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The Key to Building High Performing Teams
One of the significant challenges all organizations and leaders face relates to building high performing teams.
High functioning teams that work well amongst themselves and across the organization are critical to the success of any organization, yet the key to creating and maintaining them can, at times, feel like an elusive goal. If you are ready to take your teams to the next level in performance, there are three key critical factors you want to focus on going forward.
Researchers at Google undertook the task of identifying the critical factors that create effective teams with Project Aristotle, aptly named in reference to the quote by Greek philosopher Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." The most important factor the project identified to foster team performance is “Psychological Safety,” a term coined by Harvard professor, Amy Edmondson, as a “shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.” In short, the team members trust one another enough to be vulnerable, make mistakes, and take risks in the interest of achieving company goals. It is no secret that teams with strong ties of trust are more likely to collaborate, innovate, and achieve desired organizational outcomes.
PricewaterhouseCoopers found in its Global CEO Survey that 55% of the CEOs surveyed identified lack of trust as one of the key threats to organizations, up 18% from 2013. Additionally, research done by Paul Zak, neuroeconomist and thought-leader in the area of applying neuroscience to team performance, shows that employees who worked in high-trust companies in which there is a significant amount of interpersonal trust amongst the employees and the company itself had higher levels of energy, productivity, satisfaction, and overall connection with their teams. To build trust in your organization, focus on empowering employees to do their jobs and provide them with opportunities to create solutions. Also, reinforce the psychological safety within the
culture with regular processes for sharing feedback both positive and developmental. The evidence shows that trust is the key to the creation of high performing teams, and there are two important ways a company can foster a culture of trust—communication, and coaching—the next two aspects of building a high-performing team.
Creating a shared language and developing an open environment for communication is a critical part of building trust for a high performing team. Team members must understand their communication preferences and the styles of others on their teams to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and ideas. Assessments and team building sessions can provide significant insight into the individual and collective communication styles within a team.
Having this understanding will reduce the chances of miscommunication and create a space in which the team can challenge each other respectfully and resolve conflicts effectively. Improved communication results not only in more collaborative, engaged teams but also in more successful, fully vetted, final products (development projects, sales goals, etc.) because everyone involved contributed to the process. One recommendation to improve communication is setting up a formal communication plan as part of a team charter document. Team charters provide clarity on many aspects of team dynamics and its creation also facilitates a team-building opportunity to have everyone work together to establish the charter guidelines and incorporate the perspectives of all team members.
The introduction of coaching into an organization is another important factor in fostering high team performance because it allows for deeper work to unearth specific challenges and create realistic solutions that will support the long-term outcomes needed to achieve organizational objectives. For years, organizations have relied on professional development training and mentoring as the backbone of developing teams, and they continue to be important pieces of the overall professional development puzzle; however, coaching provides the opportunity to engage with team members to address their specific environments, initiatives, individual challenges, and team dynamics. Through the use of a variety of proven processes, tools, and assessments, coaching on the individual and group level fosters the change of mindsets and behaviors that will allow your teams to function more effectively—not only to overcome current challenges but also to create space for more strategic, innovative solutions that sustain long-term growth for the organization.
If you are struggling to achieve organizational goals, the answer likely isn’t in your technical processes and strategies, but instead in the engagement of your team. High performing teams thrive in high-trust environments, and improved communication and access to coaching are essential parts of establishing a culture of trust and collaboration within your organization.