Successful Supervisor 57 Building a High Performance Team

December 17, 2017

Every supervisor has a group of employees who are reporting to her. In nearly all cases the group needs to function as a unified team in order to reach the aggressive goals set for them. However, getting people to consistently act as a unified team is easier said than done.

Many teams in the working world have various symptoms of dysfunction. One can observe all kinds of backbiting, laziness, sabotage, lack of support, passive aggressive behavior, grandstanding, and numerous other maladies.

Conversely, some teams are able to rise above the petty problems and reach a level of performance that is consistently admirable. This article focuses on four characteristics of high performing teams that supervisors can employ to achieve excellent performance consistently.

I have studied working teams for decades and have concluded that there are four common denominators that most successful teams share. If your team has these four elements, you are likely enjoying the benefits of a high performance team. If you do not see these things, then chances are you are frustrated with your team experience.

A common goal – This is the glue that keeps people on the team pulling in the same direction. If people have disparate goals, their efforts will not be aligned, and organizational stress will result.

If people on your team are fighting or showing other signs of stress, the first thing to check is if the goal is really totally shared by everyone.

Often people give the official goal lip service but have a hidden different agenda. Eventually this discontinuity will come out in bad behaviors.

Trust – When there is high trust between team members, the environment is real. Where trust is low, people end up playing games to further their own agendas. Achieving high trust is not simple.

I have written extensively on the creation of trust elsewhere. One caveat is that trust is a dynamic commodity within a team. You need to keep checking the trust level and bolster it when it slips. Constant vigilance is required.

Good Leadership – A team without a leader is like a ship without a rudder, but the leader does not have to be the anointed formal leader. Often a kind of distributed leadership or informal leadership structure can make teams highly effective. Beware if there is a poor leader who is formally in charge of a team. This condition is like the kiss of death.

No team can perform consistently at a high level if the official leader is blocking progress at every turn. The best that can be achieved is an effective work-around strategy.

A Solid Charter – I have coached hundreds of teams and discovered that the ones with an agreed-upon team charter always out-perform ones that have wishy-washy ground rules.

A good charter will consider what each member brings to the team so the diversity of talents can be used.

Second, it will contain the specific goals that are tangible and measurable.

Third, it will have a set of agreed upon behaviors so people know what to expect of each other and can hold each other accountable.

Fourth, the team needs a set of ground rules for how to operate. Ground rules can be detailed or general, it really does not matter, but some ground rules are required.

Finally, and this is the real key, there need to be specific agreed-upon consequences for members of the team who do not abide by the charter.

The most common problem encountered within any team is a phenomenon called “social loafing.”

This unfortunate situation is where one or more members step back from the work and let the others do it. This inequity always leads to trouble, but it is nearly always avoidable if the consequences for social loafing are stated clearly and agreed upon by all team members at the outset.

People will not slack off if they have already agreed to the negative impact on themselves, or if they do it once and feel the pain, they will not do it again. This last element of successful teams is the most important ingredient. When it is missing, you are headed for trouble eventually.

There are numerous other elements that can help teams succeed, but if you have the above four elements, chances are your team is doing very well. All high performance teams have these four elements in play every day. Make sure your team has these as well.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Every Day Matters

September 9, 2012

There is a saying that has kicked around for years: “It is the Super Bowl every day.” So many people have used it, I cannot trace who said it first. There is even a Twitter hashtag that uses the phrase as a portal. One author added the concept that in life there are no time outs. In this article, I wanted to expand on these concepts and look inside the locker room.

The concept of each day being the Super Bowl simply refers to the importance of living every day as if it was the most important day we have. Intellectually, we realize that some days are more important than others. I may kick back for a day and do absolutely nothing productive or important all day. Yet to waste a day, or even an hour, is to squander our most important resource in life. Time is really all we have to work with, and each of us gets exactly 24 hours every day. That is like the Super Bowl. It has a start time and an end time, but in the case of life, there are no reruns and no time outs. The game proceeds only forward and has a finite end.

Of what value is thinking in these dimensions? We often forget the fleeting nature of life, because most of us have decades yet to live. That is enough time to achieve numerous accomplishments and build lasting relationships. Each day, each increment of time, seems insignificant, like a drop in the ocean. It is a mistake to think that way, because once a day is spent, it is gone forever.

But life is not just about doing things. It is about enjoying what we do and building relationships that matter. It is the emotional connection we have with loved ones, not the things we have accomplished or acquired, that occupy our final thoughts as we prepare to leave this world.

I think the analogy of the Super Bowl works here as well. We do not play the game of life alone. We are on a team, surrounded by people we love, who help us play our best game possible. We have coaches and support people who fix us up when we fall and help us rise to be our best in the game of life. It is how we treat others that determines how well the team plays together. If trust, respect, and love are carried in our hearts, the team will be a strong winning group.

One thing that every human on the planet shares is the knowledge that one day he or she is going to die. If you remember the movie, “Dead Poets Society,” that concept is what Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams), was trying to instill in the freshmen at the Helton Prep School. It was the notion of “Carpe-Diem,” or seize the day. You may recall the riveting scene where Keating had the students line up and look in the trophy case at the pictures of former athletes who were dead and gone: their Super Bowl over. He pointed out that the only difference between the boys he was addressing and the deceased athletes in the pictures was that the boys were alive that day. What a powerful scene!

I bring up the concept of carpe-diem at the end of every leadership class I teach. I believe it is the responsibility of each of us to approach each day as if it was Super Bowl Sunday, and we are in the game. Sure, there is time for rest and recuperation, just as winded athletes can sit out a few plays, but even as we rest, the game is still going on.

Try this little exercise to see if it can enrich your life. Intentionally break into your stream of consciousness at least once a day and ask yourself where you are right now. Are you sitting on the bench or are you playing in the game? Are you happy with the job you did on the last play? Do you have a good plan for your next play? How are you treating your teammates who are helping you play the game? Right now, are you playing offense or defense?

You have a general idea how much time is on the clock, but what if a fatal blow takes you out of the game early? Have you made the most of the opportunities you have had along the way? What will the spectators and your teammates remember about you and your life when it is over?

The good news is that there really is time for most of us to improve our game plan. It takes work, but it is rewarding to modify the future plays to obtain a more successful future. We can always foster better relations with the people we love and have more fun. The choice is up to each one of us every day. Make the right choice.