A high performing team is not just a group of people who have learned to cooperate with one another. True teams share a common, compelling mission and capitalize on the uniqueness that each team member brings to the table. High performing teams create a culture that values people and clearly defines the character and behavior the team strives to achieve. These organizational philosophies vary from place to place and working toward a common purpose is critical to the team’s success.
Ask any manager what they look for most when hiring a candidate, and they will likely tell you it is the ability to be an effective team player. High performing teams hold themselves accountable at both the individual and team level. Team members count on each other to complete assigned tasks with a standard of quality within an agreed upon time frame.
Individual team members are the key to overall team success. In order to become a high performing team, each team player must participate fully by committing to the following guiding principles:
1. Define clarity of purpose and set expectations
When all members of the team have one common goal, it is much easier to assign tasks and establish timeframes and deadlines. Clear and direct expectations sharpen the focus and lessen the chance for division among the team.
- Commit to cooperation and thoughtful consideration of other members
Strong and successful teams are not only cooperative, but considerate. It is perfectly fine for a team member to make an alternate suggestion provided it is presented in a way that is constructive and positive. The focus should always be on the project, not the person, so any and all new ideas should be encouraged for the betterment of the project. If those ideas are not implemented, team members know not to take it personally.
- Embrace the collective
Highly effective teams understand that every member brings specific technical and interpersonal skills to a task or project. What may be the best role for a person on one project, may not be the most optimum role in another. Accept feedback from all members of the team but understand the specialized talents certain members of the team possess and get the most out of those talents.
- Build camaraderie
The best way to tighten the bonds of the team is to lift its members. If there is a common respect among all team members, these differences can be used as advantages. Acknowledge acts of kindness, jobs well done and great ideas.
- Navigate the team’s values with integrity
Strong values ensure a positive, productive and ethical working environment. Values are the emotional rules that guide behavior, attitudes and actions. Although values are generally slow to change and strongly held, they actually define the character and culture the organization strives to possess.
Each team member should clearly understand their level of empowerment, decision-making authority and team norms. For example, your personal standard might be to respond to an email within 24 hours. But, if the team’s collective behavior places a high-premium on work-life balance, you may want to send that email on Monday morning rather than disrupting team members by sending it on a Friday night.
- Celebrate success and commemorate the journey
When a great project has been successfully completed, it is important for all members to celebrate. A casual get together can strengthen the bonds of the team members and gives them even more motivation to successfully complete their next task!
High performing teams hold themselves accountable at both the individual and team level. Team members count on each other and bring a strong sense of purpose and an internal compass that gives the team what is needed for success.
One of the most important (and sometimes the most challenging) contributions you can make to the team is your ability to find balance between your technical expertise, your interpersonal skills and your ability to understand team norms and guiding principles.
How do you accomplish these things? Become known as that expert on your team that adds value to the team’s mission and purpose. Build high quality, positive relationships with people at all levels within the team and learn how to quickly put people at ease. And lastly, understand what you value, what the organization values and navigate those values with integrity!