In my work, I see all kinds of teams. Some are high performing, while others are really more groups than teams. I see a big difference between a group of people who happen to work in the same space, or the same field, and those that can become a high performing team.
High performing teams do things differently. They work on being a team. They build the team, and not just with bowling outings and happy hours. Granted, social activities are important, too, but only when they supplement the hard work of real, focused team-building.
In my experience, high performing teams have (at least) these 10 things in common.
- Share a common purpose – it might be project-specific, or mission-driven, but everyone on the team can tell you, in a sentence or two, what the team’s purpose is.
- Have a shared vision – they’ve worked together to create a picture of their desired future, and they each know what it’s going to take to get there.
- Practice creative conflict management – conflicts will always arise, but high performing teams see conflict as energy, and they have confidence that if they can get to the source of the energy, they can get to the resolution of the conflict.
- See mistakes as part of the learning process – when team members are learners, rather than knowers, when everyone sees the team’s purpose and vision as a learning opportunity, no one bears the burden of having the “right” answer. The team is in constant discovery, which is perpetually energizing!
- Have clear roles and responsibilities – everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing, and why.
- Are accountable – to themselves, to one another, the purpose, the vision. Mutual respect results from high accountability, and mutual respect is the lifeblood of a high performing team.
- Are generous with credit, and stingy with blame – team members believe that their contributions are important, mostly in the context of the contributions of the rest of the team. They answer the whole “who gets credit?” question with “we do!” and don’t waste time looking backward to affix blame to any one individual. Instead, they ask “If one of us makes a mistake, what can we all learn?”
- Use their resources wisely – they have a realistic sense of what resources are available to them, and they make the most of them.
- Communicate constantly – team members don’t rely on one form of communication – they use face time, email, documentation, active listening, and yes, even body language effectively to keep everyone on the team informed
- Are diverse – homogenous teams generally get along really well, but high performance happens when there is diversity of thought, ideas, and approach.
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