Many potentially high-performing teams still lose their way. Trust is high, fierce debate is present, commitment and accountability is well-developed – but when three, six, twelve months have passed, there’s always a reason why they haven’t delivered. The reasons may be understandable; the decisions justified – but given their time again, the team would have done things differently. It’s often because of an inattention to results.
Creative, intelligent people are attracted to high-performance teams. They enjoy solving problems together, and are very good at spotting opportunities to improve. This is often more enjoyable than just following through on what’s already been agreed, and so their attention drifts, to the next new shiny thing. In the moment, their performance is fantastic, but although they start a million things, they never seem to get anything finished.
Even worse, as the original objectives get forgotten and the team loses focus, a more toxic culture can develop. Aware that things aren’t going well, individuals can start to protect their own position. Rather than overcoming the team’s challenges, they manoeuvre to ensure that when the blame game begins, they’re not going to be caught out. Ego, individual recognition and defence of status wins. Trust erodes, and the team becomes more and more dysfunctional.
How can you stop this from happening?
1. Bring clarity
Your team needs prioritised SMART objectives:
- Specific – exactly what are we hoping to achieve?
- Measurable – how are we going to know when we’ve achieved it?
- Assigned – who is accountable for achieving it?
- Realistic – is it feasible?
- Time-bound – by when must it be achieved?
Answers to these questions are required in order to focus. If you don’t have them, make this your priority.
2. Drive accountability
Encourage your team to hold each other responsible for delivery. This is easiest with “little and often” reporting, so problems get identified early and resolved quickly. You want a culture where this is possible and feels positive – but also one where the opposite isn’t tolerated by the team.
3. Raise self-awareness
…by creating feedback loops. The agenda for team meetings should be built around your SMART objectives first – once these are in hand, you can move to other matters. This discipline can take a surprising amount of effort to establish! Regular retrospectives also give a fantastic opportunity for teams to drive continuous improvement and to always be learning. Read Chris Smith for more on the why and how of great retrospectives.
4. Keep the team as number one – always
The team’s success is more important than an individual’s victory. Celebrate the former, not the latter. Trash-talking team-mates isn’t acceptable. But criticism, if it’s constructive, is welcomed. All of this is easy to say, and hard to do, particularly when things aren’t going well. Rise above, and help you team to do the same.
For more on focussing on results, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni is a great read. And if you’d like some help building high-performance teams in your organisation, please get in touch.