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Published on June 11, 2019

The Secrets of High Performing Teams: 9 Tips from Top Business Leaders

The Secrets of High Performing Teams: 9 Tips from Top Business Leaders

It’s basic human nature to form teams. After all, it didn’t take long for cavemen to realize the benefits of teamwork. It became fairly evident that a lone human out on the prairie was likely to be killed and eaten by predators, but a group of humans could organize so that what was originally a predator could become the prey of humans.

This is the synergistic effect of teamwork.[1] What is impossible to accomplish alone becomes possible with coordinated efforts of a team.

In its simplest form, a team can be defined as “a group of people coming together, all working towards a common goal”. But that’s just the basics. Using that definition, ANY group of people can be considered a team. Smart business people know how to assemble high performing teams that can give them an edge on the competition.

A poorly managed or low performing team can create many more problems than they solve. On the other hand, when managed correctly, high performing teams are the best single assets any business can have:

  • Promoting a sense of commitment – High performing teams promote a deep sense of commitment and loyalty to both the team’s goals and the organization.
  • Better results – High performing teams will usually produce better results than a standard team no matter what metric is used to evaluate them. Quality of result, making deadlines, schedules, etc.
  • Having clearly defined roles – Individual team members will have a clear understanding of both the team’s goals and their individual roles within that framework.
  • Promoting healthy competition – Having each team member understand exactly how their contribution contributes to the success of the team fosters a sense of obligation to coworkers that can enhance performance.
  • Complementary skills – A high performing team will consist of diverse members with varying expertise. This allows for constructive brainstorming sessions that build off of one another’s contributions.
  • Building trust – Members of a high performing team develop an interdependence on the other team members in order to complete the project. This interdependence is what builds trust within the group.

As a manager, your success or failure can be determined by your ability to create and manage a high performing team. After all, in business, we are all judged by the results that we bring to the company.

If you can master the ability to form and maintain high performing teams, you become a very valuable asset to your company. Use these 9 tips from top business leaders to develop a high performing team:

1. Have a Clear and Concise Goals

This needs to start at the top. Upper management needs to set and clearly communicate the goals and values of the organization. This should be accomplished through the development of vision and mission statements so that the overarching goals of the organization are concrete and clear to everyone.

Using the mission statement as a framework, the department heads can then set clear goals for the teams within their divisions. In turn, managers, using the framework passed down from the department heads can set goals for their individual teams.

By using this approach, everyone is aware of their individual goals, their team goals and how those goals contribute to achieving the overall goals set forth in the mission statement.

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2. Make It Exclusive

Successful business leaders know that people will actually work harder and be happier if what they are working on is seen as exclusive or special. Everyone likes to be apart of an elite group.

A good manager can create an air of exclusivity by using rigorous hiring standards as well as high performance standards. That, coupled with a compensation package that is unique to the group, (this can be higher pay, performance bonuses, extra vacation, flex-time, telecommuting etc.).

All of these things combine to create an exclusive atmosphere that encourages people to strive to gain entrance and maintain their position within the team.

3. Evaluate Skill Sets

This is an ongoing process. You should have a good idea of what skills are needed before you even form a team. Only when you are clear on the skill sets needed for the project should you then begin to assemble your team.

Once you have recruited the members of the team, don’t forget to continually monitor and evaluate their performance to ensure the standards and goals are being met.

4. Pull, Don’t Push

As a team leader, you need to lead by example. Anyone can bark orders and make demands of employees, but if you are willing to lead the way, it shows an understanding of the demands of the project as well as legitimizing your role as leader.

This rule should also be followed when an individual team member isn’t living up to expectations. Your first order of business should be to determine why they aren’t performing up to the standard.

Is it an issue of not having the right resources to do the job? A communication problem within the group, or a personal issue that is causing a distraction?

Whatever the case, a good team leader will take the time to understand the problem and then help facilitate a solution. Help your team tease out solutions instead of just demanding results.

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5. Promote Collaborative Decision Making

Abiding by this one rule upfront can save you serious headaches down the road.

Start by having regular team meetings to discuss both the overall progress of the team as well as the progress of the individual team members. When done right, these meetings will highlight potential problem areas that are likely to arise. Remember, that every individual’s actions within the group can affect every other person’s performance so identifying potential conflicts early is the goal.

By utilizing a collaborative decision making process, individuals within the group are more likely to be satisfied and take ownership of the solution than if the decision is imposed on them. This also contributes to the overall cohesiveness of the team.

Now, with that being said, there will always be occasions that it’s just not possible or practicable to make a collaborative decision. In those cases, the team leader must make the decision and move on.

6. Promote an “Open” Atmosphere

Nothing inhibits a team progress more than a “closed” environment. Every organization needs rules and guidelines in order to function, but they shouldn’t be so onerous as to stifle creativity.

