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7 Steps to Building a High-Performing Team

High-Performance Teams VideoWe all want to lead high-performing teams but where should one begin? Not every team has the ability to be high-performing but I guarantee it won’t be high-performing if you don’t focus on getting it there.

In my experience, there are 7 steps to building a high-performing team.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a member of and to have led high-performing teams over my career and they all share the same seven characteristics.

If you’d prefer to watch a full video course on how to build your own high-performing team, you can do so by CLICKING HERE and checking out the course over on lynda.com.  There’s over 2 hours of explanations and stories on how to build your own high-performing team.  In the meantime, here’s an overview of the seven steps you need to consider when building that team.  Under each step are some thoughts on the things you have to do or be able to do to achieve the goal of that step.

1. Setting Direction for a High-Performing Team

– Know the difference between a vision and a mission. Understand techniques for crafting them and sharing them.
– Translate a vision and mission into a shared purpose for the team and drive behavior through that shared purpose.
– Link the vision and mission to priorities and translate priorities into projects/initiatives. Use initiatives to drive resource planning and focus because focus leads to success.

2. Gathering and Deploying Resources

– Properly allocate the three primary kinds of resources you’ll need to make your team high-performing (people, “hard” resources, and time/access to leadership). The three depend upon one another and to be successful you have to balance them.
– Realize that initiatives, strategy, and vision/mission drive resource planning and skill/capability requirements.
– Craft proposals that clearly spell out your resource needs and how those resources drive business outcomes that matter to your key stakeholders.
– Teams can’t perform well without access to their leaders. That time is an invaluable resource. Carving out dedicated time to lead them is a critical aspect of giving your team the resources it needs to succeed.

3. Assembling the Team

– Given the team’s mission and key initiatives, you need to map out the skills and capabilities required to succeed then assess if your team has those skills. You must also understand the team’s culture (driven by vision and organizational culture) and determine if team members are a cultural “fit” for the team.
– Create role descriptions based on team skill needs. Be open to hiring from “non-traditional” sources based on skill rather than experience. Try to hire “one role ahead” so people have “headroom” to grow.
– Intangibles are one of the most important elements of a high-performing team. They’re also some of the most elusive things to build and capture. You must bring together the right “elements” (people/personalities) and build trust between team members quickly and effectively.

4. Allocating Work and Prioritizing

– Distributing work fairly across the team is critical both in terms of performance and perceptions of equality. You should distribute work based on priority, skill set, availability, interest, and development opportunity.
– Look at projects as a portfolio of work that must be balanced across multiple objectives over multiple periods of time. Use strategic filters to help you prioritize your efforts in a way that drives both impact and strategic alignment
– Set appropriate “commit” and “stretch” goals and understand the behaviors each of those types of goals drives. Know and see the difference between a “sandbag” goal versus a “commit” goal. Set good “stretch” goals for your team to drive high performance.

5. Executing the Plan

– Achieving high performance requires leaders to make decisions and for the team to act. Be willing to set targets and make decisions that advance the team toward achieving them.
– Politics and personal agendas can derail team performance. Create a mindset to get yourself and the team focused on what matters and enable everyone to rise above politics and agendas.
– Run your meetings efficiently, focus on a few key metrics, and manage by exception. Have your teams spend less time in meetings and more time driving results.

6. Motivating People and Resolving Conflict

– On a high performing team, members are self-motivated and self directed. Let go, create space, and accept different ways of doing things.  Doing so inspires people to perform at higher levels.
– Know the difference between accountability (externally driven) and responsibility (internally driven). It’s critical to give team members authority to make decisions if you’re giving them responsibility for the outcome.
– Do not be a referee but instead get team members to resolve their own issues with each other. Your role as a leader is to help them think through framing the issue, providing feedback, and working toward resolution. Mediate the conflict as a last resort.
– Use the core feedback model: ask to provide feedback, establish a fact base, check for understanding, explain your feelings, confirm they can see your view, petition for action, and get commitment to change.
– Recognizing and promoting “wins” builds and sustains momentum. Bonuses, visibility, public recognition, increased responsibility, and promotions are all effective ways to celebrate. When there is failure, avoid blame and instead turn it into a learning opportunity with lessons learned and future actions defined and assigned.

7. Developing the Team

– Clearly identify skills required based on role competency descriptions and assess an individual’s skill gap. Once gaps are identified, give concrete projects and roles designed to help individuals build missing skills and improve their capabilities.
– Cross-train your people, perform succession planning, and build redundancy of key skill sets. Build and maintain a talent pipeline to ensure your team can continue to grow.
– Taking risks on people is difficult to do but critical to their (and your) development. Balance between stretching their abilities and taking on risk both for you and for them. Ensure you create visibility situations for them where they can shine in front of other stakeholders.
– Understand the difference between talent hoarding and talent development. See the benefits to the broader organization (and to yours) of bringing people to your team, building and growing them, then sending them off to new roles outside of your team.

So go build that team!

Building a high performing team requires you to be deliberate. Evaluate your team against the 7 components of a high performing team, identify key gaps, and define a plan for filling them.  Simply hiring well isn’t enough. Too much or too little control is also a bad thing. Hoarding talent, giving responsibility without authority, and not setting clear direction/guidelines can also derail a team and prevent it from being high performing.

If you’re really serious about building your own high-performing team, invest some time and go register for the full video course on Building High Performance Teams on lynda.com.  I promise you’ll have a much better understanding of what it takes to build such a team and be better equipped to do so after watching the course.

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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