High-performing leadership teams

High performing teams outperform even the most talented individuals; the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So, this month, we look at the components that make up a high-performing leadership team. They cover what you are trying to accomplish as well as the behaviours that effective leaders exhibit.

High-performing Leadership Teams

In my experience, these are the 8 characteristics that make up a high-performing leadership team:

1: Know what you are trying to achieve
First, you have to be clear on the vision, mission and purpose of your team. When that’s clear, you can define your strategic aims over the next 2-3 years and draw out your tangible goals and objectives for the next 12 months. Know how you will track and measure progress, and how you will make your work visible in the organisation.

2: Clarify roles and interdepencies within the team
The goals and objectives at organisational and team levels should then cascade down to inform the goals and objectives of each individual team member.

Team members should feel as though they ‘wear two hats’ – one hat is the area of the business you are personally responsible for within the team, and the other hat is a shared sense of responsibility, accountability and ownership for the performance of the leadership team as a whole, not just the area where you contribute.

Finally, be clear what each person’s role is, and understand how they overlap and rely on each other to do their job. To enable joint accountability, reward achievement of team goals.

3: Build stakeholder relationships
Your goals and objectives should align with those of your stakeholders, and success depends on having clear relationships and interdependencies. You need to know:

  • Who your stakeholders are
  • What they need from you (the ability to stand in their shoes and imagine what it’s like ‘being them’ will make it easier to do this)
  • What you need from them
  • How you can collaborate to ensure all needs are met in a way that serves the needs of the business

Make time to celebrate success with them along the way.

4: Improve your change skills
Some people think that the pace of change will settle down one day, but that’s no longer the reality! Teams are always refreshing and evolving, and you need the resilience to deal with constant change and evolution. Understanding the steps/process required to lead your organisation through change will greatly support and guide you. Highly resilient people don’t fight against change; they accept it and quickly adapt. Flexibility and adaptability are two key skills in leading change, balanced with a clear process for implementing change.

5: Personal development
It’s important you don’t just focus on developing technical skills. When you invest time and energy in your personal growth and development as an individual and a leader, the knock-on effect is significant for relationships with stakeholders, leading people, and your own wellbeing and development. For more on this, please see my articles on leadership agility, and the leadership agility compass (especially the quadrant of the compass about self-leadership agility).

6: Know who you are
The personality and style of the leader has an enormous impact on the style of the team and how they run the business. Who you are as a person determines how you lead. One of the tools I like to use is Hogan – an inventory theory which looks at your leadership strengths, risk factors and values. Download the ‘silo’ case study on my website for an example of how this works in practice.

7: Display emotionally intelligent team behaviours
The key to successful team behaviour is:

  • Respect
  • Trust
  • Openness
  • Listening
  • A culture that’s open to feedback
  • Appreciating and embracing the diversity of style and experience

Generate an environment that’s highly supportive but where you can also make robust challenges if necessary, in a respectful way. Discussions should be ‘adult-to-adult’ and outcomes should be ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’. Assuming that others have a positive intention will enable you to deal with any conflict.

Build the relationships in the team.  Ensure there is time for team members to get to know each other’s working style and strengths, and identify where there are potential flash points and how these will be overcome.

8: Practice good team governance
Establish a structure for meetings that covers who, what, when, where, why and how. Don’t arrange meetings just for information exchange – there are plenty of other ways to do that. Do take time to agree how decisions will get made. The most valuable meetings are when you debate as a team to move topics forward, make decisions, and keep track of progress towards your goals and objectives and openly review what is working and not working. Teams can benefit from having a facilitator – particularly early on whilst they establish the most effective way of working together, but also on an ongoing basis to continue to develop and grow.

If you’re interested in exploring these ideas further, please email me.

When focusing on development, good teams don’t just look at solving problems; it’s also good practice to identify what’s working well, and build on your successes.

As we get close to the end of 2011, it’s an opportunity to take a step back and look at what you feel most proud of this year. Please send me any insights you have about what you’re thankful for, or what you’ve found most useful in terms of your personal development, team-building or goals achieved.

I look forward to receiving your success stories to share in the next newsletter, where I’ll be expanding on point 7 above, about emotionally intelligent team behaviours. Meanwhile, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!