Effective and high-performing teams are crucial to the success of organisations. However, studies have shown that a considerable number of teams are classed as ineffective. In fact, approximately 60% of teams are thought to be 'not performing well'.
For this reason, it’s recommended that you support your team in becoming more effective. After all, ineffective teams can have a substantial impact on the organisation. But how can you develop effective and high-performing teams? We share some insight here.
What Is an Effective and High-Performing Team?
When we think about what makes a high-performing and effective team just that, we may turn our thoughts to the goals that the team achieves or the successes or wins (no matter how small or big they are) that the team accomplishes.
Although high-performing teams are more likely to celebrate together, it could be argued that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to effective teams.
As Tim Baker shares in his book Winning Teams: The Eight Characteristics of High Performing Teams (Leading People), "the secret of a winning team is found in how its members relate and interact with one another and the frequency of their collaboration."
Contributing to Baker's findings, Jon Katzenbach states that "what sets apart a high-performance teams, however, is the degree of commitment, particularly how deeply committed the members are to one another."
Therefore, we can define an effective and high-performing team as a team where each member relates, collaborates, and commits to others.
Characteristics of an Effective and High-Performing Team
Developing an effective and high-performing team is at the top of many leaders' agendas. Yet many overlook some of the key characteristics of these teams and instead attempt to implement various strategies as soon as possible to achieve quick wins. However, doing so often leaves leaders questioning where things went wrong at a later date.
Before you can begin to work on developing your team, it's important to consider what contributes to an effective team. Upon understanding and reviewing the characteristics of an effective team, you can begin to support your team in a way that enables them to thrive.
But what are the characteristics you need to consider? Depending on who you speak to, you may find the answers vary significantly. However, we've shared our top six below.
A Clear Purpose and Vision
For teams to work well together, all members need to understand the purpose and vision of the organisation. Essentially, this purpose or vision helps the team understand why they are doing what they are doing. Without a shared goal, it can be difficult for teams to work collaboratively together, which could lead to team dysfunction.
Accountability is an essential ingredient to any successful team. Each member of the team must be accountable for the team's goals to ensure the team has the chance to reach its full potential. As a leader, holding a team accountable means creating a sense of responsibility. In doing so, each member knows how they can assist the team and organisation in reaching short and long-term goals.
Open and Frequent Communication
The ability to communicate openly and frequently plays a crucial role in the effectiveness of any team. Ask any individual what is important to them when working with a team, and the majority will say honest communication. Without open and honest conversations, teams are at greater risk of encountering issues that can be harder to overcome.
"Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concern without fear of reprisal." - Patrick Lencioni.
Additionally, teams that are unable to communicate experience greater levels of conflict, which puts organisations at risk of facing poor employee retention, crises, and performance.
Yet, when a team can communicate openly and honestly without fearing how other members may react or respond, the harmony amongst the team is much greater, thus leading to higher levels of performance.
In addition to being able to communicate with each other, 85% of leaders state that trust is essential when it comes to high-performing teams. As Patrick Lencioni shares in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, "teamwork begins with building trust."
Regrettably, as we shared in a previous blog, 62% of employees lack trust in their team and their employer. When teams lack trust, it opens the floor to reduced productivity, increased staff turnover, and a lack of performance, all of which contribute to ineffective teams.
Proactivity is the ability to take initiative and address problems before they escalate. Proactive teams are consistently learning how to improve their systems and processes, and they are quick to take action and adapt when faced with potential problems. In turn, they work much more effectively together.
When it comes to support, there are two things to consider. The first is the support the team receives from you, the leader. The second is the support and encouragement that the team as a whole receives from each member.
Pre-Covid, the number of employees and leaders openly asking for support or sharing that they may need additional support was relatively low. However, earlier this year, a study conducted by AXA shared that 49% of British workers feel better able to acknowledge when they need support.
Effective and high-performing teams can support each other through times of need. This is because each team member brings unique qualities to the table, such as skills, personal experiences, and perspectives.
Developing Effective and High-Performing Teams
There are several ways to develop effective and high-performing teams. However, considering the above characteristics, starting with a clear purpose and vision in mind is paramount. Once you have this, you can begin to inspire your team with your purpose.
Once the team is on board with the vision and understands its purpose, setting clear goals is essential. As a leader, it's not enough to state that you want to achieve a certain KPI or meet a specific target. Instead, you should empower your team to set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. From here, you can assign roles and responsibilities whilst encouraging the team to be accountable for their actions and communicate openly.
Finally, be proactive and take initiative as a team. Provide support and encouragement to each member, and don't forget to celebrate team success.
Developing effective and high-performing teams is not a quick win. Like anything, it takes time, patience, effort, and support. Although internally developing your team may be desirable, many teams benefit from working with an external coaching provider.
At The Leadership Coaches, our team of credible coaches are experienced and adept at supporting teams in developing their effectiveness. Many of our coaches have first-hand experience working within organisations, and so can reflect on their knowledge when supporting you and your people.
If you'd like to find out how we can assist you, please contact us directly or learn more about team coaching here. To find out more about how we've worked with teams, review our case studies or coach profiles.