The (Not-So) Secret to High Performing Teams

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The (Not-So) Secret to High Performing Teams

By: Courtney Beam

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” -Patrick Lencioni

As a leader, you may have found yourself in a position where you have spent a considerable amount of time creating the perfect high-functioning, smart team. You made sure the right people were in the right roles, but what isn’t working? Your team of top performers isn’t performing together like you expected they would. Perhaps there is festering, unresolved conflict or team goals and initiatives aren’t being met. If this is the case, chances are that your team lacks trust. At ICC, we have facilitated extensive work with client organizations around the topic of trust, and through our experience and decades of research we know that ineffective teams are toxic in organizations. They miss their goals, lack results, prohibit growth, breed unhealthy conflict and make bad business decisions. In contrast, effective teams are productive, high-functioning, make better and quicker decisions, tap into all team members’ strengths and skills, avoid wasting time on politics and create a competitive advantage. If this sounds great in theory, but you are struggling with how to move from dysfunctional to cohesive, start by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Do team members trust you – the leader? If you as the leader are not trusted by your team, you will not inspire the members on it. Communicating effectively will ultimately deliver great business results. Leaders who are consistent, “walk the talk”, and build positive relationships are easier to trust. It’s important to take the time to get to know your team on a personal level. Generally, we trust people who are consistent, genuine and people that we like. Begin showing your employees that you are open, transparent and are willing to take the time to get to know them. One tip is to begin each of your individual meetings with a few minutes of “small talk” to get to know your employees better. Ask them how they are, inquire about their kids, hobbies or interests. Learning more about your employees will show them that you care and will help establish trust.
  2. Do team members trust each other? Teams that have strong trust are vulnerable with one another, build positive relationships and aren’t afraid to lean on each other and try new things. One suggestion for creating trust among team members is to try an exercise titled, “Personal Histories Exercise.” Start by asking each member of the team a personal question, such as “Where did you grow up? How many siblings do you have? Or What is an important memory or challenge of your childhood?” This activity is simple and greatly effective because it encourages empathy and understanding among the team members; thus building vulnerable-based trust. It’s important to note that this is a very personal exercise and should be delivered by a skilled facilitator.
  3. Have you considered an assessment tool? Personality and behavior profiles can be a great way to build trust within a team by increasing self-awareness and awareness of others. Assessments can help break down barriers and increase communication among the team. A couple of ICC’s favorite assessments include Kolbe and the DiSC assessment. These tools can be relatively inexpensive to facilitate, depending on the size and structure of your team, and can add a lot of value. It’s important to note that these assessments can open up great conversations but when misinterpreted or not properly debriefed, can leave team members feeling exposed, vulnerable or even confused. In order to avoid this, engage a certified professional for this process.

This only scratches the surface of what it takes to lead a high performing team and build deeper levels of trust. Leave us a comment below if you’re interested in diving further into the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team and learning more about what it takes to create a high-performing team. We’d love to continue the conversation.

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