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Placing more emphasis on high-performance teams

Should your business place more emphasis on building high-performance teams?

By: Denis Orme

I would suggest that the first issue is recognising whether or not there is the need for team building within your company to improve motivation, morale and results. - or - should team-building exercises/strategies be part and parcel of every company agenda, regardless of the current climate within your business?

My conclusion is that the only thing successful companies has is a team of motivated and focussed people who see the exciting vision or goal for the business and are working for a company that cares about them and their career. It goes without saying that also they feel they are being fairly compensated..

There are three basic types of teams:

1. Problem-solving.
2. New venture teams.
3. Work process teams.

People work together or not as the case maybe, depending on climate and motivation levels within the business. Just because they are in a group is no assurance that they will work as an effective team.

If, as a business owner or team leader you do not recognise the following then it is likely that yours could be an under-performing business or team.

Personality. If you do not understand your own personality and the personality of those you are going to have in your team then you will not understand the most effective way to get the best out of the team. Personality tests are easy and inexpensive to administer.

Common goal. Have team members helped you to develop the goal of what you are trying to achieve? -- if they have, then they will be more likely to commit to implementing the goal. If the goal was just imposed on team members then chances are that it will be less likely to be achieved.

Resolving Conflicts. Do you currently have any unresolved conflicts? Unresolved conflicts destroy morale and trust. They become the undercurrent and they feed the grapevine. Make sure you resolve conflicts in a positive way, and remember to leave the egos of team members intact.

Communication. How active is the grapevine currently? An over-active grapevine probably means that there is not open communication and environment of mutual trust and respect. You cannot communicate too often, or in too many different ways in order to get the message across effectively.

Teams go stale -- if you are putting people together on a longer-term project recognise that they may go stale. Build some short-term wins into the project and celebrate successes. On a long-term project you may need to consider rotating members off the team.

Job Security. If you bring a team together to solve problems or for a new venture then in all likelihood the team will achieve its purpose and disband. What will happen to team members when the task is complete? Will team members have a job at all, or will they be going to another department or part of your business?

Team members will start to become anxious as the project nears completion and so I always sit down with each person 60-90 days before the end of the project in order help them plan their next career move. This may involve a discussion around helping them to find a new career path through recruiters or other companies within the same industry.

With large corporates there are obviously 'teams' at every level. By sheer weight of numbers of people in the organisation it means that it will be easier for non-team types (as opposed to disruptive personalities etc) to function in the large business setting.

In a small firm environment not only must each person pull their weight but it is critical that they all function as part of a team. In a larger firm setting it is more practical to have people working more autonymously.

That said, it is virtually impossible to effectively grow a business without high-performing teams. The power of 2+2=5.

Typically I separate out whether or not the team will be one of close inter-dependant relationships, or a situation where, even though people may be part of a larger team they may not need to be actively participating team members. Good examples would be.

Close-knit team. A group of people in accounting processing jointly all customer monthly invoices and statements. Time-deadline, common task and a collective result.

Project team - say, building a bridge. Part of an overall team with a common goal but a range of individual tasks towards the team goal. Designers, engineers and then the actual bridge builders. Independent tasks with regular meetings on the overall project plan and task activity. In this case a lot more of independent work and thinking.

Once you determine whether you need a close-knit team or a team having just a common project goal you can then assess the personalities of prospective team members in order to determine if each person will be a good fit for the type of team you are setting up.

If you have a dysfunctional team right now chances are you have either unresolved conflicts or you do not understand, or have learned to work with the different personality types of team members.

Need a seminar presenter for your business club, Chamber of Commerce or Rotary club?

Over thirty business planning, leadership, team-building and sales topics available. For a complete list and to check on availability send your enquiry to: The Insurance Brokers Association of New Zealand is committed to a successful and growing business community.

A current high-demand presentation is : Retaining Staff During This War For Talent - Without More Money!

For SME's though, everyone has to pull their weight, put their shoulders to the wheel and every other cliche' or things fall apart. How do you do it?

It is all about leadership and having someone at the helm who is the torch-carrier for the organisation.

Some people work for their personal love of the job; others work for personal fulfilment. Others like to accomplish goals and feel as if they are contributing to something larger than themselves, something important. Some people have personal missions they attain through meaningful work.

Others truly love what they do or the clients they serve. Some like the camaraderie and interaction with customers and co-workers. Other people like to fill their time with activity and just so they can pay the bills and do other things with their life. Some workers like change, challenge, and diverse problems to solve and others do not.

In my experience those persons committed to a career path will simply not stay for the pay check alone.

Not just to have them remain with the company, but to deliver consistent over-the-top business results or customer service requires staff to appreciate:
- An exciting believable vision.
- An exciting vibrant company with great values, and
- An environment where leaders or managers of the business are interested in me and my career growth.
- That they are fairly compensated.

Are 'off base' team building sessions combining physical and mental challenges still in vogue - and does the glow of achievement built up over a weekend stay or fade with the sunburn?

In isolation team-building activities never have a lasting impact beyond perhaps some of the bonding that goes on.

My preferred approach to developing high-performing teams that consistently produce results includes:

Completing personality profiling on all team members [don't forget yourself] and then educating team members on how various personality types can work better together.
- Making sure that you have the four basic personality types in your work team. You need the balance of the take-charge decisive person through to the Beaver - a person good at the detail.
- Doing off-site team building after the group has worked together for a few weeks.
- Taking problems/opportunities to the off-site meeting for solving in that environment, and
- Then building ropes, paintball or other activities around the problem-solving/opportunity exploration sessions.
- Offsite - rotating the role of team leader.
- In the work environment, celebrating both successes and failures.
- Providing challenging work to team members.
- Standing back and letting others grow.
- - ..........Continuing Teambuilding in the next edition of Leading Ways, and we will explore?

How to keep the motivation going
What people really want from work
Promoting conditions which foster individual motivation, and
Ultimately it's leadership

Book Review

100 Things to Do Before You Die (plus a few to do afterwards)
ISBN 1-86197-925-8.

....take a bucket of cold water and fill to the brim, take a deep breath, and lower your head in. Collect all the water that spills over the side and pour it into a measuring jug - this is the volume of your head..... now you can work out your head's weight. 1kilogram per litre @ 4 degrees C.

Quirky little book, but why not help giving birth to a giraffe at your local zoo?

If you enjoyed the newsletter encourage your friends to subscribe at

Best wishes

Denis Orme

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