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Building the Bonds of a High-Performing Team

Cleveland Indians in DugoutWe’d all love to lead a high-performing team. The good news is there are several deliberate steps you can take to bring in the right people, strengthen the bonds between them, and build trust among them. If you can do all that, you’re well on your way to having a high-performing team.

You think you’re well on the way toward building and leading a high-performing team. You’ve got a clear vision and mission and a nice set of prioritized initiatives. You have all the right people. But what starts differentiating a regular team from a high-performing team is chemistry and trust between the members of that team. These intangibles are some of the most critical elements of building that team. They’re also some of the most elusive ones to build and to capture.

In terms of building chemistry between the members of your team, you need to understand it’s about personalities and shared beliefs.

Hiring for Fit

Make sure everyone on your team is involved in the interview process. Candidates will show different sides of themselves to different people. Sometimes those sides can be unattractive detractors from what you’re trying to build. I’ve had a couple of experiences like this in my past.

When I was a consultant, we were hiring a new consultant for the team. That person interviewed very well with the other members of the consulting staff. At the end of the interview process, we all got together in the team room and we talked about this candidate.

All of us were very excited about hiring him. Then we stopped and we asked our front desk receptionist what she thought of him. She said, “He was incredibly rude, he spoke down to me. He acted like I didn’t matter.” That individual did not get an offer of employment from us.

He’s probably still wondering why he didn’t get an offer because he knew he did a great job interviewing with the rest of the consultants. When we looked at the situation, we said “Do we want a person on our team who will be disrespectful of somebody else we work with?” The answer was clear.

Assessing Personalities

To assess what people are like, you can use some standard tools out there like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Personalysis, and other standard evaluation tools to help people understand each other’s personalities and their styles and their preferences. Don’t just do it for job candidates. Sit down and do these assessments with the entire team.

It’s not critical for people to have the same personalities. Actually, it’s quite detrimental. What matters here is you have to help the members of your team understand and respect the other person’s personality and how they like to work with others.

If you have some conflicting personalities – which you will, because high-performing teams tend to attract strong personalities – step back and help these team members identify shared beliefs or shared values and build up from there. Some people may have shared experiences or they may have a shared background or geography that they’re from. Help them find some point of commonality they can build from.

Building Trust

Once you’ve figured out the chemistry of the team and you have people with the right fit, you need to start building trust between the members of that team. Trust is about shared experiences and predictability.

Shared experiences show people how others perform and react during stressful situations. Sometimes it’s helpful for you to manufacture these challenging situations. You may look at putting team members on a big project together. Perhaps set a large financial goal for the team. You can identify a large metric from them to hit. Maybe having some off-sites or training sessions where people can share in experiences and build stories together so they feel like they accomplished something with one another.

The impact of this type of stress bonding is people start feeling like they can rely upon one another to achieve the goal. They start feeling responsible for each other’s well-being and looking out for each other. They also get a better understanding of how other people behave during stressful situations, which then makes those individuals more predictable.

The second element of trust is predictability. People want to know how their colleagues are going to react in a certain situation. When someone becomes predictable, they become trustworthy. When they tell me they’re going to do something, and I’ve seen them behave in a manner that’s consistent with the declared behavior in the past, I am much more likely to trust what they’re telling me they’re going to do. That past behavior serves as a predictor of future behavior. That’s what I’m basing my trust on with that individual.

If I understand that person’s values on top of having predictability for their behavior, it will create a strong bond between me and that other team member. I start believing what they tell me they’re going to do because it’s consistent with their beliefs and their past performance.

Build the Team

Your job as the team leader is to build the team and strengthen their relationships. During the recruiting and hiring process, assess who’s going to be a good fit. Focus on getting the right chemistry between team members. Create situations where they learn to trust one another because of shared experiences. Help them become more predictable to one another. If you build your team this way, that team is going to gel very quickly and start functioning as a team instead of as a group of individuals.

Want to learn more about this topic? How about taking an entire course on it? Check out the video below to learn more about the course and get started. Or you can go directly to the course and start learning how to lead a high-performing team.  The entire course is available at lynda.com. Enjoy!

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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