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The Challenges and Attributes of High Performing Teams

When organizations are acquired only to be sold piecemeal, we often hear that “the sum of the parts is greater than the sum of the whole.” This runs contrary to an efficient, high impact team, where the sum of the whole is magnified by the performance of individuals within the team. Harnessing this effectiveness requires leaders to overcome four distinct challenges. Only by doing so can they embed the attributes of high performing teams within their own sphere of supervisory responsibility.

Defining the attributes of high performing teams

When seeking to create something unique and exceptional, you must first define what characteristics will define your creation. When examining the traits of the most impactful teams within the business context, it can be seen that there are several commonalities that directly lead to outperformance in the competitive market.

For example, a 2006 study by Dahlin, Weingart, and Hinds, and published in the Academy of Management Journal, summarized that teams comprised of members from diverse educational and national backgrounds perform more highly than those not benefitting from such diversity.

Four other essential attributes of team excellence are:

1.     Shared Goals

Aims should be specific, clearly defined and resonate with all members of the group while promoting the contribution of the group as opposed to individuals within the group. Goals should be challenging but achievable and resonate with organizational values and beliefs.

2.     Having the right mix of people

Teams benefit from having a diverse mix of capabilities, backgrounds and personalities. When considering individuals, look to create a mix of interpersonal and technical skills, commerciality and financial awareness. Look to recruitment processes and augment with continuous training and coaching to upgrade skills as the team evolves.

3.     Team size

The best teams are small, agile and flexible. They benefit from free flow of information. Larger teams require greater resource and a more inflexible management structure.

4.     Define roles and responsibilities

The roles of individuals within the team context must be clearly defined. This includes the level of authority ­– some teams function with authority equally distributed while others have a clearly defined leader. When responsibilities are unknown or misunderstood, internal conflict is a real danger to effectiveness.

Overcoming the challenges

A cohesive team is one in which individuals want to remain. It outperforms because everyone pulls in the same direction, working toward a common cause and with shared behavioral norms. These characteristics become part of group culture, the fabric that holds the group together. However, there will be challenges to face and overcome on the way to creating this zenith. The major of these are:

1.     Engagement

There is a definite connection between the performance of individuals within a team and the degree to which they feel engaged. Leaders who attain high competence in employee empowerment skills are best able to empower their people and create the ownership that engenders productivity. These skills include:

  • Communication
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Influencing
  • Listening skills
  • Negotiation skills

2.     Conflict resolution

Conflict is a naturally occurring event within any group. It can either be constructive or destructive. Leaders who take a care-fronting rather than confronting approach in their communicative technique will find that open communication is encouraged and conflict errs progressively on the side of constructiveness.

3.     Task management

Though it may seem obvious, leaders who mismanage tasks within their team environment risk disrupting its balance. Individuals (and the group) will work best where they benefit from:

  • Autonomy
  • Variety
  • Task importance
  • Feedback

These issues will be a joint consideration of the organization and team leadership.

4.     Organizational issues

The organizational structure and management will impact upon a team’s effectiveness. How one team is allowed to interact with others, the high level support it receives, and the resources that are made available to it will all be telling factors on performance.

In summary

When team leadership challenges are overcome, a cohesive and effective team will produce a number of benefits that include (but are not limited to):

  • Time saved during task completion
  • Freer information flow leading to individual and team improvement
  • Greater innovation and creativity in problem solving
  • Higher staff retention and reduced costs

Contact Forward Focus today to discuss our Management Development Series, including our Energy Leadership Program that will provide your leaders with the skills to embed the attributes of high performing teams in their team.

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