Members of your high performing team should feel safe in expressing themselves without criticism. This is especially true in meetings and brainstorming sessions. These are the times when wild ideas that are “outside the box” should be encouraged. This is how you can encourage innovation.

This article explains more about how an open atmosphere encourages creativity: If You Want an Invincible Team, Make Them Feel Safe

7. Recognize High Performers

In any team or group situation, productivity can be measured and a norm or average productivity level can be determined.

By definition, half of the team will under-perform the average and half the team will outperform the average. When the highest 10%,20% or 30% are being publicly recognized, it encourages the rest to to achieve more.

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It’s also a great way to boost the team’s morale. And it’s been shown that high employee moral is positively correlated with productivity.

Recognition is a great way to reinforce cohesiveness within the group.

8. Avoid the “Zero-Sum Game” Trap

A zero-sum game is one which, in order for someone to win, someone else has to lose. This is exactly the opposite of what you are looking for in a high performing team.

In a zero-sum game, individual successes are celebrated over the success of the group. This can quickly degenerate into group members hoarding resources, limiting communication and even sabotaging other team members.

Obviously, team cohesiveness falls apart at this point as does the chances of producing a good outcome for the group. Avoid this potentially disastrous dynamic by focusing on cooperation instead of competition, team successes instead of individual success and always encourage open communication.

9. Have Trusted Leadership

High performing teams must have trust in their leadership. This is a requirement, not an option if you are serious about creating a exceptional team. Without trust, a leader is hard pressed to inspire others to follow.

Building and maintaining a team’s trust means that individuals within the team will follow direction willingly, without coercion and are much more likely to produce a good result. They are also much more likely to stretch their boundaries and go above and beyond the call of duty to achieve better results.

When you are trying to build trust within a group, there are 3 important things to keep in mind:

First, people trust people that they like. Start by building a positive relationship with individuals on the team.

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Secondly, we trust people with knowledge or expertise. This is especially true if that knowledge is used to help us solve problems. So use your expertise to help those within your team.

Finally, be someone your team members can count on. Stay true to your word, when you say you are going to do something, do it. Don’t make promises you can’t keep and always be willing to go to bat for your team members.

Final Thoughts

As we have discussed above, there are many facets to developing and maintaining a high performing team. And while the benefits of having such a team are obvious, being able to maintain that performance level over that long haul is much more difficult.

As with any human endeavor, the changes that occur over time that will inevitably erode performance. Things like complacency, job dis-satisfaction, employee turnover and even changes in upper management can all affect group dynamics and team performance.

Being aware of these issues so that you can deal with them early on is key to maintaining your team’s performance. It’s always better to anticipate and prepare for problems rather than react to them after they have occurred.

There is a huge difference being involved with a high performance team versus an average or low performing team. Not only in the quality of work produced, but also in the job satisfaction of the team members.

Most of us have been involved in a dysfunctional team at least once in our careers, with a lot of us it’s been several times. The sabotage, back stabbing and toxicity involved in these groups just perpetuates the very problems they were meant to solve.

If you suspect a team has devolved to this point, the best thing to do is to dissolve it and start anew. Even with high performing teams, the ability to maintain the same level of quality will diminish over time.

Technology changes as does the competition, so don’t be afraid to readjust, reconfigure or even dissolve formally successful teams to deal with these changes.

And while business, technology and staff all change over time, human nature does not. As long as there are human endeavors requiring teamwork, these 9 secrets of high performing team will provide you the best chance at success.

More Articles About Team Management

Featured photo credit: You X Ventures via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

9 Effective Team Management Strategies Why Perspective Taking Is an Essential Skill for Success 7 Things That Decrease Team Motivation (And How to Tackle Them) 13 Ways Analytical Skills Help You Succeed At Work 11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

Physical Signs

Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

Mental Signs

One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

  • The tension in your neck
  • Difficulties with sleeping
  • Unable to concentrate
  • High anxiety
  • Depression

If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

Desire for an Increase of Salary

The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

Overnight Decision

Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

Rejected for a Promotion

I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

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Bored at Work

Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

  • How long have you worked in your career?
  • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
  • Do you receive recognition?
  • Can you consider working in a new department?

If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

  • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
  • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
  • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

How to Make a Career Change Successfully

The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

1. Write a Career Plan

A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

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You can learn how to set your career plan here.

2. Weigh Your Options

If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

  • Economic factors
  • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
  • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
  • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
  • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

    A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

    4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

    A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

    • What is required to be successful in the role?
    • What certification or educational development is needed?
    • What are the challenges of the role?
    • Is there potential for career advancement?

    A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

    Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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    5. Research Salary

    Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

    It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

    6. Be Realistic

    If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

    For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

    Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

    7. Volunteer First

    A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

    Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

    Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

    8. Prepare Your Career Tools

    I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

    • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
    • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
    • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
    • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

    Bottom Line

    It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

    Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

    More About Career Change

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
    [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
    [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

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