Whether you are forming a new team for a specific project or leading an existing team, there are some very practical things you can do as a leader to develop a high-performing team. Here are four simple strategies to consider.
1. Toot your own horns
In the early stages, create a forum for team members to share their strengths and past experiences. This can be as simple as taking some time in a team meeting. Although some may be reluctant to toot their own horns, ask each person to share what she wants others to know or understand about her background and skills, and how that information can be useful to the team. This will help team members reach back into their past experiences, be more intentional about applying those experiences, and understand the variety and richness of the team’s collective capabilities.
2. Use the team experience to enable individual goals
Take time with each individual to understand what he wants to get from his participation on the team in the context of his professional goals. This will create more ownership and accountability — for you and for your team members — as they identify what they want to get out of the team experience, and as you proactively use this information to give them exposure to the areas of expressed interest.
3. Prevent silos
Help people see beyond their areas of responsibility and notice relationships across the team. Try this simple exercise called “Visiting New Lands” to have your team walk in each other’s shoes. This can apply to a department with different functional areas or an entire team with different areas of responsibility. Start by taping off and labeling a section of the floor for each functional area. Then pick a functional area to start with and have everyone physically stand in it together. Then ask all members of the team except for the people who work in that function to collectively answer the two questions below as if they worked there (e.g., if standing in the Finance section, everyone but the Finance team members would answer these questions as if they worked in Finance):
1. What are your top three challenges?
2. What are your top three priorities?
After everyone has answered the questions for that particular area, the team members who do work in that functional area can share their actual challenges and priorities. Then move to the next area and repeat the exercise until you have discussed each area. This exercise can provide invaluable insight into each functional area, highlight common themes across the entire team, create empathy within the team, and ignite the team’s commitment to helping one another.
4. Drive alignment through team goals
Last but not least, don’t underestimate the importance of having a common definition of success for your team as a whole — i.e., team goals and guidelines. This will allow you to drive alignment within the team and depersonalize differences of opinion by allowing the deciding factor to be whether something enables or detracts from the team’s goals.
As you know, there are many strategies to develop a high-performing team — and many of these may be reminders of what you already know. I want to challenge you to put one of these into play over the next month, if you haven’t already.
© 2012 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.