Building and managing high-performing teams is the key to driving desired business outcomes across any enterprise, but it’s also one of the most difficult things you can do. While nearly every leader will agree that strong teamwork drives results, many fall short when it comes to creating an environment where high-performing teams can flourish.
When companies decide to pursue a new project or initiative, leaders are quick to pull together a group of their best employees, or individuals who have a consistent track record of delivering results. The truth is, creating teams based on the merit and qualifications of individuals alone usually isn’t enough. In addition to talent, strong leadership and a positive culture are both incredibly important when it comes to developing an environment where teams can thrive.
Leaders who really want to drive growth and productivity should consider these tips when building and managing high-performing teams.
Define A Clear Purpose and Goal
In order to sustain motivation, employees need to understand why their work is meaningful and how it directly connects to the company’s overall mission. When employees don’t understand the purpose, or how it is clearly connected to the company’s mission, they’re more likely to do the minimum amount of work required to achieve adequacy and quickly move on to the next item. Teams that understand how their work contributes to the larger picture, and have clear goals – timeline, results, level of quality/completeness required – are more likely to deliver impactful results.
As a leader, defining purpose and goals begins with communication. Take the time to communicate with your team, answer questions, address concerns, and always explain the “why” behind the work. This will ultimately help you create a strong team dynamic and foster a culture of productivity, achievement, and accountability. An expertly facilitated session to communicate and mutually decide on purpose and goal(s) will get your team off to a great start.
Taking the time to check-in and making it a point to understand how your team is feeling is key to building trust and cultivating a culture of achievement. Take five or ten minutes before each team meeting to do quick a temperature check. This will give your team a chance to express how they’re handling their current workload and life outside of the office. Not only will this show your employees that you’re genuinely invested in their well-being, but it will also help you quickly identify any underlying issues within the team. Employees always want to feel as if their voices are being heard, and checking-in with your team on a regular basis is a good way to ensure that you are actually listening to them. Then take appropriate actions to support their needs, reassigning or rebalancing work as needed to support them.
Celebrate The Wins
Some leaders become so focused on moving to the next project or issue that they don’t actually take the time to celebrate the wins. Be sure to pause and recognize accomplishments along the way. Whether it’s calling out individual contributors during meetings or celebrating team accomplishments (like the completion of a major section of work on the project plan) at happy hour, rewarding good work generates positive reinforcement and helps keep employees engaged and motivated. A little friendly competition can even motivate teams to achieve “wins” so they get to celebrate their successes with the entire team.
Establish And Communicate Incentives
It’s not only important to align your team to your overall mission, you should always be sure to define the incentives and rewards that can be achieved by effectively carrying out the project. While tying a bonus or monetary reward to every action is probably not realistic, there are many other ways to incentivize your team for their hard work. Makign that clear connection between the project goal(s) and your company’s mission is critical. Then, remind your team that successful completion could generate visibility among the executive team or the board, and may even increase the chances of promotion down the line. Communicate the rewards to your team and ensure that every individual contributor is aligned.
Maintain Open Lines Of Communication
Maintaining a healthy team structure begins with communication. As a leader, it’s your job to create an environment where employees feel comfortable communicating freely and expressing diverse viewpoints. When teams know they can open up to their leader and to each other, fewer problems are likely to pop-up along the way. When issues do occur, especially when conflict is involved, it’s important to take the time to fully understand the issue. This means asking the right questions and gathering multiple perspectives.
Open communication also means delivering direct feedback when warranted. It’s important to hold team members accountable for performance and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to learn from mistakes. Transparency is also crucial. We like to encourage “Healthy Challenges” to project assumptions, tasks, goals, timelines, and desired outcomes to ensure engagement and optimal “buy-in”. Also, keep your team in the loop on discussions you have with other leaders or board members, especially if they impact the overall project or mission.
Set The Example
Expectations, work ethic, culture, and attitude are all things that are defined at the top of the organization. To build a culture of accountability, team leaders must practice what they preach at all times. When employees observe behaviors being demonstrated across leadership teams, they’ll trust that their leaders are being authentic and will be more likely to follow suit. Not only is it important to clearly communicate expectations, as a leader, you must also lead by example.
Spend Time Outside Of The Office
An important part of building close-knit teams is giving individuals the opportunity to get to know each other outside of the office. Getting to know others on a personal level makes it easier to work together in the office. Team building activities, retreats, and happy hours are all great ways to give employees the opportunity to develop positive relationships with coworkers. Scheduling off-site activities is not always feasible, but you can still encourage your team to take walks or go to lunch together. These positive relationships can ultimately translate into stronger teams in the office.
Strong teams are the foundation of business success and are absolutely necessary to achieve any desired business outcome. Underperforming teams or a lack of employee engagement (which is almost universally due to poor management and leadership) are often common denominators among businesses that struggle to meet objectives or goals. To succeed, all teams need a good coach or a leader (you!), and that leader must be invested in the personal well-being of each individual within the group.
Companies that prioritize leadership development are more likely to achieve their desired business outcomes. If you’re looking to take your leadership, team dynamics, and business profitability to the next level, contact us at Lilly Consulting Group today.