High Performing Teams Part 2 – Team Dynamics

Last week I sent out an article that proposed a picture of what a High Performance Team (HPT) looks like, in it the essential elements they focused on were having: 

  • Clear purpose

  • Strong behavioral frameworks

  • Genuine relationships and communication

This week’s article drills down into that by looking at how that all plays out in team dynamics, it asks questions that help bring these theoretical ideas into practice.  There is a healthy dive into feedback, what they call “genuine conversations,”  some of which should sound familiar (especially if you’ve checked out the Radical Candor tool – 20 minute video here).  

I’ve left some links in the document, one leads you to some thoughts about lack of time seen through the lens of what and how you prioritize, the other is on a fave subject of mine, psychological safety.  Each of those will take up about 5-7 minutes to peruse.  


Reading Guide:

Any of these articles that I’m sending are not meant to spell out the official way of thinking, nor are they handing you the absolute Vestalia tool to use in appropriate situations.  They are springboards for thought.  

  • What ideas in here do you connect with?
  • What ideas in here do you disagree with and/or want to challenge?
  • Do you see other ideas or points of view that aren’t being mentioned here?
  • Was there something in there that makes you want to learn more?  
  • Where, how, or from whom can you get more information?

As always, I’m here if you want to share any feedback with me about this article. I’d especially love to know if there are topics in leadership or culture that you’d like to see articles on.  

Thanks everyone, happy reading!


Team Dynamics

 Adapted from article on High Performance Teams from Leading Teams

Focusing attention on the dynamics of your team (culture, relationships, behavior) will have a direct and positive impact on the mechanics of your business (numbers, systems, operating processes).

There are three crucial elements to any high performing team:


1. Common purpose

How do you define a team? We think that a team is any collection of people that have a common purpose; a group that is all trying to achieve the same thing.

If you’re not sure of yours, ask yourself, why does your team exist? What impact would there be on the organization if your team didn’t exist? You might be a sports team, all trying to win a championship. Or you might be a sales team trying to win new business. Or you might be a working group drawn from lots of different areas of a business, all working together to deliver a project. Your team doesn’t have to be formally defined, but it does have to share a common purpose if you are to achieve your objectives.


2. Agreed behavioral framework

What does it mean to be in your team? What behaviors do you expect? What behaviors do you accept that you know are counterproductive? Do you hear the language of responsibility or the language of blame and excuses?

You must create a set of behaviors that define the team. And then we ask every member of the team to commit to living those behaviors, and to rewarding and challenging the behaviors they see from their colleagues according to that framework.


3. Strong professional relationships

Team dynamics are built on relationships. How much time do you spend working on your relationships in your team? We think it should be a priority, but often it’s not. And to be clear, we’re not referring to friendships – whilst it’s great to be friends with your colleagues it’s important to make sure you don’t let friendship affect your ability to give and receive feedback. Building strong professional relationships, and an environment of trust and respect, takes time and effort but it pays dividends in performance.

Together, these three elements combine to create an environment of psychological safety (the number 1 factor in team success according to Google’s re:Work) in which team members can have genuine conversations about performance.


What do we mean by ‘genuine conversations’?

Genuine conversations happen once you’ve established your team’s set of behaviors and spent time developing strong professional relationships.

Quite simply, a genuine conversation is a conversation about performance, with the intent of helping someone in your team to improve, whatever their role or level of responsibility in the business. We don’t label feedback as positive or negative – if it comes from the right place, all feedback is an opportunity to improve.

It takes time and effort to develop an environment of mutual trust and respect that creates a safe environment for genuine conversations and that’s ok. Your leadership coach can work with you on the steps to take to get there.

This can be a daunting process, once people reach the point where they can accept the discomfort of giving candid feedback and have genuine conversations, they never regret it. Often people will engage in negative self-talk about genuine conversations (“It will be difficult, it’s too hard to say”) but once you shift your perception to a view that the conversation is about caring for your colleague and helping them to improve, the process becomes second-nature.


When do you have a genuine conversation?

Start by getting the three things we mention at the start of the article – clarity of purpose, strong relationships, agreed behaviors – in place.  If you’ve got these, you’ve got the basis for a genuine conversation.

And then ask yourself these questions:

Is my motive for saying something pure?

By this we mean are you entering into the conversation with the aim of improving the situation or are you (albeit subconsciously) trying to put someone down or make yourself look superior?

 Do I believe what I’m saying to be true? 

At that moment in time, can you hand-on-heart state that the issue you are raising is authentic?

If the answer to both of these is yes, then it’s time to step up and say something – you’re ready to have a genuine conversation.

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