21st September 2018

What we know about Accelerating Team Performance

In previous posts, we have discussed why a focus on teams is critical to driving organisational performance and when to use the 7 P’s of Team Performance.  That leaves us to now to describe how you get teams to perform at their full potential.

Firstly, I’ll save you some time and let you know whether you should read further by asking one simple question. Do you think team performance is simply a process of ensuring you have all the right players and a motivated team leader who has the skill to coordinate respective individual performance and manage personal development aspirations?  If so, there is probably no point you reading any further.

But maybe you should anyway.

This article is for leaders who know they need to manage the dynamic of the team itself, not just the individuals on the team. It’s for those leaders who aspire to run a team to unified goals, as opposed to functional or personal agendas. Most of all, this article is for those leaders who know the difference between coordination and cooperation.

If you are still reading, then you know there is a major step up between managing individuals and leading a team dynamic. You know that it’s important to invest in teams. You’re becoming closer to discovering how to accelerate team performance.

Getting things started

Accelerating Team Performance ideally starts with the most senior team in an organisation. It only moves forward once this group are engaged and ready to lead.  Yes, of course, improving team performance could start with any team but there is one thing we know for sure. People only do what their leaders do. Therefore, the higher the team you start working with, the larger the shadow of change in performance and behaviour.

The process we follow for improving performance

First we find out what is really going on in an open process of discovery. It’s important to hear the perspectives and the stories of every member of the team so that an accurate picture of the team dynamic can be developed.  The best way to do this is to first talk with each member in a one on one interview. Online surveys are time efficient and can capture some data…but often don’t capture the subtleties and nuances of what’s really going on. And they definitely don’t know how to ask follow up questions.

The insights collected form the basis for the team to diagnose where they have ended up on the Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing continuum. They will also point to which of the 7 P’s of Team Performance will be the most effective levers to accelerate the team’s performance. Like any form of feedback, the point where you hold a mirror up to yourself can be confronting. Here, we often see teams try to rationalise the feedback to make it more palatable.  But it is precisely at this point where the leader and the team need to make themselves vulnerable. They must be open to ideas for improvement and development.

The team must engage

When a team actively engages in building their own development agenda, they tend to get to consensus quickly around the most effective means to pursue. This generally leads to maintaining momentum over the medium to long period.

Working within the modern, matrix organisation provides another layer of complexity.  It requires teams to consider a whole new set of relationships with people who aren’t even in the room.  Following a review of their feedback data, a client we worked with took the time to consider what type of team they were.  It was a ‘classic leadership team’. Think, a General Manager with heads of Sales, Marketing, Operations, Finance, HR, and IT.

In talking about the kind of team they were, and wanted to be, they engaged in a robust discussion. This was centred around whether they devote their energy to better coordinate how they each played their role or whether they had to learn to cooperate.  This group spent time exploring the fact that coordination is an act or state of coordinating (or being coordinated). Meaning, to ensure a proper order, sequence, combination or interaction of functions and/or parts.

When a team is being coordinated it is possible for people to stand alone. Cooperation, on the other hand, is the act of working together for a common purpose or benefit.  It is the process of working in unison rather than working independently. This is where we see the real leverage being gained by being a team.

Invest the time

Teams need to give themselves time to think and talk. One of the roadblocks to success is not acknowledging how much time is needed to get to the issues. And of course, to explore the means by which improvement can be achieved.  In our experience it takes two days run consecutively. This allows for the team to have enough time to settle into a rhythm of working on the team. Which means learning to talk with each other, setting some ground rules and most importantly, creating the trusted connections needed to raise collective performance.

Like all things, teams needs maintenance. Some regular reviews and more time off-site and away with each other. Each event needs to build  on the preceding one as the group accelerates its capability. Along the way, we often see some individual follow up with people needing help in adjusting and aligning to new ways of being within the team.

Can you build a great team in a few hours in the board room at work?  We haven’t seen it happen.

What happens in the room . . .

A key factor in teams being able to explore the ‘stories’ of its members and to create new protocols and ways of winning, is to observe the old adage of “what happens in the room stays in the room”. This is because it’s in these conversations in the room that great teams are forged; conversations that influence how the team will ultimately talk, behave and lead together.

If you’d like to know what might happen in a room with your teams drop me a line and we can talk…

Justin Miles

Justin Miles

Manager Partner, Melbourne at Generator Talent
Justin is the Managing Partner of our Melbourne office, an outcome focused leader with a track record of driving business performance through proven talent and organisation development practices. Justin’s methods and skills have been shaped by working with performance oriented leaders in great companies including PepsiCo, The Campbell Soup Company, Diageo, Rip Curl, Fonterra and Wesfarmers, in Australia, the USA and Latin America.
Justin Miles

Categories: Aligning Talent

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