Achieving a high performing team – one that just flows, where it achieves its objectives, makes daily decisions and works almost seamlessly together, is not a pipedream. It’s a challenge to achieve, but there are things that you can do to boost your team’s effectiveness pretty quickly.
Every step in improving your team’s performance, puts you a step closer towards the ultimate goal of being able to lead your own high performing team. In this guide, we’ll show you 6 hacks you can implement in 30 minutes a day to boost your team’s engagement and trust – both of which are prerequisites of high performing teams.
But first, for those that are unsure what it is….
A High Performing team is one where the team members are totally focused on the team goals and achieving these objectives. They work effectively and synergistically together and achieve superior levels of output than other teams. Employees within high performing teams make decisions, organise themselves and hold each other accountable within the group. In these situations, the leader acts as a servant – assisting the team when they need support.
In order to make that vital step towards a high performing team status, you’ll need to develop trust in you and amongst your team members.
Trust in You
Trust comes from a number of guises.
- Do you mean what you say?
- Do you really care about the team or are your words empty?
- Can they rely on you to help them when and where they need it?
- Are you fair and honest?
Naturally, if your team doesn’t trust you, then they won’t open up. And if they don’t lower their guard, then they will never totally be engaged.
The first point of call is to ensure that you lead with integrity. This means that you need to show values that build respect and relationships, every day. Naturally, you should focus on the following areas.
- Be genuine in your feedback – don’t thank someone with gritted teeth and not mean it. Instead, when giving feedback, explain what they did and how they did that something which you liked, and how it made you feel. Then encourage them to do more of the same.
- Engage in regular communication – discuss the team’s issues and challenges regularly and help them overcome them. Manage by walking about every day, or indeed several times a day.
- Discuss each individual’s goals, so they can grow in their roles. Regularly conduct monthly 1-2-1 chats. This forms the basis of good personal communication with each team member.
- If you agree to take an action – make it happen. Never leave them waiting and never promise something you won’t deliver. Get this wrong, and you’ll have an ever increasing list of cynics.
- Your role is to serve your team, so put aside your own agenda. Just serve them and spend time growing each team member; being at the team’s beck and call
Trust Amongst The Team
The second point of trust is the trust amongst the team. This is built around the concept called psychological safety. It addresses the ability of each team member to have the courage and belief that when they stand up in the group and make a comment or decision, they will not be vilified and the finger won’t be pointed at them.
There are 7 key elements to get right when improving psychological safety:
- People are able to bring up problems and tough issues
- The team feels safe to take risks
- It’s easy to ask team members for help
- People don’t act in a way that undermines other’s efforts
- Unique skills and talents are valued and used in the team
- Making a mistake is seen as something to learn from and not a time to blame and punish people
- Noone gets rejected for being different
There is a lot of psychological research surrounding this concept. But to cut to the chase, when we are criticised, reprimanded and our ideas are rejected, we react in a way as if our life was threatened. We then recoil and become defensive. At this point, engagement and creativity is lost.
So, for both trust in the leader and trust in the team, if any of the two are out of whack, then this will put the brakes on any hope you may have of developing a high performing team.
Here are some hacks you can use to overcome this potential inertia. They are built around a good start of the day gathering, often called a stand up meeting, whereby the team discuss important issues and get themselves organised. By allowing the team to come together to discuss things every day, helps improve team trust and engagement.
Here’s how to get started.
High Performing Teams – Hack 1: Implement an ‘Innocent Unless Proven Guilty Approach’
They say that respect and trust must be earned. This takes time, though.
Instead, go seek trust immediately.
Start by stepping back and giving your team autonomy. It’s been proven in studies that the simple act of letting employees define their work day and environment, helps quickly build engagement. We’ve written a guide on this study, if you’re interested to know more.
Don’t micromanage. Give the team the ability to:
- Shape their own day and define the priorities
- Agree how they will tackle these tasks together
- Define what gets done and when
- Give them the empowerment to make it happen
Sure, there are risks associated with this philosophy. Someone may betray your trust. Deal with that person if it happens.
You can then change your approach with them to “guilty until proven innocent”. In this case, this person will then have to earn your trust over time.
These situations are pretty rare, so, by telling your team what your intentions are, and then letting them make the daily decisions, the benefits of improved performance, autonomy and engagement, far outweigh the minor mishaps when they come.
High Performing Teams – Hack 2: Create a Stand up Meeting Board and Allow Your Team to Take Charge
Encourage your team to decide what they have to do today and agree how to achieve it. Don’t step in and dictate. Just ask and challenge, so they have their bases covered. The more you do this, the more they’ll get accustomed to it and do it themselves.
