Leading Teams to Peak Performance
Members of Leading Teams love their work, they innovate and collaborate, they contribute above and beyond and are unlimited in what they can achieve. Our experience of working with hundreds and researching thousands of companies shows that Leaders of Leading Teams have 5 skills to achieve just that.
1. Unite and Engage the Team
Leading teams that achieve peak performance have a common purpose, vision and goals so people can derive meaning, motivation and fulfilment from their work. Especially a shared sense of higher purpose and values create an incredible amount of engagement. Southwest Airlines has one of highest levels of engagement and has had 40 years of profitable growth. Southwest’s purpose is „to connect people to what is important in their lives“.
If the organisation already has stated values and a purpose, use them to unite and engage the team. Ensure that everyone in the team knows what this means in your team and how the team and each individual contributes to the bigger purpose. Demonstrate your commitment to them by living in accordance to those values and making decisions that are aligned with those values consistently.
If a company or your team does not have an articulated purpose, then now is a perfect time to start the process of finding it. We are moving into the purpose economy and any company not engaging with a bigger purpose will surely get left behind.
2. Leading Teams with Clarity and Structure
When companies want to change their culture it is crucial that the structure supports the culture to allow every team member to bring their peak performance. Some of that needs to come from the organisation but here is what must come from the leader. Leading teams means to clarify the roles and responsibilities so that everyone understands three key things.
- What am I expected to take ownership of?
- What do I have authority for? What can and can’t I make decisions on?
- Who do I need to inform / ask about what?
Leading teams receive clear and consistent messages from their leader so that there is no room for misinterpretation and everyone has clarity about the direction and the rules and boundaries in the team. Of course this also means that you must apply team rules consistently and fairly for everyone in the team, no exceptions.
3. Inspire and Energize
Leading teams is easier for leaders that manage to balance confidence with humility. Ego driven Leaders often take credit for successes of the team, which demotivates the team. Make sure you acknowledge people and give recognition for their contribution regularly. More than 80% of leaders think the once a year performance review is enough. Studies show that employees forget praise after 7 days. When a leader shows humility and connects authentically, acknowledging the people in their team often they are energized and inspired to deliver their best performance.
When leading teams your job is to make sure the energy stays in high and positive. Leave your stuff at the door, take responsibility for your own energy first and bring contagious energy to work. Inspire regularly, have fun, laugh a lot, share stories and successes and celebrate the reaching of milestones. When you encounter a lot of doubters who say “it has always been like that and it won’t change” take small steps. When climbing the stairs the first thing you have to do is take the first step, then the next one. Create success moments with short term goals. Prove that the team can achieve targets, build new beliefs to overcome the doubts and build from there.
Get exceptional at identifying energy blocks. Make Decisions fast, to remove the blocks, remove the excuses and create energy flow in the team. Like with sports people, when a team is in flow it will achieve peak performance.
4. Develop and Empower People
Leading teams means spending time with the people in your team, understanding their drivers and their potential. To build leading teams for the future you need to think about succession in the team and letting go. When you let go it creates growth opportunities for others.
Develop your people and find opportunities for them to grow. Make sure you keep the balance between size of the challenge or growth opportunity and the capability of the employee. If the challenge too large for the current skill set the employee will be overwhelmed or maybe even panic. If it too small for their perceived capability then they’ll be bored. When you strike the right balance and increase their capability step by step you also maintain that flow energy crucial to peak performance.
Empower and encourage them to be bold and to learn from mistakes. How you react to their mistakes makes a huge difference to their preparedness and courage to take on ownership or show initiative. When an employee gets blamed for mistakes they will think twice about showing initiative in the future. When mistakes are used as a learning experience it will propel people forward. So coach them and give them constructive feedback. Mentor them and share how you learnt along the way.
5. Build Trust and Accountability
The foundation of leading teams is trust. To that extent leaders of leading teams are authentic and real, no masks, no politics. They connect personally with the team members and create opportunities for them to get to know each other informally also. Creating common shared experiences and fostering collaboration continues to build the level of trust in the team.
Accountability and reliability solidifies the trust. No double standards. The leader must be a shining example of that. They must always keep their promises and do what they say they are going to do. People are much more likely to bring their best to work when they trust their leader.