In order for an organization to function at a high level, the concept of teamwork and managing the people in the team is one of the most important keys to success.
So how do you know when you have a high performing team?
They will most likely display the following characteristics: purpose and values, empowerment, relationships and communication, flexibility, optimal performance, recognition and appreciation, morale.
When your team has all or most of the characteristics, you will find that tasks, goals and projects are accomplished with amazing efficiency, speed and efficacy. What may have seemed daunting and overwhelming, now becomes easy and effortless.
In The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams, the authors (Ken Blanchard, Donald Carew and Eunice Parisi-Carew) reveal the whole process of developing a high performing team which involves three major skills on the part of team leaders and team members as well: diagnosis, adaptability and empowerment.
The Whys and Wherefores of High Performing Teams
"None of us is as smart as all of us."
Most leaders have a bias towards a traditional leadership style which is to listen to their team and of course provide direction. More important than these traditional skills is the ability to observe the team in action.
Here’s what a skillful leader needs to observe:
- Communication and participation. Who talks to whom? Who is left out? Who talks most often?
- Decision making. How does the group go about selecting a course of action – majority rule, consensus or lack of response?
- Conflict. How is conflict handled in the group? Avoidance, compromise, competition, collaboration, etc.?
- Leadership. Who is influencing whom?
- Goals and roles. What is the group trying to accomplish and who does what?
- Group norms. Which rules governing the group’s behaviour are most obvious in the group?
- Problem solving. How does the group solve problems?
- Group climate. How pleasant or unpleasant does it feel?
- Individual behaviour.
‘All new teams need to have a sense of purpose as well as some clarity about team values and goals, individual roles, team norms and decision making procedures,’ state the authors.
All groups regardless of their purpose go through certain stages. Groups are dynamic, complex, ever-changing, living systems that have behaviour patterns and lives of their own.
Stage 1 – Orientation
In this stage, productivity is low and morale is high.
The team develops a team constitution or charter that sets the tone for all future work that it undertakes and ensures that all objectives will be met.
‘The team charter is a set of agreements that clearly states what the team wants to accomplish, why it is important and how the team will work together to achieve results.’
In this stage, the team is excited and has little knowledge of the task. The appropriate leadership style is directing.
Stage 2 – Dissatisfaction
In this stage, the cold hard reality of the task at hand begins to register.
The initial excitement starts to fade and the task is seen as being more challenging.
‘Although this stage is characterized by power struggles and conflict, it also is the seedbed of creativity and valuing differences.’
In this stage, the appropriate leadership style is coaching.
Stage 3 – Integration
Team members begin to understand each other and feel comfortable working together to resolve differences. In turn, team members develop confidence in each other and s sense of cohesion develops.
In this stage, disagreement is encouraged and the team works together to solve differences and begin to manage itself. Encouraging disagreement can help prevent groupthink where the members are afraid of disagreement, leading to stagnation and a loss of innovation.
The appropriate leadership style is supporting.
Stage 4 – Production
The team is knowledgeable of its values, goals, responsibilities, and deliverables.
The appropriate leadership style is delegating.
"Effective leaders adjust their style to provide what the group can’t provide for itself."
There is no single best style of leadership. The exceptional leader needs to change his/her style according to the current needs of the team. This is also referred to as situational leadership.
Depending upon the needs of the team, the situational leader adjusts the level of supervision or intervention to meet the individual’s circumstances.
It is up to the leader to change his/her style and not for the follower to adapt to the leader’s style.
‘Your job as a manager is to help people and teams develop so they have competence and commitment and the ability to share in making decisions,’ write the authors. ‘A high performing team is more creative and better at problem solving than any individual functioning alone.’
"Your job as a leader is to educate your people, to help them develop to the point where they can take responsibility for their work and to give them opportunities to perform."
Your primary job is to develop your people.
What does this look like in practice?
It means that as a leader you start to view yourself as an educator as well as a leader. Your job then becomes to empower your team members and give them opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge. This creates an environment where they can proactively take responsibility, be creative and feel free to take risks and make mistakes.
As the authors remind us, ‘Empowerment is all about letting go so that others can get going.’
In conclusion, let’s remember that the people we manage are our most important resources.
As a leader, you must be multi-skilled. You must be an enabler of people and a facilitator of teams.