High performance teams are defined by their ability to get results – consistently and against the odds. Lots of ambitious organisations and business aspire to create high performance teams because of the competitive advantage they generate – which translates directly to the bottom line!
Here are 5 characteristics worth thinking about based on my personal experience especially in the SAS, one of the finest examples of a high performance team anywhere.
The right individuals. Talent and attitude together are vital. Individuals in a high performance team have made a commitment to be team players and to serve first the interests of the group and the task. Great team players are self-motivated, self disciplined, self-starting. They act like leaders. In short they take responsibility for themselves, their teammates and their goals.
Clarity of purpose. High performance teams have a very clear sense of direction. This applies to every specific task and to the wider objectives and strategy of the organisation. They understand both what they are doing and why. Beyond setting initial direction for objectives, resources and constraints high performance teams thrive on minimal direction where individual autonomy and initiative can thrive.
Decision-Making. High performance teams are good at making decisions, especially in complex environments where ambiguity and volatility are characteristic. They don’t rely on the judgement and experience of the leader but use the collective talents of everyone in the team. They use constructive conflict and honest disagreement to get past obvious solutions. The ability to generate honest feedback is critical to the ability of high performance teams to learn and get better. This ability is invaluable in complex fast moving environments where creativity, originality and daring are all more highly prized than experience.
Trust. Trust is the vital foundation of any high performance team. Every other characteristic and behaviour is dependant upon this. In a high performance team trust is not just about functional competence and reliability – both of which are requisite – it is also about personal vulnerability. This characteristic is crucial for building any strong personal relationship; it is the ability to embrace uncertainty and to open up your real self to the team. Honest feedback and effective decision-making are wholly dependant upon it.
Diversity. If originality is to be highly prized then diversity matters. A wide range of backgrounds, experience and perspectives sets up the potential for unpredictable insights and linkages. High performance teams actively seek out divergent views because of what they offer to the decision-making and feedback process.
When you combine these factors you will have something both rare and powerful. High performance teams are set up for success by encompassing the right individuals in a culture that encourages collaboration. This leads both to great decisions but also great execution because what high performance teams really do – is get stuff done!
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