I often ask leaders which of the two delivers better results: great talent or a great team? Most of the time, they respond that a great team has a bigger impact on the results of an organization than individual star performers. However, if you look at most company’s people processes they primarily focus on talent – on how to attract, develop, engage, and retain.
They’re obsessed with getting the best performance out of individual employees. Few companies focus on assessing their leaders ability to create exceptional teams and even if they do, the tools available to assess team performance and develop awesome teams are sparse.
The majority of research and articles on developing teams focus either on what the team has to achieve or healthy team dynamics. I strongly believe that one can’t go without the other and that there are two elements to a high performing teams: the Team Goal and Soul.
Bound together with equal importance, they create a spiral which is sequential and expansive. You can almost consider them as Yin and Yang – they’re opposite forces but cannot exist without the support of one another.
The Goal is the “hard” side of a high performing team. It makes sure that the right skills and expertise are present so that the team can create and achieve it’s aspirational goal. The Soul on the other hand is the “soft” side of this team. It addresses and supports healthy team dynamics.
The spiral itself consists of five stages which take a team from conception to review of its performance. These stages are:
Goal: Pick the Right Team
Soul: Break the Ice
The very first stage of any high performing team is to bring the right people together and make them comfortable with one another. At this point, the individual team members are not thinking about the goal they have to achieve and how they’re going to achieve it. Instead, they’re only focusing on getting to know one another and making sure that synergy is being created.
Goal: Co-create an Aspirational Goal
Soul: Take a Personal Deep-Dive
This stage is about defining the task the team has to complete which has a shared meaning and is bigger than each individual member and also about the spark that ignites the fire for this shared meaning of existence. The goal must be aspriational and push them beyond their comfort zone. They have to believe that they can trust each other on a personal level and commit themselves completely and entirely to the success of the team.
Goal: Align the Right Strategy
Soul: Establish Ways of Working
This is the last step of preparation for the team. They all understand where they currently are, where they want to be and agree on who’s going to do what to get there. Together, they establish a strategy that will achieve the aspirational goal along with how they’re going to positively influence all stakeholders. They also need to address how they will handle situations where the team doesn’t work they way they should.
Goal: Deliver Results
Soul: Care and Manage Conflict
During this stage the team swings into full action and each team member translates commitments into action. Everyone is held accountable and everything is transparent. Of course, aspirational goals cannot be achieved without some level of conflict. However, a strong team creates strengths from these differences and believes in providing a helping a hand while having fun.
Goal: Learn and Persevere
Soul: Celebrate and Grow
To grow, any process needs to be reviewed while people learn and grow from their mistakes. During this stage, the team is given the opportunity to shift the strategy as needed. It also caters for team members leaving and new ones joining. It’s all about collective feedback that isn’t personal and is given to help individuals, and thus, the team grow.
Though experience, I’ve learned that teams face more issues on the Soul side as compared to the Goal side. Perhaps it’s because leaders are so driven to achieve their targets, they often forget about the feelings of their people as the strive to reach the top. You can download the visual for the High Performing Team Spiral model here and comment below if you have any questions!