The Secret Sauce of High Performing Teams

Spices Resized 600As we think of teams, we immediately envision one of two types. One is the high-performing team where a mind-meld exists among members; they move in unison. And then there is the dysfunctional team. Yes, the type from which “horror stories” emanate; the team that actually moves backwards as they try to move forwards.

Naturally, we would all like to be a member of the first type — the high performing team. That takes work and attention.

High performing team members are devoted to each other.  Think of the struggle this may cause.  For example, you are a member of an executive team and you also lead a functional team. Can you say your first priority is to your fellow team members as opposed to your direct reports?

You may think of this as heresy.  But, Patrick Lencioni, known for his on-point description of dysfunctional teams, points out that this shift is paramount to team effectiveness.   Without acknowledgment of your priorities, you may find yourself waffling back and forth with your allegiance.

“A functional team must make the collective results of the group more important to each individual than individual members’ goals.”

– Patrick Lencioni

Once priorities are straight, I look for three ingredients, that when combined, indicate the existence of a high performing team. What’s in this secret sauce?

1-part Listening

And I mean true listening. Not just a nod of the head while one waits for the speaker to take a breath so he/she can jump in with their own thoughts.

True listening means suspending your thoughts and being open to others. Listening is letting go of your ego and internalizing the speaker’s words. Listening is a singular focus on what the other is saying and the nuances that appear in tone and body language.

1-part Clarification

As with listening, clarity goes deeper than just a head-nod to the words.  High performing teams ensure that each member has a deep understanding of the words they are communicating.  High performing teams, in fact, use the same words.

I am always startled by the outcome of a 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshop exercise that asks the attendees to spend one minute writing synonyms for the word “trust”.  Certainly, we all know or understand what the word “trust” means, don’t we?  However, without exception, each participant group fails to have a commonality in terms.  I have done this exercise with groups of three and with groups of thirty. The outcome is always the same. No one synonym is common among all members of each group.

We will quickly agree that we all know what the word “trust” means. But this exercise shows that we know the meaning of the word “trust” through our own filters — which may not be the same as your filters.  High performing team members take the time to dissect each word of their shared outcome so they have a singular frame of reference.

1-part Collaboration

Once again, it is easy to say yes, we collaborate. But does the team actually do that?  Collaboration is all about mutual benefit. Collaboration is working toward the Third Alternative described by Dr. Stephen Covey.

At times collaboration may be messy.  As each team member shares from the heart, passion may turn into frustration. The true litmus test of a high performing team is shown in the manner by which frustration and conflict are resolved.  Resolution comes from the true desire to understand and the need to achieve a solution that is better than any one individual input – not through avoiding, accommodating, or compromise.

The collaborative team doesn’t settle. The collaborative team takes the time required to achieve excellence.

Take your team to the next level.  Listen. Clarify. Collaborate. Mix up the secret sauce for your team and enjoy the taste of high performance.

 

 

 

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