Building an environment where your people can excel is not only a key driver of organisational success but helps to ensure you’re a winner in the talent war. So, what are some of the ways you can empower your teams to work to their full potential?
High-performing teams are something of a holy grail for organisations. Not only are they critical to delivering successful outcomes and extracting maximum value from your investments, but they also help to perpetuate a climate of excellence and attract other top performers.
Of course, building a cohort of high achievers has always been a challenge, and the widespread skills shortage across industries isn’t making life any easier. Research shows that almost a third (31 per cent) of organisations are struggling to find suitable candidates. The war for talent compounded by the transient nature of projects, can also make it hard to retain high performers.
In this environment, organisations must curate a work culture that draws on individual strengths, supports continuous improvement and invests in every team member’s future. Here’s how to start forging and sustaining your powerhouse team/s.
What makes a team ‘high performing’?
From the outset, it’s important to acknowledge that all teams have the potential to be high performers. Essential knowledge and skills aside, what sets a high-performing team apart from an underperforming one is largely about laying the right structure to enable them to succeed.
While each organisation will have a different view of what they believe constitutes a high-performing team, there are a few overarching factors that consistently contribute to great teamwork. One is a shared vision for success and the role of the team in getting there; high quality interaction is also key; and another is a commitment to reflection and continuous improvement. These are characterised by qualities including:
- Mutual respect
- Open communication
- Commitment to goals
- Willingness to embrace conflict
- Belief in their own capabilities
- Comfortable taking risks
- Receptive to feedback
- Diverse skill sets and ability to share roles.
The importance of ‘connectedness’
One of the biggest concerns for project managers in the wake of the pandemic was around how to engineer high-performing teams when no one was able to be in the office. Interestingly, research recent into the habits of US-based office workers revealed that the best teams found “subtle ways of leveraging social connections during the pandemic to fuel their success”. This is crucial when you consider that connected teams deliver a 23 per cent increase in profitability compared to less-connected teams, according to Gallup research.
Notably, the research found that high-performing teams are not afraid to pick up the phone, are more strategic with their meetings, invest time into bonding over non-work-related topics, and give and receive positive feedback more frequently.
How to empower your team to perform at their best
Beyond promoting greater connectedness, leaders play an essential role in driving progress and ensuring the team can overcome obstacles together. In this regard, consider what complementary skills and attitudes each person brings to the table (e.g. problem-solving, leadership, facilitation etc) and be open to team members with a range of experiences and perspectives – it’s well proven that diversity leads to smarter, more innovative solutions.
To help your team optimise performance, you need to assign roles appropriately, and enable individuals to play to their strengths. Being approachable and championing authenticity and empathy all contributes to fostering mutual trust and cultivating a work environment that’s both psychologically supportive and empowering.
Presenting your team with a clear vision and purpose so they understand both the ‘what’ and ‘why’ is critical to their performance and helps to ensure projects/initiatives are set up for success. It’s not just about the organisation’s goals, however – consider how these align with individual aspirations. Supporting opportunities for growth, uplifting capabilities and providing clear development pathways are all effective ways to keep team members excited about their future and driven to perform.
Key benefits of a high-performing team
Once you set up your structure and environment in a way that will empower people to perform well, what can you expect in return? At the surface level, some of the benefits include:
- Higher satisfaction levels
- More motivated and creative
- Greater productivity
- More likely to deliver on intended outcomes
- Improved employer brand
- Higher levels of motivation.
But there is also much deeper value to be gleaned when you build – and sustain – high-performing teams. The same Gallup research found that the teams that sat in the top 20 per cent for connectedness experienced a significant reduction in absenteeism and staff turnover, alongside a big boost to employee wellbeing. Moreover, 37 per cent of staff say that being able to work with a great team is their primary reason for staying in a role, even if other elements of the workplace aren’t ideal.
Tips for sustaining your high-performing team
Every project is fleeting – whether it lasts for two weeks or two years. That might concern some organisations around how they can develop high-performing teams. But this provides project leaders with a unique opportunity to reflect and ‘reset’ with each new initiative. In other words, they can do more of what worked and less of what didn’t to better match people to roles or improve team dynamics.
Sustaining high-performing teams is arguably the hardest part – whether it’s competitors trying to poach your top talent, your best team members being promoted or switching roles, or simply one person not performing at their best, and therefore slowing the others down.
Ensuring your high achievers continue to perform well over the long term, requires continual oversight from leadership. Here are some tips to sustain optimal performance:
- Invest in your team’s continual growth (e.g. offering upskilling opportunities)
- Empower your team to fail fast but learn faster (this helps to create ‘a positive risk culture’)
- Ensure accountability is a top priority, where everyone can take learnings from mistakes
- Be authentic from the top-down – this will help generate a more honest, transparent team culture
- Encourage role diversity to drive an innovation mindset across your team
- Model and promote the giving and receiving of recognition and feedback.
Building and retaining a high-performing team that generates consistently successful outcomes isn’t impossible. On the contrary, with a robust strategy in place you can create the right environment and collective mindset to inspire everyone to perform to their potential. In this way you will curate a team that not only delivers quality outcomes but feels rewarded for their efforts and eager to take on the next challenge.
To find out more about empowering your team to perform at their best via training or a bespoke capability uplift program, contact our team of professional development consultants, or call 1300 70 13 14 today.