Have you stopped to think about what happens when, in Formula 1, a racecar goes into the pit-stop? Consider the preparation required to make everything happen as quickly and efficiently as possible, to keep the driver competitive. Tire replacement, refueling, needed repairs, engine tuning, etc.: there’s a lot to do in a matter of seconds. Those teams don’t just need to be made up by the most skilled professionals; they need to be perfectly trained and synchronized to complete their task as planned. They are, without a doubt, some of the best examples of high-performance teams, a subject which we will discuss now.
In this post, the subject matter will hardly be exhausted. We have already covered high performance less directly in this text about project management.
However, putting together a high-performance team remains one of the most significant challenges for any manager. Collaborators who are full of energy, ambitious and capable are always a differential; but they often have different profiles, and bringing these individuals together to focus on the same goals – as well as managing them – is undoubtedly a critical factor in the success of any organization.
Team building by project: the new trend
Signs point to the likelihood that companies’ ability to assemble high-performance teams will be tested with increasing frequency. At least that’s what studies like this one, from Deloitte, reveal. Entitled “2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends,” it presents a new format for strategic business management: project-based teams.
In this model, people are allocated to specific deliverables, not grouped by areas, as is traditionally the case. Respondents believe that this is a more functional way of distributing an organization’s resources.
The challenge to bring together a high-performance team
The sooner you can prepare yourself to form a more competitive team, the better. And, according to this article from another consulting firm, McKinsey, the team’s composition should be the starting point.
For Scott Keller and Mary Meaner, the consultants who authored the text, teams need to be lean, but not overly so. For example, a team of fewer than six people – even if they are top professionals – will most likely make weaker decisions due to a lack of cultural diversity.
Finding the ideal team size
On the other hand, research suggests that groups composed of more than ten people experience a reduction in their decision-making power. Subgroups begin to form, which inevitably lead to divisions among the members. The chances are that subgroups will take to hidden maneuvering to gain control – there’s no way around it, it’s just human nature.
Therefore, the report’s authors agree that the ideal size for teams involved in projects is between six and ten employees.
Of course, one also must take the magnitude of the company involved into consideration. Large corporations can hardly limit their high-performance teams to a maximum of ten people due to the level of complexity that they need to manage and the sheer amount of work that needs to get done.
When teams require subdivision
To address this challenge, Keller and Meaney cite the example of the CEO of a global insurance company. At one point, the executive met with 18 employees who reported directly to him. In videoconferences with those employees, he was unable to discuss any single subject for more than 30 minutes because of the number of issues that required discussion.
So, the CEO formed three high-level teams: the first focused on the company’s long-term strategy and performance; another concentrated on short-term performance and operational issues; and a third dedicated itself to governance issues, guidelines, and people. Some executives, including the CEO, participated in all three teams. Others, just one.
Some team members, who were from lower levels of management, did not report directly to the executive. However, the CEO realized the importance of having the right kind of expertise in the boardroom, introducing new people who had new ideas and preparing the next generation of leaders.
Pay attention to complementary skills
In addition to size, Keller and Meaner claim that as a leader, you should consider what additional skills and attitudes each team member can bring to the table. Are they capable of recognizing opportunities for improvement? Do they feel responsible for the company’s success, not just focusing on their immediate areas? Do they have the will to persevere if things get complicated?
When you ask yourself these questions, you’ll probably understand the extent to which you are counting on people who are much more focused on themselves, rather than concentrating on the company as a whole. You may have even adopted this stance to avoid conflict; but in the end, it will be harmful to your company’s core goals.
Caring for the dynamics of the team
After the team’s composition, another major challenge will come to the fore: understanding the team’s dynamics. This is because it only manifests itself when the team starts working together. Only then do the group’s specific characteristics emerge, shaping the dynamics that will lead to significant successes, or to mediocrity.
To avoid the latter, Scott Keller and Mary Meaner evoke the example of the 1992 U.S. Olympics basketball team in Barcelona. The team had some of the best players in history: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and others. But merely bringing a team together with all those stars did not guarantee success: in a training game, the dream team lost to a group of college-level players by eight points.
“We didn’t know how to play with each other,” Scottie Pippen revealed after the loss. The dynamics that emerged needed to be managed and each player had to be fully aware of his role. So, they made some adjustments, and the team went down in history. The team didn’t just take the gold, it dominated the competition, scoring more than a hundred points per game.
Taking care of team dynamics within the office
To conclude, the authors list some practices that help them improve the dynamics of their teams to get better performance. They are:
Distribute a “yellow card” to every participant, instructing them, whenever they witness any counterproductive behavior and need to give constructive feedback, to show the card to their colleague. An example of this would be if someone were seen to be putting their own demands above those of the company, or if a dialogue was proving to be impossible. Some contributors may find the method to be somewhat foolish, but they’ll soon perceive that it helps to point out harmful behavior;
Use an electronic voting system during meetings and debates to stimulate instant and general participation and to limit the formation of subgroups. The technique also helps to maintain everyone’s focus on the matter at hand;
Create a rule that sets a limit of three PowerPoint slides to maximize discussion time. By the way, be sure to read this article from our blog, where you’ll find tips for more productive meetings.
Use cutting-edge technology to take the most advantage of your high-performance team
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