When you take a look at the DNA of successful companies, you notice that high performing teams within the company drive success, whether it’s in areas like sales and marketing or operations, customer service, and manufacturing.
While there are many aspects to building great teams that continuously take their companies to new levels of success, defined by increased revenues and profitability and managing expenses and resources effectively, there are three fundamental traits that we see over and over again in the highest functioning organizations. Leaders model these traits, and their associates emulate them. And the very best organizations systematize them.
These fundamental qualities necessary for building high performance teams in business organizations are trust, openness, and understanding. Let’s start with trust. As with any of these qualities, the success of the team depends upon how managers interact with their employees and how the employees interact with each other.
In a recent Inc. Magazine article, Geoffrey James discusses the work environments and results produced by teams with average managers who motivate by fear and demand that their employees simply follow orders, versus extraordinary managers who motivate through vision and give employees freedom to have fun and take action and responsibility. The foundational concept here is trust—if managers trust their employees to make their own decisions, then employees will, in turn, empower each other. Trust not only heightens performance—it simultaneously drives engagement.
Many managers and workers struggle with the concept of openness. We have gotten so trained in our society on the concept that “knowledge is power,” and, in our weaker moments, we feel that we need to concentrate knowledge in our own hands to control our professional destinies. Time and again, though, we see the worst performances out of teams led by secretive managers who only give their employees the nuggets they think they need to drive their performance. James addresses this concept as well—it smacks of a patriarchal approach where managers see their employees less as peers and more like their own children.
A lack of openness results in many types of negative behaviors. Among them—employees finding themselves working in lowest-common-denominator fashion, doing the bare minimum to get by, and looking to stay out of trouble versus achieve. To the contrary, the most open managers—those who freely share business challenges and obstacles freely with their teams—are able to bring more minds to the table to effectively solve problems. Openness creates a “rise to the occasion” mindset from employees with regard to how they see their leaders and the business, and they want to pull together for each other as well.
As if trust and openness weren’t hard enough for many business managers to achieve, perhaps the hardest nut to crack is that of understanding. While we regularly train and coach our clients on concepts like trust and openness, to truly create understanding among one’s employees, you either have to be a psychological savant or have the right tools.
That’s where companies like ours come in with solutions to get to the core of who people are as unique human beings through a combination of psychometric, values and interests, and competency assessments.
There’s a perception out there, no doubt harbored in many low performance organizations, that companies use this type of front-end screening to weed people out of hiring processes and then utilize manipulative management tactics with employees once they are hired. We turn these notions on their respective heads—to the contrary, we think that these types of evaluations are best used to plug people into the right functional roles to optimize teams, and we also believe that they provide a critical roadmap for understanding.
This roadmap for understanding is two-fold and best understood by a couple of our products, the Talent Card and Peer Card. Each of these cards is simply a set of outputs and recommendations, one for managers and one for peers, to promote ongoing understanding and better team results. It almost goes without saying that if people understand what you value in yourself and others, how you operate in stressful situations and react to conflict, and where you find your motivation and passion, they will meet you in the right place.
Promoting understanding among managers, employees, and colleagues is ultimately what building high performance teams is all about. High performance teams deliver sustainable success to both organizations and the individuals who drive them.