When it comes to the workplace there are only two types of environments: the places employees want to work and the places employees don’t want to work. The severity and extremes of these two environments may differ, but it’s only these two types of workplaces that exist. Factors such as earning potential and ability to grow will play a key role in determining employee satisfaction, but I’ve found that the team dynamics play an equally and many times greater role in employee satisfaction. The truth is, if an organization has a proper culture and team in place then there will be an ability to grow for employees that are part of the team.

The following are five keys I look for when working with businesses to help create a high performance team. These ideas are not necessarily new; they represent the core values and success principles used by the greatest teams in history. What is novel is using a framework from sport and performance psychology to help corporations excel and reach their full potential.

Know Your Mission

Whether you’re striving to become a fortune one hundred company, optimize your small business, or something in between – success and team work starts with knowing your company’s mission. Notice it’s not a common goal, it’s something much more – it’s a mission. It’s a cause that brings together talented, like-minded people, and helps them accomplish things that a far beyond anything a single person could accomplish.

The greatest sport teams in history have all succeeded from having a mission that bonds the team together. Obviously, the end result is to win, but great teams have different formulas for how to win. The LA Lakers of the 1980’s and the Chicago Bulls of the 1990’s played very different styles of basketball, but each understood their underlying mission and game plan for how to get there. The same holds true for the top organizations. Amazon and Google have very different ways of managing their employees and implementing processes, but each are very successful, because they know: who they are, where they want to go, and how they want to get there.

A solid mission statement creates a common purpose that makes teams come together and drives them to work toward excellence on a daily basis. Knowing your mission is your map to hiring, policies, procedures, marketing, advertising, and everything else. It is essentially your GPS to getting your company to where you want it to go. Without knowing what you truly stand for or being conflicted about it will waste tons of time and money. If you want to be a high performance team and to maximize your output you need a clear, concise mission that excites and guides everyone from the top on down.

Lead from the Top

Having a great mission statement and knowing it is not enough, it’s just the start. I have unfortunately seen many organizations who have wonderful missions on paper, but when it comes to implementing them, they fall drastically short. Nothing will derail a team or organization quicker than seeing a manager or leader that doesn’t follow their own mission. The stories of sport teams folding from a lack of congruence at the top are countless. You need an organization that is ready to not only profess their values, but also live by them during the good times and the challenging times. Because no matter how well you plan and prepare there will be challenging times, it happens to all great sport teams and all great companies. There will be upsets and you’ll “lose games.” You need to have the right values in place so you know how to react when these challenges arise. Great teams can handle great setbacks when they have a great mission and great people at the top.

Hire the Right People

Once you have your mission and leadership in place you need a team that will follow the leadership and mission. While it is possible to properly train and build talent within an organization it is extremely time consuming, costly, and unreliable. You don’t necessarily need to go out and hire a bunch of industry leaders, but you need to hire people who are a good fit for your organization and have the potential talents and skills to succeed on your team. All great sport teams have a combination of All Stars and supporting players who know their roles and execute them. The Kansas City Royals won the World Series this year, because they had the right players in place and worked together as a team. World class sports teams know the importance of having the right people in place. This is why teams spend so much time scouting and evaluating players before they ever invite them to Spring Training. And, even once the scouting is over they continue to assess the players while determining their roster.

Selection is a critical component to success for every organization. You not only want talented individuals, but also people who match the makeup of your culture. This is once again why you need to start with a mission about what your organization stands for and wants to accomplish – so you know the type of people you want to attract into your organization.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Having a proper mission statement and the right people from the top down is half the battle to creating a high performance team. Now your team needs to become masters at effectively communicating with one another. In most organizations, the team leaders should spend quality time meeting with individuals and groups to create goals, benchmarks, and action plans that are aligned with the organization’s mission. Some organizations however prefer a more interdependent approach over the traditional management style in order to enhance creativity. This often occurs with technological companies. In this case the role of management moves from director to collaborator, but the same key factor of communication still needs to be accomplished.

When it comes to communication, there is also a component that is not directly work related. As much as a workplace should be focused on accomplishing the working agenda, you can’t take the personal component completely out of a team. Employees need to respect individual differences and manage the day-to-day challenges that occur when interacting with one another with effective communication skills.

Train and Evolve

No world class sports team would bring a high level superstar on board and not develop them; neither should you or your organization. The truth is, the higher the level of talent the greater the investment teams typically make in player development. Hiring the right people is just the start, you still need to foster and develop your employees no matter how talented they are; otherwise they will plateau like an athlete who doesn’t continually modify their training regimen.

Training and investing in your employees also sends the message that your organization is about growing and evolving. In the world of business, as everything is changing you need to be changing with the times. Training your employees with the right tools and fundamentals is a key strategy to staying on top and building your high performance team.

Featured photo credit: Businessmen Discussing by Sebastiaan ter Burg via flickr.com

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