Collaboration becomes more complex as teams have grown more dynamic, diverse, and digital. CEOs need to formulate proven strategies to keep their high-performing team well-developed and sustained.
Teams nowadays have been changing rapidly from how they looked in the past. They’re far more dispersed, creating frequent changes in membership. But when there might be so many obstacles teams face, the key to a well-functioning team still hinges on a core set of collaboration fundamentals. Therefore, it’s not surprising that building a high-performing team is a timeless business obsession.
Research from The Corporate Executive Board Company (CEB) revealed that 60% of all new managers fail within their first 24 months since taking their new position. The main reason they fail? Not enough training on effectively managing was the main reason behind their failure.
In the McKinsey Study, “How Companies Manage the Front Line Today,” it’s reported that 80% of front-line leaders convey displeasure with their job performance, and 70% of senior managers agreed.
The survey conducted by Rallyware further shows a more surprising fact. About 69% of Managers fail to organize communication with Their employees. From the employee’s perspective, communication issues are a common cause. 91% of respondents of the survey said businesses could gradually be dragged down due to the leaders’ lack of soft skills in streamlining employee communication.
As we can see up to this point, it’s common to see so many leaders complaining about the leadership development programs that couldn’t even deliver the output needed. In contrast, leadership skills are needed to execute strategies and purposes in the company. Organizing multiple energetic yet ambitious people into a one-unit seems as challenging as ever; making leadership advice will never come to the end of the road.
What Exactly Developing High-Performance Teams Means
The high-performing team has created a value that is well appreciated. That was why 90% of investors considered the management team quality besides the financial factor in an IPO evaluation. Savvy investors in startups further also appraise the interaction of the founding members more than the idea itself.
Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) describes a “high-performance work team” as a group of goal-focused individuals with specialized expertise and complementary skills. They want to collaborate, innovate and produce consistent results. There are several elements possessed by the high-performing team in pursuing excellence, including 1) shared goals, 2) shared leadership, 3) open communication, 4) clear role expectations and operating rules, 5) collaboration, 6) prepared conflict resolution, and 7) a robust sense of accountability and member trust.
Moreover, digital technology reshapes the notion of how work gets done. We can see how work is conducted remotely nowadays, freelancers have become unremarkable, and companies have permeable boundaries.
As digital technology evolves commoditized, it becomes a determinant factor of how operations will result. Consequently, the topic of building a high-performing team will not seem diminishing. Instead, the leadership role becomes more high-demanding.
Among the countless sources of methods for building a top team, there are three critical dimensions of great teamwork that leaders could deploy on their team. As it’s covered in McKinsey, “High-performing teams: A timeless leadership topic,” the three essential ingredients that leaders must show are alignment on direction, execution of intents, and a strong sense of renewal.
“Three secrets in creating a high-performing team: leaders make decisions concerning people and direction (alignment); implementing the intentions (execution), and being well-prepared for the next change (renewal).”
The First Secret: Alignment on Direction
The first is alignment on the direction. Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” It is the most critical part where leaders have to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Alignment is where the team has a shared understanding of the company’s mission.
At this point, leaders need to ensure that the shared belief of the company’s direction and the role of the team are crystal clear. So the teams are willing to grasp them thoroughly. Leaders need to be ready with all the sailing pieces of equipment, the maps, and the destination they will head to before getting to start steering all the watermen to row the boat.
While leaders always intend to build a successful team, most of them are still trapped in the focus of frequent tasks. Alignment needs to be conducted every moment, besides the regular strategy meetings. Thus, interaction can be a pivotal opportunity to discover gaps and problems.
As it’s mentioned at Forbes, “Building Team Alignment: It’s An Everyday Job,” Minor disagreement that leaders hear there or a lack of understanding they see here can be the signals. Sometimes the movement is nothing and will solve itself automatically. But on the flip side, it grows bigger and makes the projects go off the rails. Leaders need to catch the motion between the two and find the solution to realign things.
So, what causes misalignment on a team? There are three main causes of why so many businesses go off the rails.
1. Managers are not aware of the risks of mismatch
The Article “How Aligned Is Your Organization?” written by Daniel Woods, an expert in accounting and financial services, showed that senior executives who become his correspondent never think that their company is connected and coherent as value chains. Instead, they only focus on the organization chart and enterprise structure. Meanwhile, reaching an alignment in the organization requires the view of the value chain that every decision-maker has to have.
2. No one “possesses” the company’s alignment.
Rather than aligning across the entire company, individual leaders only focus on their domains. When it comes to enterprise alignment and who owns the responsibility, the answer can’t be “nobody.” Modern companies become more complex, making the management design can’t only rely on individual wisdom.
