Building, Developing and Managing High Performance Teams

Dharmendra Gupta, Sunday, 15 January, 2012 Synopsis Every corporate manager has a dream of having a high performance team. In today’s corporate world where everyone is becoming self focused and strive for individual excellence, teams have become more important than ever. Teams are essential and are becoming critical as the size & complexity of business and technologies are increasing. But teams are not essentially formed by putting some talented individuals in a group instead you need to build them through a careful process. Building and developing a high performance team is a complex, human and a patient process, which demands to put your ego aside and accept some small adjustments with your own styles and processes. The work primarily start from investing in your people and cultivating practices of trust, engagement, alignment and developing workplace culture that nurtures individuals through continuous learning & challenges. In this series, we will discuss and analyze various team building processes from experienced leaders, credible researches, renowned mentors and processes that I have observed, practiced and aspire to implement for team building and as well as seeking your feedback and suggestions for continuous improvements. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------------In today’s corporate world where everyone is becoming self focused and strive for individual excellence team work has become more important than ever. True teams are rarely formed and they are disintegrating faster than they are formed. But there cannot be a disagreement on Together Everyone Achieves More. Before proceeding let us first understand the difference between a team and group.

Definition of a Team
People often call a group of people working in same department or under same company as team. There is a substantial difference between a work-group and a team. In work-group people are accountable for their own goals and objectives and their focus is always on individual goals. In work group members are not responsible for other member’s action and its results. But a team in contrast has accountability for their individual as well as mutual goals. According to the article - The Disciplines of Teams by Jon R. Katzenbach & Douglas K. Smith; “A team is a small number of people with complementary skills, who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goal and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”

Factors That Contribute Most in a High Performance Teams
Based on my several discussions with various industry leaders and observations of various surveys and personal experience below are the 5 factors which influences the formation and delivery of high performance by teams. 1. Clarity, Focus & Engagement Around the Real Objectives 2. Team Composition 3. Leadership Process 4. Transparent and Effective Systems and Processes 5. Performance Metrics and Recognition and Rewards. Evaluations Courtesy -

Let us first discuss the first factor “Clarity, Focus and Engagement around the real objectives of Team”.

Clarity, Focus & Engagement Around The Real Objectives
Goal Setting It is a well known fact that the most decisive factor of a highly effective team is how much clarity and focus team has towards the core purpose of the team. It’s easier said than having it done actually. This is the foremost important task where we need to put our most time, attention and efforts with the team and outside stakeholders. So that it is readily understood by everyone in and around team. Based on that purpose we have for the team we should be able to develop specific and measurable but slightly stretched goals. As a next step we need to develop broad consensus around acceptance and attainability for that slightly stretched goal, followed by desired outcome of that goal. Specific and measurable goals chosen after inviting all stakeholders in the participative process will open clear cut communications between your team members about its attainability, possible hurdles, process routes, conflicts of interests, lack of resources etc.

“In a team of varied skills, attitude and knowledge the leader needs to set different targets for each individual in terms of nature of work, responsibility and speed of task accomplishment. This should be done by taking into confidence the entire team”.

Robinson Fernandez,
Director, GEI Industrial Systems Limited

Scoreboards Not Dashboards Srikant Datar Once you have broad consensus based specific goals in place than Senior Associate Dean, Harvard Business School team can agree on the small milestones. These small milestones when achieved give team an opportunity to celebrate and get motivated & re-energized periodically. Practical measurability of goals helps creating a scoreboard of team position with respect to goals of the team and its direction. Scoreboard is a graphical illustration of status positions of team with respect to goals. Scoreboards build clarity and focus around current position, trend & speed of team Viz a Viz goals to be achieved. Dashboard is a very important tool to keep the team aligned and focus on goals as well as building clarity around current status in a real time. Dashboards which primarily give you information what has been done are not enough. Some very good insight into the various kinds of Dashboards by Jennifer Veesenmeyer, a leading analytics consultant are given in this video. Click the link below to see the video
Making the Most of Marketing Dashboards

Goals set after negotiations and participative processes create an environment of trust, engagement and ownership. Stretched goals create a sense of urgency and slight pressure which develops the collaborative muscles of the team with inside and outside stakeholders.

