Building and maintaining high performing teams is a timeless topic that needs continuous revisiting. It is aspirational for every organisation to establish a highly productive and functionally diverse team, with the right mix of skills and strengths giving the team the edge to thrive. There are many case studies of spectacular teams in the past such as NASA’s Apollo 11, Wikipedia and the Royal Society of London.
Looking at it from the lens of the current en masse work-from-home requires another revisit as to what to consider in top notch teams. Irrespective of Covid-19, the significance of building high-performance teams can not be undermined as digital technology reshapes the future of work and workplaces. Going forward, a leader's job becomes increasingly demanding as more work is conducted remotely, organisational boundaries become more ambiguous, the gig economy more rampant, and partnerships critical. Technology will help resolve several tasks and issues, as a surprising number of capabilities are becoming more and more commoditised. For example, I read an article written by a robot: Who could have ever imagined that?
To understand how to address the cracks that are arising now and in the future, we must first recognise the pattern of common gaps that keep teams from working at their best.
The top three requirements of any high performing team and what to focus on now are:
Leaders now must check if all team members understand the collective vision and are clear of their place in that plan. If casual meetups and conversations were relaying that earlier, they have to make it a more conscious process by addressing it in online discussions. Becoming aware of any discrepancies or misalignments that are typically quite subtle requires leaders to learn to hear the unsaid and read between the lines. It might be a good time to take that class to learn to read body language and start by setting a personal vision. I discuss in depth the uniquely personal vision concept and how to identify it in my book Checkmate Office Politics.
Extremely successful teams are composed of people who communicate frequently and collaborate and build trust through relationships. Team size and team composition are essential factors in enabling the optimum dynamics within the team. Too small a group can result in more flawed decisions because of low diversity and fewer inputs. It also affects succession planning negatively, since there are fewer people to pick from and greater internal competition. On the other hand, research indicates that larger teams cause smaller groups to be formed encouraging divisive behaviour. They also undermine ownership of group decisions due to a lack of space and time for everyone to voice their opinions.
In a remote setup, the size and composition have to be further examined and fine-tuned.
There is enough proof of what psychological safety can do to people's motivation to perform and excel. Appreciating and encouraging diverse thinking, managing conflict constructively, and learning and adapting builds a culture of risk-taking and innovation.
History has many examples of the conditions that need to be right for successful teams. Nurturing leadership and continuous awareness of others' working styles, whether it is remote or in person, are just some of the contributing factors that aid the creation of a high performance team.
The author is Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners, a leadership development company based in Bengaluru.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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