Innovation and Teams

I’ve been spending the past few months in the world of Change Management and while innovation is the topic at hand, to fall back on an old maxim around change, I thought I’d take time this week to reiterate how we build high performance teams and take those teams from good to great.

First off, what are the characteristics of a high performance team?

  • Structured for results
  • Manage and improve group processes
    • Have a purposeful way to make the team better – stop and take a look at what’s working well and what isn’t so they can make improvements
    • Leverage start, stop, continue exercises where you discuss what needs to stop, what needs to start, what should be continued
  • Intentional about developing  a high performance team culture (culture describes the practices, traditions and values of the team – the environment in which we work)
  • Have results-oriented meetings
    • Have a purpose behind the meeting, an intent
    • Every once in a while need to do something with the team to have some fun
  • Achieve a high level of performance
    • Have goals and achieve goals
  • They have alignment between formal and informal group norms

Typically, there are five dysfunctions that inhibit a team from being highly functional (Lencioni)

  • Absence of trust—unwilling to be vulnerable within the group
  • Fear of conflict—seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate
  • Lack of commitmentfeigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization
  • Avoidance of accountability—ducking the responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behavior which sets low standards
  • Inattention to results—focusing on personal success, status and ego before team success

In order to overcome these areas of dysfunction, first and foremost we, as leaders, have to lean in and lead.  Beyond that, here are some tools for developing a high performance team:

  • Focus on different aspects which are observable and addressable
    • Structure, Processes, Culture, Meetings, and Results
    • Within that structure, dissect different areas where there are gaps and address
    • In order to have proper structure, have to be willing to work as team and not as group of individuals towards a common end.  Not feasible to have sustainable structure without clearly defined rallying cry
    • From a process standpoint, teams will frequently shut out those people that aren’t in favor or held in high regard.
      • Frequently radio station WIIFM gets in the way of a strong commitment to success of the team – we have to engage our teams at an individual level so that they:
        • Are aware of the need for change (and their own why)
        • Desire to participate and support the project
        • Have the knowledge of HOW to accomplish the unified vision (and how they fit in)
        • Have the ability to impact the project on a daily basis (through empowerment)
        • We reinforce the need for the broader change/project/program/rallying cry of our customers
  • Team norms need to be developed in the open, not in a vacuum
    • Once established, norms need to be maintained and nurtured; have to establish a culture of “calling out” when people violate norms but needs to be in a compassionate way
    • Team norms that create a climate for excellence
      • Limit it to a maximum of five – what’s easy to recall and over-communicate them

If any of you haven’t had a chance to read Good to Great by Jim Collins, I recommend it wholeheartedly (as well as his other books).  As well,  there’s this article from Forbes on how we as leaders can enable innovation which includes trusting yourself enough to trust others, collaborate and discover, communicate to learn, be a courageous change agent, and course correction to perfect.

I’m sure we’re all starting to see a trend here, and I appreciate the patience you all are showing me as I stay up on my soapbox a little bit longer.

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