High Performance Teams demonstrate the following characteristics and behaviors:
All team members share and support a common vision that the team is working towards. Team members are highly focused on attaining objectives. High performance Teams have developed a vision that brings real meaning to the work that is being performed. The vision describes a future state that team members find personally appealing and exciting. Defensive visions such as "keep our jobs," or "retain market share" are not particularly inspiring. Teams need a winning vision. One that inspires team members to extraordinary efforts when such efforts are required. Developing an inspiring vision is an essential first step to achieving high performance.
The team operates under specific deadlines for achieving results. Teams that operate without deadlines will ultimately evolve into rap sessions. Focus shifts from what is to be done to endless discussions about what the real mission of the team is or to finding the best approach to solving the problem. Deadlines can be as much as nine months to a year away. Any longer and the team runs the very real risk of being overrun by larger events that affect the organization: major shifts in organization direction, budget changes, new responsibilities, etc. 90 to 120 day or even shorter timeframes are more desirable and achievable by high performance teams.
The team makes extra-ordinary efforts to make certain everyone on the team understands the plan and progress towards its completion. An old military saying is that there are always 10 percent of the people who do not get the word. A High Performance Team recognizes this phenomenon and uses all communication vehicles available to get new information to every team member. Team members recognize that they have an equally strong obligation to keep themselves informed.
Zone of Concern
The work of the team is beyond the team's zone of comfort. It either doesn't know how to achieve the desired results, or it doesn't know how to accomplish them in the time allowed. At first glance this seems like a crazy notion. Why would any team want to attempt anything it didn't already know how to do? Paradoxically, we get the greatest satisfaction when we achieve results that at the outset we don't believe we can accomplish. When a team operates in the concern zone, between its comfort zone and perhaps its terror zone, it is most likely to perform better and consequently bond better and become stronger when it does achieve results.
The team stops at appropriate times to check the quality of its recent work. This is done to determine where the process could be improved and what learning can be shared with other team members. It is this act of stopping to check quality, even in the anxiety zone, where the team internalizes its learning and improves its collective performance.
Team members work to make certain that every member of the team is involved. Watchers and wonderers are mobilized to get behind the team's march toward achieving its vision. It is human nature to make judgments about the capabilities, intelligence, and motivation of our fellow team members. But when we do so, we limit the possible accomplishments of team. Every team member has a unique insight or contribution it can make towards team goal achievement. It may very well be true that every team member must contribute for the team to achieve full success. It is the responsibility of each and every High Performance Team member to search out and discover the capabilities of all the other team members.
High Performance Team Members are self-directed. If the team is to be managed, management must be careful to focus the team on "what" needs to be achieved. The "How the work is to be accomplished" must remain the sole purview of the team. When management goes to the point of telling a team how work is to be accomplished, the team becomes de-motivated and perhaps subconsciously says "We'll see about that."
High Performance Teams take the time to celebrate small victories toward goal achievement. This activity builds a sense of team success as the work of the team progresses. Sometimes, the celebrations are over new team learning's or insights, other times the team celebrate the completion of a small task. Together these celebrations build-up the team's morale and increase the teams determination to achieve the ultimate goal. Celebrations make take the form of a team cheer or the simple matter of collectively shouting "YES!"
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