What makes high performing teams so productive?

by Roger Longden | Jun 25, 2018

time icon 3 mins

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? What‘s the difference between an average team and one that consistently delivers over and above expectations?Obviously, to bring out the best in a business, you have to bring out the best in your people. All too often, however, there’s a tendency to focus on recruiting talented individuals and then just group them all together. But who is going to manage and lead this talent? How will they all interact? This is all too often an afterthought.

From outset, it’s essential to have alignment of goals that filter down from company to an individual level. Giving team members their own independent goals creates ownership and focus. This is critical to ensure goals are achieved.

Lessons from Sport

Teams that have unblinkered focus have more chance of getting to their destination.

Just think of the Tour de France with the various roles within a team. The eight riders known as the domestiques support their leader or General Classification contender by riding up at the front to cut out the wind or by returning to the team car to collect water bottles. Everything is focused on the end goal of getting their leader to Paris, victorious.

How can we apply the same technique in business? I use a methodology based around OKRs – Objectives and Key Results. They enable the company vision to become a reality by providing a framework for the team to:

● set priorities
● have regular check-ins
● have a collaborative relationship
● enjoy better engagement and transparency

For me, a vital part of the OKR process is the creation of a performance management dashboard. This enables teams to clearly measure progress against results alongside a key financial metric. Having visibility of both is essential as, whilst businesses are striving for growth, it’s imperative they also monitor their financial health.

A shared vision

At a company I was working with recently, the whole team and I had an open conversation about their shared vision and values as part of an objective setting session. This resulted in a restructuring of the whole organisation as it highlighted a lack of alignment at management level.

This misalignment was preventing growth, key decisions weren’t being made and everybody was locked in a ‘business as usual’ mode. In this scenario, the introduction of OKRs facilitated a new approach to managing the performance of the management team, which brought about much more transparency and engagement. Put simply, people knew they couldn’t hide anymore.

The process delivered a number of benefits. The team all signed up to the process. They were no longer just ‘delivering’ but shared a sense of ownership, without any feeling of a blame culture. It also gave a sense of clarity to their objectives, taking away any surprises. The MD valued the process too, saying that it made him feel accountable, knowing there would be regular, fortnightly check-ins.

If you visited them now, you’d be struck by the empowering effect the process has had – they’re now a great example of a highly productive team.

The key is focus

So back to the question, what makes high performing teams so productive? A key theme throughout is focus. Focus provides clarity. It creates ownership. It asks for attention. It can be facilitated through our methodology around OKRs; a tried and tested approach to help achieve growth in a business. Take a step back and look at your vision – do you have a roadmap to achieve this? Are your team clear on what they need to do to help you get there? Do they know what the business goals are? It’s time to focus and the results will come.

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