High performance teams

High Performance Teams

As the leader of any team it should be your priority to make your team as high performing as possible. With a high performing team you will be able to easily achieve your goals and in fact, you will be able to rely on your team to be self-driven enough that they can almost achieve these goals by themselves, without much more than gentle guidance from yourself. If there was ever a goal for a team leader, this is it. 

So how do we get our teams to be high performing? An Ofsted report in 2009, in which they studied 20 outstanding schools, they identified the emphasis on team working as a key factor in making their teams highly functional. This just shows how important it is to establish this ethos right from the outset as a new leader. This module will look at some of the factors that make high performance teams.

Firstly, High Performing Teams share a common vision and a clear sense of purpose. Leaders who can outline their vision, and keep this as a focus for their teams will generate a clear message of where they want their team to be. This sense of purpose gives everyone in the team a clear idea of how their particular skills can contribute to the end goal. In good teams this end goal should always form the rationale behind decisions that are taken, whether they are taken by the leader or by the team as a whole. 

Secondly, High performing teams also have an explicit focus on improvement and continual development. These are underpinned by high expectations. This is where the leader comes in; being able to confidently and kindly lay out realistic expectations for the team members so that they all have clear targets and goals which can contribute to the team’s goals as a whole. It is also important to note that the improvements and developments should be based on data which is accurately recorded and as far as possible, bespoke to your specific team. 

Leaders of high performing teams make sure that all members in the team are supported appropriately in their roles, that they have good CPD opportunities and that they are given the opportunity to spread their professional wings as much as possible.
A good tool that is now being recognised more and more in professional circles is coaching. I’m sure many of you would have come across this at some point? Coaching is a methodology that is non-judgemental and supportive and provides the employee the opportunity to reflect on their own performance and develop their own ways of enhancing it.

These above points set the culture of the team, and focus on the individual. The next point takes this up a level by focussing on the team as a whole. Leaders of high performing teams work on building culture, developing personal relationships, forging links between team members and facilitating an environment rich in trust and commitment towards the vision. This will require you, as the leader, to actively invest time in facilitating these positive and productive relationships. 

Leaders that foster this culture will notice that high quality working relationships begin to develop. These relationships start to build around team members’ enthusiasm for their common purpose and it becomes a source of enthusiasm for them. The water cooler conversations change towards being more work focussed and a clear sense of pride and purpose starts to build around the team’s actions and behaviour. 

The final point is about celebration. Good teams celebrate each others’ successes as well as their own. Pride in the work done or achieved is collective most of the time and this becomes the fuel that will feed the flames of prosperity as the team moves forward. You could sum it up in the word ‘unity’. High performing teams are unified in all sorts of ways and because of this they are able to achieve great things. 

As the leader of any team, this is really what you want to achieve. Your team is there to do a job. Many leaders have the sole responsibility of ‘leading’ as opposed to occupying a logistical or performance role within the team. Often, this is enough. Good leaders spend their time fostering the culture of their teams and supporting them to become high performing. Even when it may seem that a leader is not doing very much, this is often not the case. Once their teams are high performing they spend a lot of time making sure that the culture is embedded and this, in itself, is a continual and time-consuming task. 

So how do we get to build a high performing team?
Focus on getting the vision clear and agreed collectively with the team, and base this vision on robust performance indicators and data.
Build a culture of trust and this will improve focus and productivity.
Pay attention to individuals and their specific personal and professional needs.
Celebrate together, make the team the ultimate winner, not the individuals within it. 

Point of Reflection

Think critically about this statement: “Of the five elements that make up a HPT, the most important is a focus on building team culture.”

Personal Development Activity

Team Development Activity (60 mins)

Celebrating success is something that many leaders forget to do, yet it is one of the five elements that make up a HPT. Your task is to consider one of the initiatives that has recently been established in your team that has a set of targets associated with it. Then devise a reward system that rewards the whole team for achieving the targets, and communicate it to your team. Record the reward scheme in your leadership journal and share your scheme with your colleagues on the PLC.