The Key To Building A High-Performing Team

July 20, 2016 - 6 minute read - Posted by

The most successful organizations have core values that focus on happy, high-performing teams. As a leader at your company, a good proportion of time is spent focused on making sure your team works well together from the hiring process forward. 

Setting stretch goals and building a culture of employee recognition is a recipe for success when a team works well together.

While there will be avoiders of conflict, others will readily confront issues they have with others, holding all employees accountable for what they say is key to a high-functioning team.

The key to building a high-performing team is mutual trust inspired by transparency.

Like the foundation of any strong relationship in the workplace, facilitating strong collaboration requires trusting in the strengths of others. Transparency of information builds character, accountability and employees that are always willing to lend a hand.

Picture what a team built on the core values of transparency and trust could achieve together: Employees would be able to share ideas without feeling it might not be good enough and challenge one another without conflict.

Take Google’s Project Aristotle for instance. It’s a research project on what makes a high-performing team. Google studied a number of teams internally to see what factors allowed them to succeed together. Here’s what Google learned about building high-performing teams:

Having a diverse portfolio of skills in a team doesn’t always make for the highest performing team. Skills can be developed, how the team interacts and works together cannot alway be facilitated.

In the end, Google was able to narrow it down to 5 essential factors that make a high-performing team:

  1. Trust – The ability to express what you would like and take risks comfortability in a team environment.
  2. Accountability – The ability to hold team members accountable for their responsibilities and actions.
  3. Transparency – Clearly defined values and goals that are communicated to the whole team.
  4. Meaning of work – Everyone on the team feels some aspect of their work is important.
  5. Impact of work – Everyone on the team feels their contributions have an impact.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of insight from Google’s Project Aristotle is that without trust, the other four factors do not make-up nearly as high-performing of a team.

Here’s a quick exercise: Attempt to recall a moment in time you didn’t sharing something at work (whether this be a question, a new idea or an issue you had). Was it because you were worried about what your team might have thought of you?

The point there is, unless you hold the epitome of confidence known to man, there has been a time in your working life you’ve been too uncomfortable to share in a team setting. Sometimes, there can be a lot of challenges involving how much we can share at work given the differing levels of transparency companies provide to their employees. Because of how uncomfortable sharing can get, this is where employees shy away from saying something they believe may affect the team’s perception of their abilities.

In the same study, Google found under open team dynamics, employees were more likely to own up to mistakes, had a higher rate of retention and worked better with others.

The Big Question: How Do We Build Trust In Teams?

There is an element of risk in trusting your colleagues.

In Brené Brown’s TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability”, she explains that having courage means to be vulnerable—that sharing what might potentially be flawed is powerful.

Here are 3 powerful actions you can take to start building the trust of a high-performing team:

Remove the fear of sharing

  • Remind your team it’s perfectly normal to not know something
  • Remind your team you make mistakes as well

Refrain from casting blame

  • Rather than asking “Who was responsible for this?” when something doesn’t go as planned, ask “How can we learn from this experience as a team?”
  • Come together as a team for viable solutions to approach the issue

Be the role model

  • Try telling a story about a risk you took or a challenge you’ve faced in the past and how you approached it in a team
  • Empathize with the challenges your team is facing and give supportive feedback

Learn more about recognizing employees

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