Creating a Higher Performance Team

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On a scale of 1 to 10, how well is your team performing?

Having worked with hundreds of executive teams, sales teams and other teams, through three month, three year and even longer relationships, I can testify that the odds are that you probably have all the right people to make dramatic improvement regardless of your score. Whether a team is feeling the pains of a significant dysfunction or they think they are top 1 percenters, I have seen teams diagnose themselves on either end of the spectrum look back a few months later and say, “Wow, what a turnaround and improvement in performance, who would have ever imagined that we would come this far this fast?”

It is rarely about clearing the decks and more about getting clear about what priorities are on deck. It is less about hiring and firing and more about innovation and clarity of strategy and objectives.

The reason many companies have underperforming teams is because their efforts around the strategy are not process oriented and the strategy is not adequately communicated. I’ve seen well-made, valid plans that have failed, chiefly because no one outside of the top leadership team could adequately communicate what the strategy was, especially the areas for which they had a part to play in. How many in your team could answer the question: “What are the top strategic objectives to which you have a contribution, and how well are you doing right now at being on target to meet each of those objectives for this quarter and the year?”

Just the process of thoroughly communicating and dialoging about your objectives can be transformational for your team.

When your business strategy is clear and concise, it can bring focus to every facet of an organization. When your objectives are not well communicated throughout the organization, or worse yet are nebulous, this will beget dysfunction and incongruity. I have placed turnaround experts that had no experience in an industry into client companies and watched them succeed, chiefly because of their thoroughness of communication throughout the company. When it comes to the strategy and objectives, it is far better to over communicate the targets and progress than to under communicate. 

If your team has looked at the strategy process as the once a year leadership retreat where you set top objectives and do some teambuilding, then you haven’t been looking at more than just one step of a much longer ongoing journey. If the setting of those objectives is mostly left to just the inputs of top management and hasn’t involved customer input and most or all of your internal team, then you’ve left potential for greater buy-in to chance and reduced your odds of success. Involving more people in the process in the creation of the objectives will increase buy-in.

Finally, always know that you and your team can do better. One of the greatest sins in business is complacency, but perhaps worse is being blinded by past success. The best teams never stop raising the bar. Do you think Steve Jobs ever looked back at past success and said, “Ok, we can take a break now, we are doing good enough.” That kind of attitude is anathema to the truly successful.

Lobsters can only grow when they become vulnerable and shed their exoskeleton. Through molting in a safe place they can live for more than 50 years and grow to more than 40 pounds. Is your business ready to molt and grow into a new skeleton of success, or are you complacent and afraid? 

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