High performing teams
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High performing teams = effective organisations?

High performing teams are an integral part of an effective organisation. It is essential an organisation knows when and how to utilise a team and more importantly, how to lead and create high performing teams.   I aim to show what characteristics make up a high performing team and why/how organisations need to support these teams and their leaders.


Characteristics of high performing team

Criteria for judging the effectiveness of high performing teams as defined in a paper by Caprioni (2003) “Management Skills for Everyday Life: The Practical Coach” include constantly producing high quality output and promoting personal growth needs and well-being of the team, where the team must grow and learn as a unit. As an example for your team; they may have reduced the time taken to implement customer’s solutions due to constantly improving their processes (automating where possible) and refining how products meet customer requirements. Also, individuals within the team maybe taking time out to learn and guide others on areas of weakness and which encourages a real knowledge sharing culture within the team.

To realise what constitutes high performance in a team you must first understand the characteristics and behaviours of high performing teams, which may include:

  1. Having a deep trust in each other and a believe in what the team has to achieve with a purpose they can truly buy in to
  2. Working towards the same goals
  3. Each team member pulls their own weights where is mutual respect for skills each individual brings to the team
  4. The team is very much self-organising and self-aware
  5. The leader knows when to get out of the team’s way and when to offer guidance
  6. Having robust discussions to resolve conflict or problems where feedback is constructive and never personal
  7. Every team member has a voice even the quiet ones
  8. Listening to other with clear lines of communications between team members and others they interact with
  9. No individual is more important that the team (not even the leader)

If your team is not quite at the high performance level, you will at least have the understanding as to what constitutes a high performing team so these skills can be developed in your current or any future team and guide them on the path to high performance.


Coaching your leaders

As a manager it is crucial that you understand the characteristics and behaviours of high performance in a team. Organisations also need to coach their managers to be leaders and give them the tools (including formal reflective practises) to create high performing teams. However, until organisations recognise that leaders can be found at all levels of the business then those potential leaders will not get the correct training in order to help them create high performing teams.


Managers count as well

Not only can the individuals within a team make the team a high performing one, but the team manager also has a significant part to play as to whether the team is high performing or not. The manager’s role is to “create a work context that inspires and enables the team to do its work rather than directly intervening in the team’s day-to-day work” (Caprioni, P.J. 2003, Management Skills for Everyday Life: The Practical Coach).  A leader must also know when to reward performance (team or individual), when to protect team members from outside influences and when to proactively build trust with the team. “For team leaders, knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do” (Caprioni, P.J. 2003, Management Skills for Everyday Life: The Practical Coach).  As the team’s leader you can guide the creation of a team vision, purpose and team charter where all team members have a say in its content and implementation, where they have ultimately bought in to its successful delivery.


Leading and managing together

Yukl & Lepsinger (2005) in their paper “Why integrating the leading and managing roles is essential for organizational effectiveness” argue that by using the flexible leadership model it explains why “it is necessary to integrate leading and managing”. The flexible leadership model identifies three distinct areas of organisational performance: (i) efficiency and process reliability; (ii) innovation and adaptation; and (iii) human resources and relations. “The three performance determinants are interrelated in complex ways, and they jointly determine organizational effectiveness” (Yukl, G., & Lepsinger, R. 2005, Why integrating the leading and managing roles is essential for organizational effectiveness).  Ways of influencing these performance determinants come from specific leadership behaviours, such as an inspiring vision, encouraging innovative thinking, empowering and coaching individuals. If organisations want to increase their performance, leadership and management is required as a dual function.


A symbiotic relationship

High performing teams don’t just happen. They are created from talented individuals who are committed to doing something that they believe is important, who have ways of working together that help them reach their collective goals” (Caprioni, P.J. 2003, Management Skills for Everyday Life: The Practical Coach). If you compare this definition with how your current team performs do you feel that they fulfil these characteristics?  It is not only the team members that make a team high performing; the manager/leader has a great deal of influence for the overall performance and guidance given to the team.  There is definitely a symbiotic relationship between team members and its leader with regards to being a high performing team.


Organisations must also take responsibility

The organisation itself has to ensure that high performing teams can be created, identified, nurtured and allowed to flourish.  One way it can do this is to ensure that its hiring policy is able to identify individuals who are, or could become, top performing individuals in high performing team. This could be achieved by undertaking a “collective recruitment” process where all (if you have a small team) or some of the team gets to interview potential new team members using the team charter as a guide.


A symbiotic relationship exists between team members and its leader with regards to being a high performing team

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