3. The complexity makes it even harder to align the business.
A company’s alignment is harder to reach and sustain due to the complexity of the environment that is changing rapidly. Complexity itself is arising due to several factors: the number of staff, the variety of business lines, the variety and expectations of different client groups, and geographic dispersion.
So what enterprise alignment should look like? In the Harvard Business Review, “How Aligned Is Your Organization?,” companies can achieve alignment by embracing a managed enterprise value chain.
It’s about the process of making a connection from an enterprise’s purpose to several elements, including business strategy, organizational capability, resource architecture, and management systems.
Before implementing a company value chain, leaders have to understand each element:
(1) Enterprise’s purpose is about “what company does and why company does it.”
(2) Business strategy is “what company is trying to win at to fulfill its purpose.”
(3) Organizational capability is understanding “what company needs to be good at to win.”
(4) Resource architecture is about “what makes the company good”; and
(5) Management systems are about “what delivers the winning performance company needs.”
Second Secret: Successful Strategy Execution
A bright plan, a booming product, or cutting-edge technology can put the business on the map of the competition, but the one with the best execution can stay ahead of the contest. The powerful execution is made from the day-by-day business decision by both, leaders who catch the intention and employees who have the knowledge and self-interest.
But sadly, most companies still lack achievement in executing their strategy. We found managers still lack a clear sense of their roles and responsibilities. They had no intuitive understanding of what decisions they had to make. It was a lengthy undertaking on micromanagement and questioning, and lacking in accountability. As well, there was a weak relationship between returns and rewards.
Bridging the Strategy-execution Gap
Finding a solution to the strategy-to-execution gap is not that easy. Leaders need to make sure that all the team members are focusing on effectiveness and doing the right things. Employees should know the strategy, believe in it, and put all their effort into implementing those strategies.
In its article “How the Most Successful Teams Bridge the Strategy-Execution Gap,” HBR tried to tell about how they examined 49 enterprise leadership teams that spent their time bridging the execution gap. And here are the results.
Devoting to an Identity
The organization should have a strong commitment to its identity. A shared understanding of the value proposition and distinctive capabilities are needed. From the survey, the high-performing team is spending 20% more time defining strategies like translating a high-level vision into clear actionable goals.
Further, the successful companies with their high-performing team spent 12% of their time aligning the organization through frequent internal communications and constant messaging.
Translating Strategy into Daily Processes and Capacities
The best-performing top teams create a permeable membrane between the organization’s mission and day-to-day operations. They are also agile in course correction when business needs change, and are more ready to move corporate resources to make sure the strategy is executed.
High-performing teams devoted more than 25% more time to organizational focus than their lower-performing peers. This time was dedicated to establishing financial and operational measures, aligning objectives with the overall strategy, allocating resources, and examining key measures.
High-performing teams also spent 14% more time verifying their progress against strategic objectives by examining key actions and reallocating resources accordingly.
Focusing on the unique cultural factors that drive achievement
Speaking of being adaptive, highly performing teams still avoid traditional change programs because it’s really useful to address gaps and weaknesses. 28% of the time is spent engaging the organization by conducting ongoing dialogue and raising the voice concerns via employees forum and surveys. They also invested one-third more time in reviewing development plans to optimize the capabilities of their talents. 54% of their time was dedicated to setting direction and making a vision to give guiding light for decision-making.
Shaping the way forward
Rather than being reactive, high performers tend to shape the future. In shaping the future, they react to change in the present and position the enterprise for future success. They devote 25% of their time to determining their needs and expectations to influence stakeholders.
The “Plan-then-Do” vs. “Decide-Do”
Research indicates that executives lose 40% of the potential value of their strategy due to execution failures. It’s because so many companies still follow the “Plan-then-Do” approach to strategy. It makes companies work tirelessly to create the best forecasts for the future market. Meanwhile, Successful businesses today are closing the gap between strategy and performance with a new strategic approach, “Decide-Do/Refine-Do.” This agile approach is better suited for today’s challenging environment.
From the HBR research, here are lessons from what successful businesses have done:
Treat the strategy as moving forward
For the best companies, strategy is not so much a plan. They see it as an orientation of decisions. A company’s strategy is the summation of the decisions it makes and implements over time. This mindset emphasizes short-term decision-making with consideration for the long-term destination but does not presuppose that there is only one way forward.
When the route is free of obstacles, the value of maneuverability is low. In today’s environment, however, flexibility counts. It is best to choose a single route, even if it limits the company’s ability to bypass potential barriers.
