The ability to team with others to get remarkable results is one of the most important and sometimes elusive skills a leader can have today. As my colleagues and I discuss this challenge with senior leaders, we often ask them what behaviors they believe are essential for a high performing team. Over the years in working with thousands of leaders, we have accumulated a very compelling list of what makes a successful team. Below is the time-tested list of critical team behaviors for high performing teams.
My invitation for you is to utilize this list to establish team expectations and accountability (including yourself!). Use it to diagnose problems on your team and identify possible solutions. Also, use this list to know what feedback to provide and how to celebrate great team contributions!
Unity: Show a united front–support in public, debate in private. Team members should not all think the same nor even act the same. However, once a decision has been made and a direction set, it is very important that a common message is consistently shared with others outside the team. When one person speaks, they need to represent the team.
Results: Agree to a performance-driven purpose that everyone can articulate. If you ask each person on the team what the team’s purpose is, each team member should say the same thing. Clarity on purpose around measurable outcomes is key for a great team.
Commitment: Display commitment and urgency to accomplish goals and objectives. It is all right to be dedicated to completing your own goals. However, if you are a member of a team that is striving to be high performing, your commitment to the team’s goals needs to be equal to or greater than your commitment to your own personal goals. Members of great teams aren’t just spectators, but active players on the team with a desire for everyone to succeed.
Accountability: Be uncompromising on accountability–do what you say and provide feedback. Clearly articulate the goals and expected behaviors of the team. Then identify what happens when someone does not live by these standards. Create an environment where peers can check each other and support each other for the benefit of the team’s desired results.
Celebration: Reward and recognize the team, not just each individual. Too often, incentives of team members are still about individual achievement. Team incentives, whether they are monetary or intrinsic, need to support the team effort and outcomes. Build ways to champion and catch positive contributions at an individual and team level.
Conflict: Manage conflict and disagreement in open, healthy ways. Teams need to be safe places for discussion, debate, and diversity of thought. Great team members encourage alternative perspectives both from themselves and from others and resist the cognitive storytelling and assumptions that may silence or ignore great ideas.
Roles: Understand roles, responsibilities, and hand-off points between teams. Successful teams are clear about who leads meetings, who makes assignments, who follows through on assignments, and who can be expected to pay attention to team processes. Great teams clarify their relationship with other teams—what they expect from other teams and what other teams can expect from them.
Decisions: Be clear on who and how decisions are made and communicated. A great myth about teams is they must use a consensus approach for every decision. The reality is teams can decide when and how to make decisions to best accomplish their desired results. Using a variety of consultative, authoritative, and collaborative approaches can help teams be most successful. Great teams also assign clear decision making rights to all or select team members based on the topic, expertise, and urgency of the issue.
Flexibility: Have a learning mindset to be adaptable and challenge the status quo. Great teams maintain a healthy balance between respecting current practices while keeping an open eye to new ways of doing things. They have a learning instead of a fixed way of thinking, willing to explore innovative approaches to improve the organization and better meet the needs of customers, shareholders, and employees.
Talent: Match strengths and develop others to achieve the team’s purpose. Each member of a great team has a unique background that enables them to contribute to the results of the team. Team members on high performing teams seek out, develop, and leverage helpful skills and perspectives instead of denying, ignoring, or discounting others. They focus on personal improvement through a mixture of on-the-job, coaching, mentoring, and training opportunities.
We spend so much time in teams and we all have too many experiences with bad or mediocre teams. Let’s create better teams and have enlivening team experiences. Optimize your team’s performance with these ten rules and create an amazing team!
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