Building a high performance team involves more than just assembling a group of talented individuals. For a team to be effective, its members must unite behind an inspiring vision and be motivated to bring that vision to life. They must share clear, measurable goals, and be committed to playing their part in the overall success of the group.
Here are some key steps to building a strong, cohesive and effective team:
Assemble the team
High-performance teams are comprised of individuals that passionately embrace the vision, believe their contribution is meaningful and are motivated to give their best effort. They also share the values of trust, respect and support. Select members with complementary skills and abilities, who can offer the team a diverse range of viewpoints and ideas. Too much similarity in background leads to very similar thinking and unconscious and even conscious bias will not be far away. Try and achieve a good balance of personality types, so the group can work together harmoniously but also challenge each other when necessary.
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Define the purpose
Clearly define the purpose of the team, including the overall outcome it has been brought together to achieve. What do you want to create, improve or change? What is the purpose of each person’s role in the team? Providing a clear, inspiring vision sets the foundation for successful teamwork, and helps guide the direction of the group when they face challenges and decisions.
Determine the goals
Once the team is established and united behind a shared, compelling purpose, the next step is to break the vision down into smaller, manageable goals and tasks. Outline the required tasks on a schedule, with agreed deadlines, milestones and responsibilities. Decide the role that each team member will play. Be sure to also consider any resources required in terms of time, materials, space, support and money.
To ensure that each member understands what is expected of them, define a standard of conduct for the team, ideally in line with a wider culture you are trying to foster. Will communication be frequent, open, honest and transparent? Will contributions be encouraged, valued and recognised? Will conflict be handled in a constructive way? Will team decisions and feedback be respected? Setting clear standards at the start will ensure that each member’s operational and personal contributions are appropriate.
Monitor and review
Regularly review the group’s performance and impact factors. This might be through obvious metrics, financial measures and communicated back through team meetings and one-on-one catch ups. But if you are have set a goal, it is hard to over-communicate progress. Reflect on questions such as: how are we doing? What have we achieved so far? Has anything changed internally or externally? What have we learned? What isn’t working well? How can we improve? Monitoring and reviewing progress allows for adjustments and improvements to be incorporated into team processes along the way.
Celebrate and reward
Make the time to regularly recognise, reward and celebrate both team and individual performance. This will help to build morale and bolster the motivation of the group to continue their hard work. Find the most appropriate way to celebrate team milestones, such as a personal ‘thank you’ at a team meeting, an email copied to senior managers or a team lunch. Ensure that recognition is consistent and that the method you choose inspires and reinforces the team members to continue their positive contribution to the team’s progress. Some teams may choose a bigger celebration at the end of a project or on delivery of a certain budget or target and used well, revisiting this celebration or reward can be an inspiration and key motivator throughout the overall process.
Encourage open communication
It’s equally important that team members feel they can talk to you and to each other with support and candour. Communication is a crucial element to an effective team, so you should lead by example. Make sure your team knows the importance of this by ensuring easy access to open communication lines with you.
Encourage your team to talk to each other about all aspects of their projects so everyone feels their voice is being heard. Avoid risking great ideas falling to the wayside by establishing an easy and consistent way for the team to communicate – an email thread, an online shared document, or even just regular face-to-face meetings.
For more guidance, check out our management advice blog.
Effective teams require planning, effort, and creativity. Create a team well positioned to succeed by:
- Communicating a purpose and setting each team member’s role
- Defining smaller, timely goals and the expectations for conduct
- As the team develops, monitoring the performance and making adjustments if required
- Recognising the team's achievements along the way
- Rewarding each team member’s individual contribution