Many years ago when I led my own sales team, I rarely thought deeply about what it took for a team to be effective. Honestly, I thought that if you worked hard and held people accountable to do what they said they were going to do, then that was enough. However, most of the teams I am working with today have people who work really hard, and yet they struggle.
Working with teams has caused me to stop and reflect on the subject of their effectiveness in an organization. Some have leaders who are willing to hold the team accountable, and yet they just don’t seem to be performing. They seem to be leaving things on the table that could really help them achieve at a high level.
I took some time to dig into the literature to see what I could find on topics like high performing teams, trust, goal setting, and the like. I have linked this with some of my recent experiences. Next week, I’ll include a free download with the remainder of my checklist, but for now, here are the first 5 C’s of my thoughts on high performing teams.
Clarity of purpose. Teams need to see the link between the overall vision, the mission of the organization, and the tactical implementation plans. Put your vision all over the place. If you are a leader, talk about it every day with everyone you meet. If you think you are being repetitive and people will get bored…fear not. Frankly, I would prefer boredom, yet headed in the right direction, than excited and clueless about where they are going. Shout your vision from the roof-top and put it where everyone can see it. Remind your folks of it in the morning when they come to work, and in the evening when they go home. Talk about it in your 5-minute huddles as you start the day, in your hour-long staff meetings, and at your leadership retreats. Never lose frequency on communicating the vision of where you are taking people in your organization.
Co-created goals. After you plaster your vision everywhere, put up tactical goal boards. Goals are what people should be held accountable for in organizations. Meet them and celebrate like crazy. See yourself falling short and do an early correction. If you wait too long, you may be leaving no possible way you will hit them. Every office and cubicle should have a goal board so that whoever comes into the workspace can clearly see what is being worked on and what the person is accountable to produce. My high school basketball coach used to do this with free-throw shooting. We had a board in the locker room and after practice, we had to shoot free throws, write our percentage goal, and then our actual number made. If you consistently hit your goal then the percentage went up. The only way to know this was to keep score. I have a goal score sheet in my coaching and consulting practice that I look at every Monday with my assistant, Brandi. She is responsible for holding me accountable for my percentage of progress to my goals. Hopefully, you have someone on your team that you are talking with on a regular basis about your goals and how you are doing toward them.
Comfort with vulnerability. By vulnerable I mean a willingness to admit weakness and mistakes. Become confident in sharing what you struggle with. If you are a conflict avoider, then admit it and ask folks to help you with it. If you have an ego or a temper…just know we all have something. Admit your shortcomings and ask folks who are really skilled at empathy, or have a calm presence, to help you along. What I DO NOT mean by vulnerable is using your weakness as an excuse to behave poorly. Let’s face it since all of us have shortcomings, none of us care that much what yours are. Weaknesses are not excuses for character flaws to be accepted, but opportunities for connecting with others from which to learn and grow.
Common enemy. I think this one relates back to the visioning component. What I have found is that even people who would describe themselves as noncompetitive love to win. My lovely wife would describe herself as a noncompetitive personality. However, I can assure you that if you get her in a game of “Quirkle” she will try and destroy you as fast as she can (in a loving and kind sort of way, of course). Look, if people naturally want to compete, why not give them a target to compete against. Stop fighting with each other over who has the best idea or is getting the biggest bonus or the most funding. Remember the game you are playing. To all my friends in healthcare out there, stop worrying about who has the most department resources and go cure cancer…please!
Cultural integrity. Last week I did an Organization Culture assessment for a group who is integrating two very different cultures. I was reminded during my presentation of the famous quote by management guru Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” For me, any leader who is forming a culture based on honesty and trust is really focused on the right thing. Recall that trust is made up of both a cognitive and affective component. Cognitive trust is basically procedural fairness; can folks count on you to do what you say you are going to do? Affective trust is the emotional connection we feel that stems from care and compassion. A culture, no matter the stereotype; be it family oriented or more entrepreneurial, will live successfully if it is built on a foundation of integrity. It will not always be easy, but it will always be consistent and people will feel valued.
How is your team doing with these first 5 C’s? Don’t forget, next week I’ll give my final 5 C’s to decide if you have an effective team, plus a free download.