Structure: The Secret to High Performance Teams

Teams are an essential part of work, but not all teams are created equal. Some teams, known as High Performance Teams consistently attain superior results and seem to demonstrate a level of commitment far above their peers. What is it that separates High Performance Teams from the rest? Are members of High Performance Team intrinsically more skilled? Is it just down to luck? Although High Performance Teams are far too rare, the secret that underpins their success is simple, and well within the reach of most team leaders and their teams - clear structures. 

Structures Supports Success

All High Performance Teams are built on a scaffolding of structure which establishes and reinforces:

  1. Shared commitment and purpose
  2. Understanding and utilisation of complementary skill sets
  3. Clear performance goals with mutual accountability

The simplicity of these factors begs the question - If making the leap from good to great for a team is as simple as establishing clear structures, what’s stopping the emergence of more High Performance Teams? Again the answer is simple - simple, often isn’t easy - The enthusiasm and good intentions that many team leaders have, can at times develop into impatience and actions guided by assumptions. 

Overcoming Impatience: Slow Down To Speed Up

Most team leaders expect high performance from their teams and they expect it yesterday. In doing so they often demonstrate a keenness to take short cuts across the regular team processes of forming, storming, norming, and performing by wanting their teams to jump straight from forming to performing - i.e., Start then plan. Failing to implement structures that reinforce expectations around team purpose, roles, and accountabilities from the outset is a sure fire way to prevent a team from transforming into a High Performance Team.

To make the leap to high performance, team leaders must recognize that taking time out to establish clear structures and expectations early on needn’t be a time consuming process, and will save time in the long run - an hour spent properly developing shared expectations around purpose, roles and accountabilities now will surely save heartache later.

The process of setting expectations can be given a kick start in as little time as 30 minutes by having each team member note down three to five truths that they believe about the team, collate the responses, debate and come to consensus. Once set, these expectations can be baked into business as usual by reviewing at the start of staff meetings, informing role descriptions (available to all team members), and directing individual and team KPIs.

Overcoming Assumptions: Clarity Affords Focus

While well intentioned, most team leaders suffer from the curse of knowledge. Put simply they "know" therefore they cannot imagine anyone else not knowing. They “know” the team’s purpose and they “know” that their team is made up of intelligent adults - of course every team member must share the knowledge of the team’s purpose and how each member is expected to contribute to the team’s success.

Great leaders are different. While they appreciate the skills, and respect the intelligence of team members, they recognize that even a collection of the most brilliant individuals will be hamstrung as a team unless concerted efforts are made to gain explicit consensus around common purpose, roles and accountabilities. To overcome the curse of knowledge team leaders must be able to ask and confidently answer the following - How do I know that my team knows? Leaders of High Performance Teams will be able to confidently answer - I know because the structures we have set up together reinforce the behaviour expected for team membership, we have a clear team mission statement, detailed role descriptions with clear KPIs, and processes that help us to manage team dynamics.

Set Your Platform For High Performance

The thing that elevates High Performance Teams above the rest is simple, their leaders create structures that allow their teams to strive for results far greater than could be achieved by its members individually. Simple can be easy.

HR Business Direction can assist you to develop the structures necessary to support your team on the journey from good to great.

Alistair Kerr, MPsychOrg; PostGradDip Psych; BPsych

Organisaitonal Development Strategist | Psychologist

alistair.kerr@hrbd.com.au

07 3890 2066

www.hrbd.com.au

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