It is hard to find anyone who disagrees with the benefits and power of teamwork. Teamwork represents a powerful environment where opinions are respected and individual perspectives valued. Real teamwork also exhibits the unique strengths of finding as much pleasure in the successes of other team members, as we are in our own.
The importance of that reality carries another key strength of real teams – the highest performing teams evidence the fertile ground that supports individual achievements as well as those of the team – the two are not mutually exclusive.
In 1993, Katzenbach and Smith published the still highly relevant The Discipline of Teams, in which the authors succinctly pointed out that real teams are not just random groupings of employees. People within a work environment are grouped together for a variety of reasons. Steering Committees, work groups and management councils are not necessarily teams. And furthermore, these groups do not become teams simply by assigning the title to them.
Real teams, and the characteristics of high performance teams, is the demonstration of distinctive characteristics that distinguish them from other work groupings such as team performance measures which differ from the collective total of the individual parts.
Do we want High Performance Teams
Foster a team vision and values:
In the same way that the most successful companies have a clear and well understood mission statement, easily articulated by staff and leadership alike, it is equally important for high performance teams within the organisation to have a similar stated purpose. That vision is more often than not a subset of the corporate vision, but specific to the team with clear and well defined deliverables.
What the Discipline of Teams further suggests is how critical it is for the team itself to play a role in the definition phase of vision and value, as opposed to being handed a statement crafted outside the team. In fact the process itself becomes a team building exercise!
Encourage and support individual performance as a subset of group performance
As we suggested earlier, the performance and success of high performing teams does not preclude individual success. In fact, team members encourage and support each other in their successes, and contribute to the formalization of leadership vision and values.
Ensure the use of the word “team” is applied to groups who are actually teams.
Finally, it is the successful completion of point one that is a key differentiator between work groups and real teams. Our insistence as leaders on the proper application of the term will do wonders in crisply focusing our time and investments in real highly successful high performing teams.
When we do, our teams can and will perform at higher levels, and produce unexpectedly superior results.