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Big on team performance?

Written by: Simon Bascombe
Published on: 26 Nov 2014

Sometimes it seems as if every great team has been built by amazing leaders, but often the most effective leaders are those that invest time and energy to see their teams develop and excel. As we race towards 2015, what plans do you have in place to craft a potent team?

If you are not sure where to start then take a closer look at these three priority areas; define and shape team identity; understand when to lead and when to manage; and finally safeguard a work environment that encourages and inspires. Get these three right and you will be well on your way to establishing a successful team.

Team identity is important. It influences not only how people view your team but also how people approach your team along with access to projects, additional resources, and funding. High performing team are those that have a clear purpose and identity - so what do other people in your organisation say about your team, and is it what you want them to say?

Several elements shape and define team identity, for example, having a team goal. The team goal should focus on something you are all working towards and that will generate results, plus be combined with individual jobs. This may sound like an obvious statement but a team goal is frequently overlooked in the drive to satisfy organisational demands. Plus, it’s often assumed that all team members know what the goal is and understand it.

Take steps to boost team identity by actively engaging in team learning, plus encouraging open, honest and respectful dialogue. Valuing diversity will also shape and identify a team. It’s important to recognise that not everyone is the same and to acknowledge the commitment from each team member to bring something useful to the team.

Understand when to lead and when to manage. Leaders are frequently faced with the challenge of removing themselves from day-to-day management of a team in order to focus on strategy. On the other hand there will be days where leaders must roll-up their shirtsleeves and dig in with the rest of the team. It’s a fine balancing act for most people and managers of high performing teams never stop leading as they regularly remind people of the vision and goals, communicating what is happening in the wider organisation and creating a motivational environment. These leadership elements should not be neglected when the pressure is on.

At the same time regular management duties, such as, planning, delegating, briefing, monitoring and supporting must also run alongside leadership responsibilities. Many people find they have a preference for one above the other and this is where skilfull leaders stand out by being able and willing to do both. Motivation is not a verb, yet many managers love to ‘motivate their teams’. This isn’t something that can be done to someone else. As a leader what you can do is create a backdrop where people can motivate themselves by providing what employees need to keep coming back every day, working willingly and effectively. Individual motivators vary.

However, all teams need to feel they can work without checking back with you on every point so develop them to a stage where the team has autonomy. Remember that teams also want to move and grow – to feel they are mastering new skills and abilities. It’s therefore important to create opportunities for your team to stretch and develop.

Teams need to see a point to what they do, to feel they are doing something valuable with their day, so ensure everything you do together has a purpose, and is directed towards results and success for your organisation.