improve team performance

Frequently, we find ourselves in situations which necessitate a special team or task force to address an issue, or an opportunity. Whether the teams we use are localized or dispersed, one of the challenges we face as executives is “How do we get the best performance out of our teams?” I will take this opportunity to share with you the steps I have used in the past to maximize team performance and success. In addition, this same approach has helped me in influencing the success of teams I have participated on.

To begin with, let’s review the essentials of a successful team:

  • First, and most important, is that the team must clearly understand its purpose or reason for coming together. This reflects the vision and objectives that we have set out for the team. Think about a team that comes up short...was the objective clear and consistent throughout their effort? We can never over communicate in this area. This helps the team successfully navigate the challenges and difficulties it will encounter, and, more important, to maintain their focus. Making sure everyone is in concert is very motivational and strengthening to the team. How often have you seen the situation in which a cost reduction team achieves their goal, but at the expensive of customer satisfaction. Did they truly understand their purpose?
  • Next, it is essential to the team that they have clear strong positive organizational support and the tools they require at their disposal. This is essential to remove obstacles from the team's successful performance. Let’s also be clear that it is often futile to put a team to work that does not have the support of the organization or lacks the tools they may require. So, we should continually ask the question: Have I given them what they need to succeed and are they asking for what they need? If no, it requires to be even more engaged. I have worked with many companies that have put together Customer Advocacy Teams and have failed to provide the where with all for the teams to understand what are the customer’s Key Value Drivers. Without the tools to get this from the customer, how can the team effectively represent the customer’s needs?
  • Next, we must empower the team. Nothing is more motivational or more assistive to using the competencies of the team, than to have empowered the team. Teams that realize they own the solution; know they own the processes and procedures they will create; recognize they are responsible for the answers they will provide; know they are in control of the successes they will deliver; take on the responsibility for success; and, are motivated to succeed. Also, make sure the rest of the company knows of the team and its purpose. By the way, the team must also realize they own any failures. I was recently mentoring an executive who was beside himself as to why a specialty team in place had significantly missed its targets and goals. Simply put, we discovered the team never felt they were empowered to bring together what was essential to their success and therefore much of what they did was more of going through the motions. This was a learning experience for the Executive and the team.
  • Finally, you must have a process to monitor the team performance and to report back to them. This was one of the tools we explored in detail as part of the solution to the example I gave in the previous bullet point.