How to build a high performance team

 In Insights, Management, Realizer Blog, Teams


Could your team work better? I’ve been working with a number of organisations on building them a high performance team, and below I’ll share some of the ideas and frameworks X or Y has been successfully using.

Team self-awareness and diagnosing the issues

The main approach we use is to look at the team’s weak points and address them. To do this we often use Lencioni’s 5 dysfunctions of a team which are:

  1. An absence of a trust – means people can’t be totally honest
  2. Avoiding the hard conversations – without honesty, issues get glossed over
  3. Lack of commitment – without healthy debate people nod and say yes without fully committing to decisions
  4. Avoidance of accountability – if I’m not committed then I don’t feel accountable, and I may not hold my co-workers fully accountable either
  5. Lack of attention to team results – if we’re not holding each other accountable then we tend to just focus on our own results and effort and make sure we avoid blame if things go wrong

By surveying a team on these 5 areas, using a short 5-10 minute survey, and then sharing the results openly at an away day it actually starts solving the problems straight away because we get issues out in the open, have the hard conversations and then commit to plans where we can hold each other accountable. It’s then over to the team to follow up in the following days and weeks to bring the changes about. We make sure that at the end of the workshop, key next steps are diarised before people leave the room.

Starting with trust

Where teams are struggling with the most basic level, which is trust, we often use the Feedforward technique to show a new way to give and receive feedback – this is a great trust builder. Trust is about being comfortable to feel vulnerable with your team and Feedforward delivers this. The outline of Feedforward: it’s a pairs exercise where I ask you for feedback on an area I want to get better at (I give you permission and set the topic), I then stay silent while you give me ideas on how to be better in the future (crucially, this removes the focus on past errors – people hate to have their mistakes dissected). The permission and the future focus make this a really valuable exercise.

Creating a framework for action

The last part of X or Y’s approach to teams is to address throughout an away day:

  1. Where are we today – takes up the first part of the day – make sure the team has self awareness about its performance as a team, not just against budgets. Ensure the team understands that there are a variety of views, not everyone feels the same as you.
  2. Where we want to be tomorrow – the leader and the team need to combine to produce a tangible vision of where the team is in a year’s time. The crucial world is tangible – it has to feel real and motivating, not just words. One way of doing this is to use the Team CV exercise where you write a CV for this time next year showing team credentials, achievements and values. The Team CV makes the exercise feel really tangible.
  3. How we bridge the gaps – this is where we prioritise the key areas to focus on and make a specific action plan to address them starting tomorrow (or today!). Any away day has to translate to changes back in the office, so we often spend the last 90 minutes translating all the ideas into a prioritised and actionable plan.

There are many approaches to team building, X or Y’s is based on the psychology of teams, and how they make decisions together. I hope your team is working brilliantly. If it isn’t – have a think of some of the approaches above. I find that with a little thinking and a simple framework built on trust it can have immediate impact.

Posted by Rob Pyne