In our study of CEO’s of enduringly successful companies, the subject of “teams” came up repeatedly and without prompting. The Executive’s Reliance on a strong senior leadership team did not come as a surprise. In fact, many CEO’s credit their executive team members individually and collectively for their ability to navigate challenges and to exploit opportunities. They serve as a sounding board; a group of internal advisors who simultaneously challenge and support the CEO and each other.
But the team concept does not stop there. Managers take their cue from leadership and model the construct and processes of teams in their own departments and in cross-functional, based largely by what they see from the senior leadership team.
A team is not just a group of people who meet regularly (or sporadically). With successful teams, each member understands and is committed to the team’s goal and to their responsibility within it. In high performing organizations, learning how winning teams function becomes part of each employee’s personal development plan.
Members of effective teams establish expectations for themselves, for each other, and for the team itself. Measurement tools such as the Group Styles Inventory (Human Synergistics) are utilized to monitor team performance and help members learn from their cooperative work experience.
The CEO sets the pace by establishing an expectation of cooperation throughout the organization, making it clear that the competition is outside the enterprise, not inside. Turf wars and the idea that “what’s good for my department is good for the organization” are strictly forbidden.
Determining whether employees can be valuable team members is part of the recruitment, assessment and, when hired, the development process of every employee. The performance management system accounts for each employee’s role as a team member and the job performance of supervisors and managers is determined, at least in part, by how effective they are in developing teams and team members.
What are the characteristics of high-performing teams and team members? One of the best ways to determine this is to have the team establish these individually and collectively. Here’s how.
Ask each member to develop a list of characteristics of a high-performing team and of a high-performing team member. In a facilitated session, bring the group together with each member reporting out the items on their list. With this composite list, first cluster and combine like characteristics. Then, have each member discuss and prioritize the remaining items to create their own customized list of characteristics that will drive their beliefs and their behavior as they do their work. This powerful document will be a helpful guide and it will be referred to frequently as the team goes about its work. Since it represents the collective thinking of the team itself, its usefulness as a guiding touchstone cannot be underestimated.
Organizational teams can be a waste of time or an essential part of a high-performing enterprise. Having a strong, committed leadership team can serve as an enduring example, providing a template for broader organizational success. For a sample list of characteristics of high performing teams and team members, contact me at email@example.com.