How does your team operate?
Building and developing a high performing team isn’t just about the ‘Purpose’ and the ‘People’ elements that are covered in previous blogs. You also need to consider the ‘Processes’ that the team operates to from a practical perspective.
The Exceptional Team Blueprint™, breaks the Processes element into four areas.
• Ways of working
• Learning and knowledge
Ways of working
Defining and agreeing the team’s basic, routine, and possibly mundane ways of working can bring performance benefits. For a team to work effectively and efficiently it must have some standard ways of working, which members adhere to. This not only helps the established team members work together, it also helps with the induction and integration of new members into the team. Spend some time thinking about the basic activities and processes that the team carries out on a day-to-day basis. For maximum engagement, the team members themselves should define the processes they will work to. For example, how will the team work in the areas below?
Meetings – what regular meetings are really necessary? What is their purpose and frequency? Who should attend? How are they structured? How are actions captured and shared?
Communication – must be clear, unambiguous and open. How will team members be involved and communicate with each other? What information and communication is needed and when? How will the team involve members who may work remotely?
Decision-making – how will the team make decisions? What decisions are the team empowered to make? What is the team’s approach to achieving consensus? Is there an ultimate decision maker?
Problem-solving - how will the team generate options to solve problems? How will they analyse and assess the options? Create a safe environment where discussion, contribution, challenge and constructive criticism and analysis is encouraged.
Resolving conflicts – whilst disagreement should be seen as positive and constructive to create ideas, challenge and improvement, there may be times when the team needs to resolve conflicts. The team should define and agree how this should be done in an open and transparent way, that maintains positive relationships.
A high performing team should continuously look to make improvements. These may be small steps as well as significant changes. It’s likely that the team will find improvements as it carries out its tasks and it will be expected to identify, drive and experience changes. However, improvements and change must be managed in a structured and controlled way to avoid unnecessary business risk.
A culture in which new ideas are welcomed, discussed, and constructively criticised and analysed needs to be developed. Innovation should be encouraged, and mistakes seen as OK – as long as they are learned from. The status quo should be challenged appropriately, but not for the sake of it. Challenge and change should be for benefit to the way the team works, the project and its outcomes, or to the wider business.
Team members should consider the areas they individually and collectively need to be better at. They should use those thoughts to identify development needs and define development plans.
Learning and knowledge
As the team carries out its activities and makes progress, it’s important that learning and knowledge is captured and shared. This helps team members to share best practice, build on achievements and avoid making similar mistakes. It also helps other teams who may be picking up the work, or doing similar projects and activities in the future.
A formal process and system for capturing and sharing knowledge, lessons, best practice and stories should be defined. Team members can then learn from each other. However, the success of the knowledge management process depends on members recognising the benefits and having the discipline to use it.
Defining and implementing formal support mechanisms for team members is vital to performance improvement. Having structured ways of providing feedback, coaching and mentoring is key to developing a high performing team. This helps to develop members at an individual level, which ultimately benefits team capability, performance and productivity.
Feedback – create a safe environment, built on trust, in which team members can give and receive feedback. Encourage individuals to be a ‘critical friend’ to their colleagues. Ensure they give clear, relevant, consistent, fact-based and timely feedback, focused on improvement on an ongoing basis. Just as importantly, help team members to be open to receiving feedback from their colleagues, and acting on it.
Mentoring – a mentor is an experienced person who provides high-level, long-term developmental and growth support to a less experienced mentee. Mentors give help, guidance and advice but don’t usually observe and advise on specific actions or behavioural changes in daily work.
Coaching – a coach is engaged to help correct behaviours that detract from performance, or to strengthen behaviours that support improved performance around a set of activities. A coaching relationship is typically a shorter term, finite duration focusing on immediate impact and improvement. Coaches work at individual and team level and help team members work through their challenges and develop their own options and solutions.
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