When a team is assembled to accomplish significant results in a short period of time, the best and brightest people the organization has to offer should be chosen. Unfortunately, when a manager is asked to provide someone to be a part of a newly formed team, the logic often goes something like this: "Sharon's my best person, but she is already working on three projects that are critical to the department's success. Harry's pretty good too, but if I send Harry, will I get him back? George, hasn't been performing very well lately, and frankly I've been meaning to talk to him about that. Oh well, we could get along fine without George, so I guess I'll send George."
When a team comes together that's make up mostly of George's -- the team pretty quickly figures that out. They may be blind to their own status in the organization, but they will be quick to notice that everyone else is third stringers. What does this say about how serious the organization is about accomplishing the High Performance Team's objectives, or about getting real results? When less than the best are sent, the team becomes angry and concerned about the sponsoring manager's sincerity and support. While good coaches can ultimately overcome this anger and focus the team on its objectives, several critical days or weeks can be lost as the team builds confidence in it's ability to get the job done.
What are the characteristics we are looking for in individuals who are to become a part of a High Performance Team? We are looking for people who care deeply about the organization and want to see it succeed. We are interested in people who are able to work well with others, particularly as members of a team. These are people who believe that two or more minds are better that one, and that everyone, no matter how seemingly dense, has a contribution they can make that no one else can.
Beyond these few guidelines, diversity of perspective, experience, and knowledge will help the team develop mutual trust and respect more quickly.
Care must be taken when adding new people to existing teams. The rule is not to impose an individual on a team. This can be handled by involving the entire team in the selection process. Team members interview prospective new team members either one at a time or collectively. Even before a candidate is produced for consideration, the team should be questioned about the skill set they feel a new team member should bring to the team. When the team has a significant role in deciding on any new team members, the team will be much more committed to making sure the decision was the right decision. For many teams, unanimous consent will be desirable
Sometimes, despite everyone's best efforts, a team member will need to be taken off the team. There are any number of reasons why this situation could occur: perhaps one of the members lacks the required skills and shows little interest in developing them; personality conflicts between team members, though most of these come down to a lack of professional respect and appreciation. Perhaps a team member is too stretched or stressed by other projects or personal problems, and can't keep his commitments to the team. The result is a very delicate situation for the manager responsible for the team. Both the team and the manager should have a series of frank discussions with the individual. The conversations should center on what's expected, what's at stake, and what's not happening that needs to happen, or what is happening that shouldn't be happening. Then if the situation doesn't improve, action will be required. The manager will have to see that the team member is removed. Reassigned if that's most appropriate, discharged if the situation calls for discharge. Prior to taking action the manager needs to discuss his pending action with the other team members, collectively if possible, and try to gain the team's consensus for the action. Failing that, the manager might take action or if he decides that the team wants to carry the poor performing team member, he may want to let the situation ride. Manager's should keep in mind the fact that it is highly unusual for a team to assume any responsibility for deciding to remove a team member. Management can be a very lonely job.
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