How to create a high performing team

Initiative. Productivity. Creativity. Execution. Excellence.    This is what you want from a high performing team. These are the shining qualities you imagine the “dream team” you want to lead.

Without a doubt, you have put effort into trying to motivate and inspire your team to perform at a high level. But even the best managers and leaders get stuck from time to time on how to instil these qualities into their team. No doubt, team members have struggled to display the qualities needed for a high performing team.

When initiative, productivity, creativity, and execution are lacking, the costs to the team can be very real. The tangible results can be a lacklustre product or service, subpar customer service, team members finding it difficult to work with each other, a leader struggling to get vital feedback. This costs your company, your department, your team and your revenue and reputation.

Four essential elements

So, how do you get your team back on track when it is under-performing? How do you ignite a spark that will open up a high performing team and excellence?

There are 4 essential elements that your team needs for them to perform at optimal levels. However, they cannot attain these on their own. You, as the leader, must provide each of these elements and support your team as they utilize each.

1. Skills

Skills are the know-how: the mental and physical ability to carry out and complete a task. If your team doesn’t have the know-how, they are set up for failure from the beginning. Certainly, each one brings in past experience and education, but with the ever-changing demands of doing business, the adoption of new skills and perspectives is equally important, regardless of past performance. On the other hand, you may need to consider whether your team has the right skills to perform at the level you require. At this point, you can decide to either provide the necessary training or upgrade the personnel on your team. If neither of these is a viable option, you may need to reconsider the project and your goals altogether. If your goals are beyond the ability of the team members, you have set your team and yourself up for failure.

2. Tools

Tools are the software, machinery, information systems, computers, etc., that are required to complete given tasks. Are you asking your graphic designer to create an amazing new branding theme? If all they have access to is Microsoft Paint, your graphic designer will be very limited in the quality and scope of what they can accomplish. Without the proper tools, the designer won’t be able to meet the expectations of the project. Without the proper tools, you and your team will be wasting valuable time, effort and energy. This is far from efficient and far from excellence. Your team members need to have the right tools if you desire to have a high performing team. It is an integral part of your responsibility to provide the right tools.

3. Authority

Authority is the power to make decisions and implement them. This element, or lack thereof, is many times the silent killer of projects and initiatives. You tell your team that you trust them to make decisions, but at the end of the day, they still have to get everything approved by you. Further, you, the leader, have the final say. For example, you tell your new accounting manager to track cash flow but refuse to give them access to up-to-date cash flow reports. In this instance, you have given your controller a task and then ripped the carpet from under their feet. Their hands are tied, and you are the one that tied them.

Worse, at this point, too many bad bosses will take this opportunity to yell at the manager for having their hands tied. This isn’t authority and leadership, this is insanity. You can give your team all of the skills, tools, and resources in the world, but if your people don’t have the authority to make choices about how to utilize them, what good are those skills, tools, and resources? This isn’t meant to remove accountability, but it is meant to empower those on your team. The greatest way to empower your team is to give them real authority and decision-making ability.

4. ResourcesTeam-STAR

Resources usually take one of three forms: human, capital and natural. Your people (the human resource) only have so much time, so much energy, and so much creativity. If there aren’t enough humans or the right humans doing the work, then the time spent on a project is greatly extended and the quality greatly diminished.

An example of this could be asking marketing to do a market analysis for a new product and then refusing or delaying them a budget for gathering data. It makes a mockery of management when a leader asks for an important task to be completed, then refuses to give or makes it difficult to access the resources necessary to effectively complete the project. This seems nonsensical, but it happens every day in the business world. It’s not that employees can’t do the work; they just don’t have the resources to complete it in a timely, cost-effective manner.

One step to take when assigning a project is to review with the team what resources are needed and how the team can secure them. Skipping this step will cause deep frustration and can easily lengthen the timeline of the task.

How to assess the elements

Each of these elements is interconnected. Each plays a critical role in the success of your team as a whole and the team members individually. The absence of a single element can bring the whole project down. Ultimately, equipping your team with the right skills, the right tools, the right resources and the right authority is critical to your success as a leader.

So how do you assess which elements your team is needing to make that step to a high performing team? 1. Talk to your team. 2. Ask some difficult questions. 3. Listen and be willing to receive honest feedback. 4. Use outside consultants or diagnostic tools, if necessary.

As you begin to focus on ensuring your team has the skills, tools, resources, and authority they need, your team will take notice. They will begin to engage. They will begin to push themselves and each other. Excellence, creativity, initiative, and productivity will begin to flourish. Your team will become the “all-star team” you always knew you could lead.

What has been your experience with providing these key needs for your team? What challenges have you faced in trying to provide them?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This post was updated in May 2019

Lora Schafer combines best management practices with behavioral psychology principles to assist business leaders produce high performing teams. Her company, GrowStrong Consulting, is dedicated to educating and training small business leaders to develop a healthy teams and dynamic culture. She is the author of the free eBook, “The Bootstrapper’s Guide to a High Performing Team”. Her experience and education includes strategic planning, leadership and team development, human resources and recruiting, conflict management and organizational communication and psychology.