What makes a high performing team?

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Let’s face it: we’d all love to have, or be part of, a high-performing team.

Just like we’d all love for our kids to get a brilliant education, for our friendships to be long-lasting or for our parents to have a happy and lifelong union. 

And yet when it comes to making it happen, of course none of these goals simply happen. There need to be certain conditions for success, and a lot of hard work put in. 

Most teams in the workplace start out as dysfunctional or lacking. 20th century psychology professor Bruce Tuckman identified four stages of team development: forming, storming, norming and performing, his work concluding that all teams go through a relatively unproductive initial stage before becoming a self-reliant unit.

Tuckman also noted that there are three criteria that determine how well teams perform:

  • Content – what the team does
  • Process – how the team works
  • Feelings – how the team members relate to one another

His ‘team growth model’ also suggests that unless the issues of processes and feelings have been satisfactorily addressed, it is unlikely that the team will reach the most productive final stage of performing.

Tuckman’s research suggests that most teams concentrate almost exclusively on content, to the detriment of process and feelings, which explains why teams which seem strong on paper can underperform.

Meanwhile, business management guru and bestselling author of “The 5 Dysfunctions of Team”, Patrick Lencioni, preaches that a high-performing team requires high levels of trust, no fear or avoidance of conflict, commitment or accountability, and a focus on results. 

This makes sense rationally, but it’s very hard to create. Even when intent to trust is high, this can be compromised by individual’s fears and therefore what they don’t express, or how their fear manifests in sometimes challenging behaviours. 

Perhaps more helpful in terms of a first step towards creating a high performing team is to focus on the self, on what we can control – our own beliefs and behaviours.

Lencioni’s insights into the individual, rather than the group, is also compelling. His studies into the attributes or traits of an ideal team player conclude that we all need to have 3 ingredients: humility, hunger and social smarts (or intelligence). That the key to success in an increasingly team-oriented world is being humble, hungry and socially smart when it comes to others around us, and how we treat them, that these simple virtues can radically improve our personal and professional effectiveness and fulfilment. 

Think about it, by asking yourself these 3x key self-coaching questions:

  1. How can you put the needs of the team, and of the company, ahead of you own ego, agenda and personal goals?
  2. How can you behave in a way that demonstrates your determination to succeed, to achieve the team’s goals or targets?
  3. How can you build highly trusting relationships with your team-mates? So that, at any given time, they know what’s going on for you, and vice versa, in order to have one another’s backs?

In conclusion, the work that we need to put in to create a high-performing team starts with ourselves – the self work. 

If you would like to explore a high performance coaching programme either for yourself or for your team, please get in touch with Amanda Davie: amanda.d@equaltalent.com 

Or to find out how we coached a team of NHS doctors to pull in the same direction, despite the challenges of day to day general medical practice, to increase their levels of trust and performance, you can download our case study here: https://equaltalent.com/resources/team-coaching/ 

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