Clarity around Roles and Responsibilities Clarity around goals should also lead to greater clarity around the roles and responsibilities of different people in the team and each member should not only be aware about his role and responsibility but also about the other team members. A clear division of work, agreed work processes in synergy with the objective of the team will create interdependence within team. Clarity around roles & responsibilities shapes the relationship expectations within the team members and outside connected network. I have experienced that how much essential it is for ourselves to clarify and refocus goals on a regular basis during team meetings in context of everyday situations, hurdles, complications, uncertainties and changing dynamics to keep the focus aligned. What I have observed and learnt from many great speakers that most conflicts in workplace arises because of unsaid, un-specified, un-clarified and miss-aligned purpose and goals of the team.

Clash of egos take place due to difference in the attitude. It is therefore extremely important to create an environment of making team aware about the larger goal of organization than to create unhealthy competition which is very commonly observed in the fast changing career oriented individual who give more importance to individual brilliance rather than effective team output.

Robinson Fernandez,
Director, GEI Industrial Systems Limited

Engagement is the key element to build clarity and focus. The key element for building clarity around goals is engagement of the team with the core purpose and goals of the team. In order to boost the engagement of the team members the first vital step is to first invite them into the structured planning process. During the process allow everyone irrespective of his position to speak-out, even if it is a dissent-mint but should be focused on plan. There should also not be a cost of showing different voice in the process later on; otherwise it will become a meaningless process, Says Jim Whitehurst, Red hat CEO. For a meaningful interaction each member of the team should be ready with their preparation and contribution and should be able to articulately present itself. But most of the times members do not come prepared because of their disengagement and pre-notions and sometimes for too many meetings. Hear out everyone to understand their perspective and experience. It is difficult to give chance to everyone especially when you have more than 5-7 members in your team. So not everyone should be speaking for a fixed time slot but the members who have perspectives to share should be heard by all other team members. Conflicts in Teams are Signs of Engagement Engagement stimulates team members to come prepared for their perspective which sometimes increases conflicts of views but significantly enhances the clarity. I have personally observed that during meeting if you see no different views than it is a sign of disengagement of team members. Infact we should invite different views and inputs from different approaches when working on fixing up goal reaching processes. Conflicts are the healthy signs of engagement. The richness of different views actually increases the effectiveness of the solution. This also let everyone to know that team values each individual’s opinions and perspectives. Whether you incorporate all those different voices and perspective in your final plan it depends on whole lot of other factors and merit of the views. But listening out patiently to all those perspectives creates engagement and helps develop clarity around goal in the team. Constructive conflicts lead to creative solutions and heightened levels of commitments. And commitment brings accountability and accountability brings in results. Managing conflicts within constructive boundaries again is a very formidable and real challenge for team managers. This is what Patrick Lencioni has mentioned in his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. In the next part we will discuss and analyze the Team Composition Strategies of a high performance teams. In today’s times each corporate manager has to play a part role of HR manager too. As a corporate manager we have to build a team from scratch or take over an existing team or expand the team, compositions of team is an equally important aspect to achieve high performance. I invite your thoughts, experiences and ideas on team composition to share it with the aspiring future managers. Special thanks to Mr. Vikas Bagga, Vice President, M&B Footwear (Leecooper & ID Shoes) for couple of elaborative discussion which helped to shape up certain thoughts mentioned in this article. References
PDF Link: The Disciplines of a Team by Jon R. Katzenbach & Douglas K. Smith Video Link: The Path to Peak Performance - Dr. Edward M. "Ned" Hallowell PDF Link: A Process to Build High-Performance Teams- David Theil PDF Link: Building High Performance Teams – KSL Training Video Link: Jim Whitehurst on Red Hat Strategy – A Mix Management Video Video Link: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team from Patrick Lencioni Video Link: Leading Through Engagement - Tom Rath

Video Link: The Art of Stretched Goals- Srikant Datar, Novartis Board Member and a Harvard Business School Mentor
Video Link: Making the Most of Marketing Dashboards Jennifer Veesenmeyer, a leading analytics consultant

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