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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

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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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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How to Use Visual Learning to Work More Effectively

How to Use Visual Learning to Work More Effectively

Knowledge is essential to become successful in life, your career and your business. Without learning new concepts and becoming proficient in our craft, we cannot excel in our chosen careers or archive knowledge to pass down to the next generation.

But content comes in various forms, and because how we learn influences how much we know, we need to talk about learning styles. This article will focus on how to utilize visual learning to boost your career or business.

The Importance of Knowing Your Learning Style

Knowing your learning style enables you to process new information to the best of your ability. Not only does it reduce your learning curve, you’re able to communicate these same concepts to others effectively.

But it all starts when you’re able to first identify the best way you learn.

As a college student, I soon figured out that taking online courses without visual aids or having an instructor in front of me led to poor retention of concepts.

Sure, I got good grades and performed excellently in my online exams. However. I discovered that I couldn’t maintain this performance level because I forgot 80 percent of the course content by the end of the semester.

There are several types of learning styles known to mankind. To give an idea of how visual learning stacks up against other learning styles, here’s a brief mention of some of the different types of learning styles we have.

The four most popular types of learning styles are:

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  • Visual learning style (what this article talks about).
  • Aural or auditory learning style (learning by listening to information presented).
  • Verbal or linguistic learning style (learning that involves speech and writing).
  • Tactile learning style (learning by touching and doing)

But for the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on using visual learning to boost your career or business.

How to Know If You’re a Visual Learner?

When it comes to boosting your career, business (or education), a visual learner is one who would most definitely choose shapes, images, symbols, or reading over auditory messages.

I’m talking about preferring to read an actual map when navigating to a new place over listening to verbal directions. I’m talking about discovering that you actually have trouble remembering what your manager said at the meeting because there were no graphs or illustrations to support the points raised.

Most people who struggle with learning probably aren’t leveraging their best learning styles. The earlier you identify how your learning style can boost your success, the less struggle you will encounter with processing new information throughout your career.

However, visual learning in particular CAN 10x your career or business whether it is your preferred learning style or not. And here’s why:

Several studies have arrived at the conclusion that the brain retains more information with the help of visual aids. In other words, images are directly processed by our long-term memory which helps us store information for longer periods of time.[1]

While some lessons can be performed orally, several concepts can only make sense if you have an image with an explanation of sequences (i.e learning about the human DNA).

Visual learning does use a different part of the brain and visual cues are processed by the part of the brain known as the occipital lobe.

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By engaging more parts of the brain during learning, you’re able to have a fuller understanding of concepts and facilitate better interaction with your immediate environment.

How to Use Visual Learning for Success

Here’re 4 ways to use visual learning to boost your career or business:

1. Bring back the to-do list. Then add shapes and colors to boost productivity.

We live in an age where computers have taken over virtually every aspect of productivity and most human functions. But written lists are making a comeback, and with an endless number of important tasks to complete, having a to-do list of tasks in order of importance can improve your productivity.

While coming up with a list is initially challenging, adding colors and shapes to written lists that you personally write and manage gives you an extra layer of assurance and boosts aids recall so that you actually get stuff done.

I have tried this technique in my work as a registered nurse and discovered that adding shapes and colors to to-do lists helps me delegate tasks, recognize where more work is needed, and makes it easy to cross off completed tasks at the end of the day.

2. Add graphs, charts and symbols to your reports.

Yes, it seems like more work cut out for you. However, graphs enable you monitor the heartbeat of your business.

Graphs and charts help you trend your finances, budget, and pretty much any data overtime. With the help of free and premium software available on the market, it has become easier to take plain data and in a matter of seconds, have relevant information displayed in different shapes and images.

As an entrepreneur, you can make predictions and allocate funds wisely when you’re able to see whether your efforts are rewarded. You can use colors and charts to delegate actions to members of your team and track performance at the same time.

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And when broken down into monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or annual goals, graphs and charts communicate what ordinary text cannot.

3. Effectively brainstorm with mind-mapping.

Mind-mapping is not new but I don’t think it’s been talked about as often as we do to-do lists.

With mind mapping, you’re organizing information accurately and drawing relationships between concepts and pieces from a whole.

Think of a mind map as a tree with several branches. For example, the tree can symbolize healthcare while each branch stands for nursing, medicine, laboratory science, and so on. When you look at nursing, you can further branch out into types of nursing; pediatric, women’s health, critical care, and so on.

It’s an interesting relationship; the more ideas you’re able to come up with for your chosen subject, the deeper you get and the stronger the association.

Mind maps really show you relationships between subjects and topics, and simplifies processes that might seem complicated at first glance. In a way, it is like a graphical representation of facts presented in a simple, visual format.

Mind mapping isn’t only limited to career professionals; business owners can benefit from mind mapping by organizing their online learning activities and breaking down complex tasks into simple actions so that you can accurately measure productivity.

4. Add video streaming to meetings.

What if you could double the productivity of your team members by video streaming your meetings or adding flash animation to your presentation at the same time?

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When you offer video as an alternative method of processing information to colleagues, there is a greater chance of retaining information because we recreate these stories into images in our minds.

For organizations that hold virtual meetings, it can also be an effective way to enhance performance during if people can see their colleagues in addition to flash animation or whatever form of video is provided during the meeting.

Is Visual Learning Better Than Other Learning Styles?

No, that is not the point. The goal here is to supplement your existing dominant learning style with visual learning so that you can experience a significant boost in how you process and use everyday information.

You might discover that understanding scientific concepts are much easier after incorporating visual learning or that you’re able to understand your organization’s value when projected on a visual screen with charts and graphs.

The overall goal is to always be learning and to continue to leverage visual learning style in your career and business.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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