Note: This article is updated at High-Performance Teams Happen When You Bring Out the Best in Everyone.
“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” -- Patrick Lencioni
To create high-performance teams, you don't need the best people in the world. But you do need people at their best.
To bring out their best, you first need simple alignment on the team in the form of vision, mission, values, and identity. I wrote a step-by-step article on How To Create a High-Performance Team with Vision, Identity, and Values.
Alignment at that level creates a foundation and platform for high-performance teams. As Benjamin Franklin said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
Vision, Mission, and values
Here's a recap of vision, mission, and values:
- Mission - who are you? what do you do?
- Vision - where do you want to go?
- Values - what do you value? what's important? (your corporate culture)
Alignment at this level helps you accelerate your path through Forming -- Storming -- Norming and Performing. It also gets work going in the right direction, so people can spend more time where they shine, and less time bifurcating their focus.
You Don't Need the Best People, You Need People at Their Best
Of course, having the best people is great. But what you really need is people at their best, in a system that supports them.
In fact, there are a lot of high-performance people all around in systems that break them. So if you simply create a team system that frees people up, right off the bat, you are ahead of many teams. You free people up when you create shared goals, focus on the outcomes, and paint clear pictures of how to be successful. You unleash people when you make it safe to take risks, and create a rapid learning environment.
The easiest way to break an otherwise high-performing team is to micro-manage. The more you focus on what seem to be otherwise good tools, like accountability, process, etc., the more you get the opposite. Accountability, process, etc. happen as a by-product of doing specific things well, like having clear goals, letting people work the way they work best, having people spend more time in their strengths, and encouraging learning. When people have a goal, and they are in their passion, and they are free to use their strengths, they get resourceful.
Remember that people are creatures of habit, and they form habits (and, as a result, process.) When you create a continuous learning environment where people can afford to fail and take risks, they learn faster, improve faster, and out-execute the competition.
If your team is not a high-performance team, before you poke at the people, poke the system you create on a daily basis.
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