In my last two blog posts, I wrote about conditions that needed to be present for teams to maximize the potential for robust, sustainable, high performance.
First, a team needs to invest time to get to know each other well. Leaders need to build a foundation where team members trust each other. That requires a deeper understanding of purpose, drive, character, competence, and history of each team member. Done well, team members feel connected to their leader and each other.
Second, with trust present, the team needs to be comfortable engaging in debate, ensuring the leader and her team make decisions after reviewing all perspectives. A healthy company culture is a culture where fierce conversations occur, and diversity of thought is welcomed and encouraged.
A third step to create the conditions for high performance, is the pursuit of clarity. Clarity can only emerge when trust and debate are present. Clarity ensures that each team member is clear about the direction the team is going, the results it’s going after, and how to deliver those results.
Like trust and debate, leaders often underestimate the importance of clarity. I’ve yet to meet a leader who doesn’t believe he or she is not clear. When asked the team the same question, you often find out that team members are not clear about direction, goals, and working ways.
There are multiple reasons why a lack of clarity, or even confusion may occur. And most often, they boil down to a lack of connection or conversation, or both.
Building and sustaining a high performing team takes time. Time, leaders think they don’t have, only realizing later that they could have saved themselves a lot of time later on, if they would have invested more upfront.
With connection present, and conversations happening, four components need to be present for teams to conclude they have clarity
- A clear sense of purpose. Each team member needs to be clear why the team is doing what it’s doing. Purpose is not a mission statement. It’s not stating what the company is doing. Purpose is saying which ‘higher’ contribution the company is making for all of its stakeholders.
- A clear direction. Each team member understands what the company is trying to achieve, long term and short term, and how it will achieve those goals.
- A deeper understanding of the connection between company values and personal values. Simply put, values of individual team members need to align with the values of the company. If they don’t, one shouldn’t work for that company.
- Alignment on rhythm. Each team needs to have a rhythm. Rhythm consists of ways of working, routines, and habits and helps drive sustainable performance. It takes time to find your rhythm as a team, but don’t underestimate the importance.
Building a high performing team is continuous hard work. Conditions change constantly, members of the team change, so following the steps described is not a ‘once and done’ task. Each change impacts the performance of the team. Being aware and adjusting if needed, is essential.
While written in sequence, because I believe there’s a sequence to building a high performing team, a leader can simultaneously address these steps—especially when the team is more mature and the leader has experience building teams.
But the conclusion remains the same. Building a high performing team takes time, without shortcuts, and continuous attention.
Your turn: how clear are you? Whether you’re the leader or following a leader the question remains the same. If you’re the leader, ask your people. If you’re being led, ask yourself. And if clarity is missing, do something about it.