Most of us want to work in great teams, and to do so we tend to focus on the relationships within the team. This is, of course, essential but we often miss putting in to place the foundations, the good soil, that will enable a team to thrive. Here are five essential foundations a healthy team needs to have in place for sustainable high performance and good team relationships.
We need to understand why we are doing something. Increasing shareholder value may be the reality for some, but it is rarely motivating. We need something that we as individuals can relate to, and more importantly, own. Identifying purpose usually requires work, for many it remains an abstact concept that is difficult to put into words. It also needs to resonate with, and be owned by the team. It is difficult for us to really engage with the organisation’s purpose if we are just presented with it.
Purpose is the why question. Objectives are the what question. A very simple skill that is surprisingly difficult to do is to clearly identify team objectives. It is difficult because objectives are dynamic and need to be regularly redefined. Many teams start well but struggle to modify objectives as time goes on. A clear understanding of what needs to be done and when is a handrail for teams. Lack of clarity here results in more meetings and potentially reduced productivity and relational discord.
Most teams have responsibility nailed (who tasked with making sure something gets get done). More challenging is a good understanding of authority (who can make what decisions). Responsibility without the appropriate authority is a tough place to be. This is a major catalyst for relational issues. Our identity is challenged when we think we can make a certain decision and find that we can’t. A challenged identity makes for discouraged, demotivated and sometimes angry team members.
The urgent and important merge into one without a clear plan. If we know something is important and know when it is going to be addressed, we can move forward with an appropriate level of assurance. If we have no plan, we really only ever respond to the urgent. The team gets stressed, a blame culture flourishes and creativity gets squashed.
Clear purpose and objectives are the starting point. Healthy teams then need to know how they are doing, their progress. We need to know how much gain is being made against stated objectives. We are motivated by an appropriate level of challenge and de-motivated by a lack of information on how we are progressing. Dashboards and team meetings that clearly communicate progress and failure make for essential viewing for healthy teams.