What Do High Performance Teams Look Like?

Does your organization know what high performance teams look like? Most organizations can point to teams who work together harmoniously and get their work done. And those characteristics are true of high performance teams, but they only scratch the surface, according to team expert Dr. Solange Charas. In an interview with Forbes, she pointed to seven key characteristics that boosted team performance to the highest levels:

  • Deal with differences
  • Trust each other
  • Create a meaningful context
  • Handle 
conflict and tension
  • Enact effective leadership roles within the team
  • Ability to apply skills and generate solutions
  • Team self-efficacy

If organizations can get these things right, the payouts are huge. Charas points to results of C-Level teams and boards where higher performing teams yielded greater profitability to their organizations by a factor of 20% or more. 

Its not easy though, or else every company would be performing at high levels. Take a look at that list. It truly comes down to how effectively individual members of a team are able to understand themselves and the others on the team. And more importantly, how well they can collaborate to drive results.

High performance teams are about harnessing the diverse perspectives and overcoming the tendency that individuals, especially leaders and those in high-level positions, have to move ahead with their own points of view.

So how do we get to a place where collaboration naturally occurs and cognitive dissonance is favored as a way to reframe conflict to productivity and performance?

Our research points to the fact that while there are seven distinct factors that each and every person possesses (Analytical, Structural, Social and Conceptual thinking and Expressiveness, Assertiveness and Flexibility behavior), the actual ways that each person exhibits them are completely unique and different.

This is nothing new (every person is unique), but differences in thinking and action account for how to take a team from simply getting work done to getting a team performing at the highest levels, where diverse ideas occur, trust is high and team self-efficacy is optimized.

Brian Uzzi, a Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, highlighted in Harvard Business Review how leaders must foster diverse thinking, stating, “Perspective taking for the leader begins with understanding what each teammate values and then brokering and communicating shared value among teammates.”

In order to uncover these perspectives and take advantage of different perspectives to create balanced, results-driven and high performance teams, there are a few key actions that teams can undergo:

  1. Take a look critically at the people on your team and do an audit. Do you have a wealth of analytical thinking for example? Ensure that someone is taking relationships into the picture. Are you a team of focused, process-driven, structured thinkers? Ensure that the bigger, conceptual picture is in sight and that the team members are working together to craft a shared vision for accomplishment. Are your team members boisterous and outspoken in their approach? Ensure that all voices are heard, even the quiet ones, to make sure that either task or relationships aren’t getting overrun by certain tendencies.
  2. Look for missing perspectives and develop ways to bring those perspectives to light. Balance begins with actually having a many equal sides coming together. This is the heart of cognitive diversity and a strategy must be envisaged to bring perspectives that aren’t there. Bringing a new person onto the team may be one option (use a hiring assessment to determine what kinds of motivators or perspectives will benefit the team most). Asking someone to fill in the roles needed is another tactic, even if it may not be their go-to approach. Simply having awareness of a perspective needed (say a more focused, task-oriented behavioral approach to work), can be enough to allow a team member to actively play this role.
  3. Ensure cognitive diversity is achieving business goals. Having a balanced team will only go so far, unless a balanced approach and collaborative effort is placed into the context of business results and objectives for the team and organization. Cognitive diversity doesn’t need to end at an interpersonal level; it can be built into the very framework of the strategy and work that a team performs.

Finding balance is one big way that organizations can create and nurture more productive high performance teams. It’s a performance indicator and one that you can watch closely to monitor your team performance

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