Creating High-Performing Teams

As leaders step into new roles and realign strategies, they almost always adjust their teams. It makes sense. Leaders need people that they can trust, and they want people that they have experience with. In short order, they bring trusted colleagues into their group. It gives them peace of mind and an established working pattern, but it doesn’t immediately yield a high-performing team.

In fact, it can create competing priorities on a leadership team. As strategies get realigned, it shifts focus, responsibility and some initiatives. And unintentionally, peers can get on opposite sides of an issue from one another. The real risk of conflict is competition among the leaders’ employees who can feel as if they’re working on opposing teams. This creates friction within a culture and angst among employees. In order for employees to align behind strategies, the leadership team has to appear to be aligned with each other. And that doesn’t happen without effort.

To drive fast results, leaders create great 1:1 relationships with members of their team but they don’t always take the time or have the time to help the new colleagues build relationships with each other. In fact, the 1:1 approach can eliminate any need for peers to collaborate with each other.  When this happens, leaders have strong relationships but lack the bench strength that they’d like to have, the team trust that they need to have or the support system that the team needs.

Over time, it may sort itself out among the peers or by the leader.  But time is the one thing that organizations don’t seem to have these days. And, that’s why we’re often asked to help a leader accelerate the process.

Essentially, you’re trying to establish openness and candid feedback in order to work toward trust.

A high-performing team has three core qualities.

  • They value diverse thinking.

    They’ve learned to see their peers beyond functional responsibility.  Instead, they value the way peers think and they learn to seek out the added perspective in their own decision making.
  • They share ownership.

    A true team mentality comes from working together and solving together. They understand that they will have to compromise or improvise on most initiatives. They respect that multiple perspectives are usually better than a single one. And once their voice is heard, they align to the decision of the team.  
  • They trust each other.

    Trust is an earned relationship and a goal the team reaches over time. By accelerating openness of thought and feedback, trust becomes a more intentional goal rather than evolving over time with trials and missteps along the way.

So how do you get a peer group there quickly? By focusing on the first two qualities in a way that lays the foundation for trust to develop. 

We follow a three-step process with teams to improve how they interact with each other and to strengthen their impact across a company.

First, we get to openness by putting each leader’s brand and peer impressions on the table for discussion. With our help, each individual understands how they’re perceived within a group today and what the group expects from them. We help each individual understand their strengths/challenges, and the areas where they will need to improve to win trust with their peers. We talk through the aspiration of a high-performing team and what each member needs to feel a part of it. This work is done without the leader and begins the process of empowering a team.

Second, we work to help each individual introduce new skills into the team. This may take shape in a workshop or across projects with a partner.  To value diverse thinking, the group has to begin to experience it. The openness of feedback and willingness to grow together sets the right environment for peers to speak up and get outside of their function area more often.

And finally, the leader has to adjust to a team mentality versus the 1:1 relationship that they may have started. While 1:1 expedites activity and gives the leader quick insights, it can also blindside buy-in across a group.  Leaders need help learning to defer decisions to group settings and shut down some of the side conversations that lead to misalignment. When a team senses that a leader has trust in them, they begin to respect the perspectives and ideas of one another. This drives more honesty in the room and ultimately works toward building trust for decision making within the team.

A high-performing team leads to a high-performing organization.

But with today’s pace of change across leaders and teams, most groups need a little help. If you’re leading a new team, a great starting point is peer feedback and honest impressions. And if the timing is right, we’d be happy to talk through how we might develop a plan for your team.

Call us when you need us!

Sally Williamson - High-Performing Team