Just ask the following questions:
- What is the priority today? What key tasks need to get completed?
- How will you achieve this and who’s doing it?
- Where do you need my support?
Give them the decision making, and tell them that your primary goal is to serve their needs.
Create a stand up meeting, and on a daily basis, get the team to:
- Define their own priorities
- Agree who will do what, how and when they work together
- Identify what potential challenges the team may face today – get them to take note of these on the board
- Agree which actions you’ll take to support them
Use a stand up board, An example is the following:
- Key metrics (KPIs) – the metrics that the team agree that the will measure to show what success looks like
- Causes – These are reasons for any gaps to plan on your KPIs
- Team tasks – These allow the team to agree what tasks need to be completed and who’s doing them
- Ideas / Actions – These are all ideas to improve in the workplace, no matter how small. Some of these will come from ideas to overcome the causes that are being tracked, and others are general ideas.
- Star of the Week – The team members that have completed the most ideas for the week are celebrated in the Star of the week section. This helps reinforce positive improvement ideas and actions being completed regularly.
Here’s an example of a team board, to help:
Here’s a great video showing the power of walking the board:
By stepping back and avoiding micromanaging the team, you’ll quickly assert that you trust them and that your intentions are genuine. Also, by making it visual, everyone has the confidence to move forward.
High Performing Teams – Hack 3: Encourage Risk Taking – Promote Actions and Learning at the Daily Stand up Meeting
In order to implement a more safe environment and to improve ‘psychological safety’, encourage mistakes and learning.
Push the mantra that mistakes are a part of life – trying new things is the norm and what you expect from them.
Try a New Idea Every Day
- Ask what 1 small improvement idea could they implement that may help their process, work environment or team, or that will improve on the metrics?
- These are your yellow post-it notes. One idea per post it.
- Add the post-its to the idea column and allow the team to agree who will implement the action
- Move the post it to in progress column and get the team to move it to the check column when implemented. The check column allows you to show that the action has been implemented and that you’re checking to see if it’s worked.
- Encourage people to talk about any lessons learned from these actions – actively seek discussions about things that were tried and failed. What did they learn and what improvements can they make to build on their learning? Adjust the actions and update the post-its if you need to. Otherwise, move the post-it to complete when done.
By capturing these on the board, others can learn from ideas and actions and implement ideas that may not work straight away. You’re showing that it’s ok to fail and discuss what worked and what didn’t. The important thing is to try something new that will overcome the problem you face.
High Performing Teams – Hack 4: Celebrate Your Wins
It’s easy to celebrate big wins, but what about the smaller ones?
Celebrating good work each day is vital to team success. Ask each team member to share any wins from the day before.
They could be anything, like:
- Overcoming a productivity blocker
- A personal win
- A team success
- Even a work anniversary from a team member
The more you share and celebrate, the more you encourage open communication and a light hearted atmosphere to the group.
You could also celebrate the star of the week, as we explained. This is the person(s) with the most completed ideas from last week.
Simply add up all the completed post-its at the end of the week and celebrate the person or people with the most completed ones (and add them to the Star of the Week section).
High Performing Teams – Hack 5: Work In Teams
Try to get teams to pair up for a proportion of the day. Is there anything that can be worked on together? What about their jobs – can people get through it faster if they work together?
What about an improvement idea? Can the small teams test and implement an idea together?
The more you pair and get people to work together, the more you seek learning through collaboration.
You also encourage open communication and active team work. Working in teams is normally so much better for productivity than single employees trudging through activities on their own.
High Performing Teams – Hack 6: 10 Minute Team Building
Research suggests that the best teams communicate excellently. In fact, they have predictable patterns. In addition with daily dialogue, building rapport through small 10 minute sessions once a day, is a sure fire way of building relationships.
Add a small team building session to the tail end of your stand up, either on a daily basis or once a week. Schedule it in, so you don’t forget, and watch the team grow as a result of your efforts.
Your High Performing Team Journey in Less Than 20 Minutes Per Day
This might all sound too much, but really, it can be done in around 20 minutes per day – and that would include a quick 10 minute team building game as well.
The trick is to encourage the team to come together every day to discuss:
- What’s working and what’s not, according to the team metrics
- What activities are being worked on and which are delayed
- What improvement ideas are being worked on
- Any opportunities for teamwork
- Agree actions to overcome issues
- Celebrate lessons learned and successes