Building High Performance Teams

July 28, 2009

ppleTeams have proven to be a powerful vehicle for both achieving quantum improvements in productivity as well as implementing major organizational change. In today’s competitive marketplace, the need to accelerate the development of high performance teams is critical.

This may involve:

  • Revitalizing an Executive Team that is consumed with turf issues
  • Forming a new team from consolidated departments
  • Integrating cross-functional teams to improve productivity across boundaries
  • Partnering for process improvements with vendors or customers
  • Implementing major change with a consultant/client engagement team

In order to master the art of the team:

  • Teams need to learn how to grow up quicker and get well sooner
  • Most teams struggle needlessly through a series of predictable challenges
  • Some teams get stuck along the way and never achieve high performance
  • Some teams achieve high performance but cannot sustain it

Not all groups that work together need to be teams. Four essential elements of a team are:

  • Common goals versus individual goals
  • Commitment of members to common goals
  • High degree of interdependence among members
  • Team accountability to a higher level

The following model applies to the development of team:

  • Teams have a very predictable life cycle. Just as people develop in stages (childhood to adulthood) so do teams.
  • Each stage has its challenges which must be overcome to allow the team to develop. Teams grow stronger as they solve the challenges of each stage.
  • Team leadership needs to focus on two objectives in each stage: The task (the work itself, achieving results) and the relationship (working together, getting along, the process)
  1. First stage is FORMING. The team challenge is orientation. The task objective is clarifying goals and structure. The relationship objective is getting to know each other.
  2. Second stage is STORMING. The team challenge is conflict. The task objective is confronting systems conflicts. The relationship objective is confronting people’s conflicts.
  3. Third stage is NORMING. The team challenge is cooperation. The task objective is open communication and involvement. The relationship objective is understanding and respecting individual differences.
  4. Fourth stage is PERFORMING. The team challenge is productivity. The task objective is solving problems. The relationship objective is promoting interdependence.

There are no short cuts. Teams that are poorly formed will experience more conflict and may never move beyond the storming stage, while teams that seem to move effortlessly from forming to performing are vulnerable. They have not learned how to deal with adversity (storming) nor have they developed norms to sustain during difficult times.

  • Teams that do not resolve the challenges of each stage get stuck and rarely achieve high performance.
  • Just as teams can develop in readiness, they can also regress with changes in goals, the external environment or the membership.

There is a close parallel between leadership styles and team stages. Teams need a lot of structure and direction (styles 1 and 2) in the forming and storming stages and alot of involvement and empowerment (styles 3 and 4) in the norming and performing stages.

Team Building Strategies:

  • The quickest and most effective way to develop a team is to provide it with the leadership it needs based on its readiness. As suggested earlier, teams need different leadership at different stages in their development.
  • High Performance Teams share seven common dimensions: Common Purpose-Stretch Goals, Results-Driven Structure, Competent Membership, Customer-Focused Leadership, Single Minded Commitment, Team Accountablity and Team Collaboration.

(Courtesy of Curran Consulting Group)

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The Johari Window

July 8, 2009

Johari Window In 1955, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham designed the ‘Johari Window’, a cognitive   psychological tool, which continues to inform our understanding of how people communicate inter-personally and how relationships are formed today.   This tool is particularly valuable in developing the leadership personalities of managers and executives all over the world.  The ‘Johari Window’ divides personal awareness into four arenas which we move between as we interact with others.  The four windows are:

1) ‘Open window’/Public arena: Things that I know about myself and that you know about me.

2) ‘Blind window’/Blind arena: Things that you know about me, but that I am not aware of.

3) ‘Hidden window’/Private arena: Things that I know about myself and that you do not know.

4) ‘Unknown window’/Subconscious/Unconscious Arena: Things neither I know about myself, nor you know about me.

The Center for Leadership Studies utilizes the ‘Johari Window’ when they want to highlight leadership personality, which includes self-perception and the perception of others versus their leadership style, which only looks at the perception of their behavior by others.  The two processes that affect the shape of the Johari Window’ are feedback and disclosure.

Feedback refers to the extent to which others in an organization are willing to share with their leader their feelings and perceptions.  Of equal importance in this dynamic is the leader’s willingness and openness to perceive the verbal and non-verbal feedback that exists within their relational dynamic. Without an openness to accept this feedback from one’s subordinates/associates, managers will develop blind areas that will erode their effectiveness over time.    The greater likelihood that feedback is exchanged within an organization, the greater the public arena of a leader will overshadow their private arena leading to a less potent blind arena.

The second process that affects the shape of the ‘Johari Window’ is disclosure, or the extent to which leaders are willing to reveal themself to others in their organization.  A leader’s behavior provides the greatest insight into their values versus what they say about themselvs.  In the interest of the time and energy of organizations,  leaders should always take into consideration disclosing only what is relevant to the operation of an organization and compartmentalizing that which is irrelevant.   This way, the leader’s public arena will only open up into the private arena when it is in the best interest of the overall organization.

In organizations where there is ongoing feedback and disclosure between leaders and their subordinates/associates, the public arena of the leaders extends itself into the blind and private arenas. Also, there is a greater likelihood that what was previously unknown to the leader or the others will be exposed in the public arena.

In considering your own leadership personality, how much feedback and disclosure are you perceiving and receiving within your organization? Do you think that by increasing your openness to this input you would improve your effectiveness?  What is getting in your way of this happening more often?