to channel their emotions into more empowering modes of operation where the team is all the better for the experience. I like to contrast the terms, “React” versus “Respond.” When team members can learn not to fly off the handle because they have learned to control their emotions, everyone wins.
Sometimes it seems impossible to improve the area of emotional intelligence in a team, but the key is to recognise it as being in the sphere of continuous improvement. You are unlikely to drastically transform team members’ EI levels within a short period of time. I have found that an assessment of individual team members coupled with some training on this topic is invaluable for improvement. Through training together the team receives a common language to discuss this phenomenon. Furthermore, if team members are willing to be vulnerable, opportunities will arise for feedback sessions to discuss ways to improve.
If you want to have a high performing team, then there is no shortcutting in this area. Just make sure you spell out the benefits that will occur for each team member if they put the time into improving in this area. You could mention the positive outcomes they should expect to receive such as, less stress, less conflict, greater unity, higher acceptance of diversity, appreciating team members working in their areas of strength, more effective communication, more satisfactory outcomes and higher job satisfaction – just to name a few.
3. Team purpose
Every organisation can benefit from being clear on its purpose. There is where a clear mission statement can be helpful. It is an effective means of getting people on the same page and being of one purpose. However, the mission statement itself is not that important, it is the journey to the statement that is most important. When facilitated well, organisational members are able to contribute to the process and adjust their sense of purpose to the organisation.
Hence team leaders need to learn to take their team members on such a journey. It doesn’t need to happen in one session. But the journey is well worth taking. Furthermore, if new members are continually joining the team there needs to be time set aside to revisit the mission statement and discuss the ongoing journey to contribute to and discover the higher purpose of the team.
A team exercise that can be helpful in this endeavour is to start a discussion on the priorities of the team. “What are our key priorities?” Once clarified, discuss how the priorities work toward achieving the mission of the team / organisation.
4. Effective team meetings
Team meetings can be the undoing of many potentially great teams. They can also be productive, fun and time efficient. The team leader therefore must take responsibility to facilitate them well. Functionally speaking, a well prepared agenda is important to make sure time is not wasted and that the order of the agenda is prioritised in line with the strategic intent of the team. It may not need to be said, but don’t place significantly important agenda items at the end – give them the discussion time they need.
Now when it comes to fun, there is actually a way to make meetings fun and in doing so make them more productive and less confrontational. The team needs to discuss the behavioural norms that they are expecting in team meetings and what is not going to be tolerated. You can creatively discuss specific things such as “yelling” and then come up with a specific phrase combined with an action that team members will use when they see this type of behaviour being demonstrated. I have done this in teams that I have lead and it is quite amazing how quickly people are confronted in a fun way and are swiftly prompted to move out of their current negative emotional state.