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Top Barriers to High Performance Teams

People by themselves are complex creatures, but assemble a bunch of people together on a team and the complexity gets exponentially greater.  How do you get all those people, agendas, personality styles, roles, career aspirations, and performance inter-dependencies to coordinate and efficiently pull toward a common set of business objectives?

High performance teams have great chemistry and that chemistry is reflected in their operational relationships, actions, decisions and outcomes.

When problems arise in the business or between individuals, as they always do, how do people effectively resolve them and when can’t they on their own? How and when does the leader step in and fairly adjudicate a resolution?  If people are to optimally work together on a team together, trust and confidence in each other and their leadership is a foundational prerequisite.  Without the right people, structure, leadership and performance management systems, the optimal team performance will not emerge.

How do you know if your team is a high performance team?  It helps to understand the symptoms of a team that is not high performing, which is characterized by problems that don’t go away or take far too long to resolve.  The following are some of the common problems of low or average performance teams:

  1. Problem resolution – not able to quickly resolve business, team on team or individual conflicts.  This distraction keeps them from staying focused on external market or customer activities.

  2. Trust issues – where there is a lack of trust, team efficiency, quality issues or innovation, apathy and conflict are not far away.

  3. Relationships issues – individual conflicts go unresolved, are known by everyone and are a distraction to the team and business.

  4. Lack of role clarity – when two people occupy a common swim lane conflicts are going to occur.

  5. Lack of defined or enforced core values – how an individual conducts himself or herself is important to the long-term health of the team.  Without some standard of conduct usually defined by core values and enforced through a 360-degree appraisal process, collaborative behavior and team cohesion quickly erode.

  6. Poorly designed performance metrics and incentives – what gets incentivized gets done!  When performance metrics are poorly designed they typically set up internal competition and that competition leads to turf wars, low coordination, low collaboration, and conflicts between otherwise well meaning people. Poorly designed incentive structures create unintended consequences that are costly to the business and team harmony, customer satisfaction and performance.

  7. Weak leadership – if there is a leader who does not set a good example or is unable or willing to enforce good behavior and performance accountability and there will be a broad spectrum of team performance problems.

  8. Political versus performance culture – if politics and relationships with the boss are valued above contribution, good judgment and performance there will be trouble.  Remember,  what gets rewarded gets done – ALWAYS!

  9. Lack of effective dialogue – in today’s complex organizations, team and individual roles are so interdependent that without constant coordinated dialogue there will be costly delivery, quality and brand erosion problems.  There are a lot of really smart people that for a variety of communication and/or relationship reasons can’t effectively work within an interdependent team structure.

  10. Feedback – people need continuous constructive feedback to optimize and calibrate their approach, actions and communications with peers, staff and leaders.  Without feedback people will continuously play out their blind spots.

High performance teams are nurtured, carefully built, and require continuous leadership vigilance.

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