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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

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David Carpenter

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

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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