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Build a High Performing Team With These Five Ingredients

Have you ever looked around the proverbial room and wondered why some teams seem to be performing better than others when members seem to be just as smart, capable, and ready and willing to work? Do you ever feel crazy for questioning this? Well, the good news is you aren’t crazy.  Researchers at DDI and at Google’s ReWork asked themselves this very question - what makes some teams perform better than others?  They both came up with similar findings - for a team to achieve peak performance its members must involve, support, and trust one another. And they must share information and commit to a process that will lead to success.

Here are the five components of a high performing team:

  1. Process - Teams who deeply value process tend to not only have clear roles and responsibilities but also efficient methods for reviewing the effectiveness of work and team processes. They embrace ground rules for sharing information and knowledge and tend to have agreed-upon, documented actions / deadlines and an effective process for making team decisions. 

  2. Results - Teams who focus on results tend to have a clear, important, and accepted purpose. Members not only understand, but accept short- and long-term goals by having regular reviews of and transparent discussions about team results. Teams who deeply value results also have a wide understanding of how their results support the organization and celebrate successes.

  3. Trust - Trusting teams view mistakes as learning opportunities, are willing to ask for help and leverage differences in style, opinion, and strengths rather than discourage contrary points of view. 

  4. Communication - You know a team communicates well when there is equal opportunity to participate and offer opinions; when there are well-established ground rules for resolving conflict; and when there is an openness to new ideas and opinions.

  5. Commitment - When a team’s commitment is high, members understand performance objectives and have established clear ground rules for working together. These teams tend to have frequent, open discussion of positive and developmental feedback.

Individually these factors are important, but together they offer us a blueprint for how to operate as a high performing team.

But, if you’re like me, you might be wondering “what team actually does all five of these things well? Maybe a professional sports team, but in the office? I don’t know…”  Let’s take a real life example: Apollo 11. Many know the faces of this successful team - Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Micheal Collins. What many of us neglect to recall is the sheer number of people behind the scenes that made this momentous day a success. 

It’s estimated that in just two years time nearly 400,000 - you read that right - nearly 400,000 team members: astronauts, mission controllers, contractors, caterers, engineers, scientists, nurses, doctors, mathematicians and programmers all showed up to make this dream a reality. If this monster of a team didn’t have clear processes in place, focus on their results, trust in themselves and each other, communicate effectively, and commit to this work, we never would have made it to the moon in such a short period of time!  A few years back, for the 50th anniversary, Forbes wrote an article describing the teamwork necessary. In that article, I found it interesting to learn that the three astronauts were not close friends and in fact had very different personalities. Neil Armstrong was described as emotionally remote while Buzz Aldrin was characterized as being acerbic and abrasive, and Michael Collins was viewed as “happy go lucky.” But they made it work; they interacted successfully under the most extreme of circumstances, and they even went so far as to regularly go to NASA facilities when they didn’t need to, to speak with the team that was going to get them to the moon. This teaming framework proves team members don’t need to be BFFs with their colleagues in order to be effective, they don't even need a kumbaya moment. They do, however, need to be accepting and respectful of who their colleagues are, and the contributions they offer.

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