Intentional Design: How Highly-Effective Leaders Create High-Performing Teams

While it’s possible to achieve highly-effective business working groups, it takes planning, effective leadership, hard work and clarity to pull off. Here’s what leaders of high-performing teams do differently.

Setting the Stage

Setting the framework for a team is an important step for leaders. Here are a few of the foundational steps high-performing teams take to set themselves up for success:

  • Focus on Goals. Having a clearly defined mission and desired outcome is important. Giving your team one singular focus is best, though that focus may have multiple dimensions to it.
  • Build a Shared Vision: All team members need to be clear about their mission and outcomes. Aligning the team around its central purpose and not allowing other distractions or tasks to come into play makes for more effective process and results.
  • Make a Commitment. Team members and leaders need to make a genuine commitment to the team and its success. Leaders, even those not directly involved in the team’s work, need to commit to their staff members’ involvement and active participation.

Creating Ground Rules

Team members should be empowered to set rules about their work and their conduct during that work. A few suggestions:

  • Document It. Some teams create team agreements or charters that outline not only the work that will be done, but how it will be done. These agreements allow for a better shared understanding and can be referred to as necessary. They should document expectations and rules for the work, including how decisions are made and how debate is handled.
  • Recognize Difference. The best teams represent diversity in many forms – business role, background, experience, expertise and insights. Your team should have a diversity of thoughts and skills. Leaders should not build teams of like-minded people, but of those who bring different things to the table.
  • Provide Psychological Safety. There needs to be an environment where team members feel safe in sharing opinions, disagreeing and taking risks. Some of this is a function of individuals’ confidence, but another component is the culture that is created in which teams can do their work.
  • Expect Integrity. While it may seem it goes without saying, team members need to act with the highest level of integrity. Team members need to act with integrity in public and in private.
  • Keep Promises. All team members need to keep the obligations they’ve made to each other, the team and the organization as a whole. If team members do not hold each other accountable, they will never be performing at their best.
Setting clear rules for how the team is going to act is an important step in creating high-performance outcomes


Fostering Communication

Communication at every step of the team process is essential. Communication can make or break success.

Teams need to have reliable and consistent methods of eliciting feedback. Team members need to be able to provide feedback regularly, no matter what their rank or tenure. Honest and constructive feedback creates more effective teams and deeper relationships.

Teams are an important way work is done today. Keeping them performing at a high level makes them and their members more effective.

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