Establish response mechanisms
In a world where the best plans can go wrong, companies that respond quickly and efficiently lead the way. Robust emergency planning is as important as robust response planning.
It requires leadership to identify concrete actions to adjust course in the event of unforeseen changes in the external environment. They must have mechanisms in place to continually monitor market and competition conditions.
Strong performance demands strong strategy and execution, and today’s leaders need a new approach to strategy development. To succeed, leaders need to identify the next steps in a broad strategic path and then learn and refine. Hence, the “decide-do” approach facilitates implementation for excellent results.
Third Secret: Strong Sense of Renewal
The third secret is a great sense of renewal, which means creating an environment where team members are encouraged. Gone are the days when the norm of a professional’s success was how late they stayed at the office and sacrificed for the sake of work. Business leaders have to know that the price of such a culture was way too high, resulting in poor health and performance for their employees. That is what makes renewal so critical.
Renewal is where the team can take the time to recover and react to change within the team’s purpose or business environment. Here, teams feel empowered to take risks, innovate, learn externally and do something essential for the company. When it comes to renewal, leaders must not only be proactive, but they must also let team members do what is necessary to refresh themselves and maintain their vibrancy.
The well-being of the Team
Well-being is not just a physical health issue, but also a psychological health issue. Concerning the well-being of the team, several things should belong to the team member. It’s including:
- a sense of control over the environment
- opportunities to build positive relationships and personal growth
- a sense of purpose
- self-awareness; and
- autonomy in their work.
Then what are ways to achieve the great well-being of the team? Here are things to consider:
1. Little things mean a lot
A well-developed manager may seek out renewal opportunities. Do managers find that their employees take their meals from their offices to continue the unfinished work? They can be proactive in advising the team to get some sunlight and fresh air between meals. There is empirical evidence that this has increased team morale and productivity.
2. The outcome outweighs the effort
A higher level of renewal would come to the company structure that values employees than those who focus solely on an entry timesheet. It’s because the structure can promote confidence, transparency, and optimism so expectations in the workplace become more flexible.
Promoting renewal is a recognition of results rather than efforts. The good old days of a supervisor walking on the floor to ensure everyone was “busy” are long gone. Enabling team members to do things that fit their style, strengths and talents will help them thrive.
3. A Regular Check
A critical component of renewal is that leaders regularly check in with team members on a weekly or monthly basis. The goal is to see how the teams are doing, not to ensure they are performing well. It’s called the “coach approach” and leaders have to ensure the team’s progresses by questioning:
- How do you track towards your objectives?
- How can I support you?
- Do you believe you have been challenged enough?
Again, the idea is to ask questions so that team members can solve their problems. The “coach approach” empowers team members and fosters renewal and resiliency in a team.
Of course, it is still possible for a team to face challenges. Here, renewal plays a vital role in the resilience of the team. Once the company has nurtured the right culture, the team will be able to rise to any challenge without feeling exhausted. It will be easy for the team to return to work as usual quickly and effectively.
Ways to Help the Team Adapt to Change
The rate of business change today is speeding up, making any single team experience a systemic impact on functional areas of the organization. As a result, to remain relevant in the marketplace, companies, teams, and individuals need to adapt to change.
The process of organizational renewal can reshape and modernize the knowledge of the organization. So there should be organizational renewal as it covers the way companies respond to change.
To help the team meet their next “target,” here are the four worth-trying practices leaders are suggested to do:
1. Explore individuals’ competencies
Ask each team member to identify their strengths as well as their intentions to translate their weaknesses into strengths. It doesn’t only allow you to learn each person’s skill set but also gain insight into the will that drives them to improve.
2. Match skill to the task
The demand for some skills may be very demanding today, but tomorrow could move to something entirely different. That means that the functional expertise of the team will change as well.
Maybe the definition of “success” will change, and so will your strategy to achieve that. Keep trying to reallocate personnel to fit the new demand.
3. Remove rank
The first step is to show your team that rank and status did not impact character and ability. Another rule, tell them there is no harm in going against the norm and doing what is logical rather than what has always been done.
Effective leadership depends on your dependability, integrity, willingness to take risks, and what you can do for the team.
4. Become project-based
It’s not ideal to expect someone to know and do anything. To maximize team performance, identify the right person with appropriate background knowledge. They can therefore take the project and carry it out.
Teamwork is the way things are done. No collective interest and effort to execute company strategy creates limited performance and progress.
Excellent team performance requires excellent leadership strategy. Meanwhile, today’s leadership can no longer use an out-of-date plan. A new approach to strategy development – alignment, execution, and renewal – can accelerate a team’s performance improvement.