Towards building team performance
The performance of a team and its achievement inside an organization represent one of the aspects that help an organization to record good results and perform better. In order to attain performance according to the goals that are set, teams should be built around people who are willing to work together, so that, at the end of the day, the desired outcomes are met.
This is a common effort and requires a dynamo that could steer team members towards a specific goal and commit them to it. Therefore, it is the role of team leaders to define the team and its focus, shape it accordingly, and bring people together so as to adhere to a common goal.
The main driver of performance is considered to be communication, the way in which leaders approach their team members. In making reference to the aspects required when setting up a high-performance team, Phil Harkins invokes, in his work entitled 10 leadership techniques for building high-performing teams, the so-called “powerful conversations”. According to Harkins, they “make blueprints come alive and create positive attitudes and energy on the part of team members.”
To reap the benefits of such conversations, leaders must shape a clear vision and discuss with members of the team in order to find out their thoughts, their feelings, and get feedback. In addition to this, they must make sure that all those members concerned not only know the course of actions to be carried out, but also understand them. Moreover, some of the underlying behaviors needed for carrying out a good communication with the members of a team, so as to guide them towards achieving performance, are the following:
- being genuine;
- asking relevant and good questions;
- facing the things that need to be addressed, regardless of how difficult they are;
- being on the same communication level with the members of the team and listening to them.
All these elements help in consolidating the team, fostering confidence, and stimulating team members in putting forward ideas and solutions.
The importance of communication in building up outstanding teams is also tackled by a study from MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory that collected data regarding the communication behavior of team members across several different industries. Looking at the dynamics that characterize high performing teams, researchers carrying out this study found „patterns of communication to be the most important predictor of a team’s success.”
From this communicational perspective, the features that defined performing teams in the study are listed below:
- Team members talk and listen in almost the same measure, which enforces the idea put forward previously;
- Team members talk mainly face to face; and this is applied not only in the communication with their team leader, but also to the communication with other team members;
- Team members use back-channel or side conversations to enforce the communication process;
- Team members are open to what is happening outside their team, they explore the environment external to the team and come back bringing valuable information.
Moreover, as far as communication and the role of the leader is concerned, a recent study conducted at the University of Iowa, entitled Achieving More with Less: Extra Milers’ Behavioral Influences in Teams, states that “a single extra miler in a vital position plays a more important role in driving team processes and outcomes than do all the other members.” ‘Extra miler’ is understood as that member of a team who is doing more, goes beyond the job description in their work. Therefore, an extra miler occupying a central position can influence team effectiveness and its results.
This study shows the extent the power of motivation driven by the willingness of the extra miler to go beyond their job description has over the performance of the team. Having a central position and being in direct contact with as many team members as possible, it is only natural that such a person triggers and even boosts the dynamics and performance of the team.
Indeed, communication through both words, and actions, seems to have a significant role in building and consolidating successful teams. Through this must-have competence, leaders can motivate team members, engage them, and trigger a feeling of trust in sharing views. To this end, teamwork is essential because it brings people together in order to focus on and undertake the required efforts for attaining a common purpose.
All in all, a real performing team is one steered by its leader towards a shared goal that was clearly defined beforehand and put forward for discussion and feedback, and also for ensuring that the team has understood it and will deliver the desired results accordingly.
- Harkins, 10 Leadership Techniques for Building High-Performing Teams
- Ning, L., Zhao, H., H., Walter, S., L., Zhang, X., Yu, J. (2015), Achieving more with less: Extra milers’ behavioral influences in teams, Journal of Applied Psychology
- Pentland, A. (2012), The New Science of Building Great Teams, Harvard Business Review