I owe much of my discipline and work ethic to my early football experiences. I know many people may not relate, but the grid-iron taught me more than how to compete in sport. The most successful team I played on was my senior varsity team, which went to the provincial championships. Our success was not just a factor of collective talent. Each of us knew our assignments and demonstrated a high degree of competency, we never missed practice and could be counted upon, we understood each other and there was an easy comradery, and most important we did not play for ourselves; we played for the team.
Years later I realized that our success was in part founded on the same comprehensive trustworthiness that all High Performing Teams (HPTs) possess:
Trust is foundational for HPT to exist, without it both speed and accuracy of work diminish as Stephen Covey identified in his seminal work The Speed of Trust.
But for HPT to exist among interdependent co-workers more is required; our research and experience has lead us to conclude that there are 6 big pillars supporting the effective functioning of a team that must be present for high performance:
- WORKING TOGETHER
- SHARED DIRECTION
- TEAM STRUCTURE
The first step we take when helping clients to build high performing teams is to measure the degree to which each of the pillars is present, and well distributed within a team. We use our confidential HPT survey to create the safety required to get honest data about the current functioning of a team. From this information we are able to target, and build the required infrastructure for HPT to take root and thrive.
Ultimately what we try to help teams achieve is what the research has shown to be the hallmarks of HPT; teams with the ability to act horizontally, rely on each other and maintain a strong operating culture. When this is in place it acts as a barrier to what Lencioni identified as the 5 dysfunctions of a team: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and an inattention to results.
The return on effort to establish high performance teams is substantial. They achieve a tempo of predicatively and consistently producing results at a level higher than others. More importantly for leadership, they do this without explicit management of the process as they possess the initiative to take independent action, and apply the discretionary effort to get the job done. This is what I call the HPT dividend, the benefit that continues to pay out well beyond the effort to build HPT has past. Whether during my early football experiences, or in the many work teams of which I have been a member, lead or to which I have consulted; I have been fortunate to benefit from the accomplishments of High Performance Teams. I wish the same for you.