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How to Build High-Performing Teams

This month’s Gifted Leaders e-Newsletter features an interview with Mario Moussa, a Wharton Executive Education fellow, about his new book, Committed Teams: Three Steps to Inspiring Passion and Performance. In the book, Moussa and his co-authors, Madeline Boyer and Derek Newberry answer the question, “What makes certain teams excel and others perform below par?”

Highlights from the Article

High-performing teams follow an iterative three-step process which is repeated again and again and again. The key to doing this well is paying close attention to what is happening on the team and then having really good team conversations about the team’s dynamics.

Step 1 – When they’re getting started on a task, high-performing teams focus explicitly on three things: goals, roles and norms. They co-create shared commitments around these things by considering questions like: What do we want to do?, How do we want to work together?, and How are we going to share information and make decisions?

Step 2 – High-performing teams check in from time to time. Given that there are all kinds of pushes and pulls in the typical workday – you may be working on multiple projects, you may have commitments outside of work, etc. – over time, naturally, almost inevitably there is drift on teams, around those goals, roles and norms. So teams need to revisit their original commitments by asking questions like: Are we still committed to the things we initially talked about?, and How are we going to close the gap between what we say we want to do and what we’re actually doing?

Step 3 – High-performing teams proactively close the “saying-doing” gap. They do this in small steps targeted at specific behavioral changes and by attempting to create an environment that supports making those changes. This step involves employing “realistic optimism” i.e. thinking about what can get in the way of doing what they want to do.

One key thing to focus on throughout the three-step process is on creating an environment of psychological safety. Most of the time, people do not speak their minds. Well over half of the time, people are not sharing what they are thinking and feeling. The more information you have, the better your decisions are going to be, the better your collaboration is going to be. So creating an environment where people feel that they are able to share their thoughts, in other words, where they have psychological safety, turns out to play a big role in delivering results. How do you do that? It involves things like building trust, having good one-on-one conversations, listening, showing empathy, and showing that you care.

Read the article here.

The Gifted Perspective

In last month’s edition of our newsletter, we learned that a “high-performing team” is a group of people that have a strong emotional commitment to the team’s purpose, mutual accountability, complementary skills, and, importantly, shared leadership roles. They also adjust their teaming models depending on the situation.

This month’s featured article provides a straightforward, proven process for creating a team characterized by this kind of shared direction, alignment, and commitment. An intentional focus on establishing goals, roles, and norms, checking in on these things from time to time, and closing the gap between what you’re actually doing and what you say you want to do will significantly increase the likelihood that you will have an extraordinary team experience.

The problem is that “the soft stuff is the hard stuff!” In our experience, most teams don’t pay much attention to these things … that is, until there’s a huge problem and then it may be too late to turn things around. We can help you to proactively create an extraordinary team experience through our customized executive and team coaching services!

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