6 Traits of High Performing Teams

In my last blog post, I wrote about what goes in laying the foundation of a great team. True, laying the foundation is an important first step, but what next? A team is all about people – and when there are people involved, so is that confounding variable – their emotions and behaviors. So the question I was seeking to answer was: What is it that lights the fire or inspires people to achieve remarkable results while working in teams?

team

I stumbled upon the answer in a wonderful book by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.“TheOrange Revolution”. This book is a research work, that puts the spotlight on how a single great team can transform an organization by achieving breakthrough results. The book highlights six traits that such a team which delivers world class results would demonstrate, which are:

  1. An Inspiring Dream
  2. An unshakeable Belief
  3. Calculated Risks
  4. Consistent Measurement
  5. Being Persistent
  6. Telling Stories

An Inspiring Dream:

ratan tata with nano

Source: FlickrIt is rightly said that “what you are is in what you dream and in your courage to follow that dream”. For example, Ratan Tata’s best gift to the Indian Middle class is Nano car priced at around a lakh of rupees. The story goes that he once saw a middle class family of four struggling on a two-wheeler on a rainy night in Mumbai. That sparked his dream to create a small & affordable family car. Despite a lot of challenges along the way, the dream stood like a lighthouse that guided him along to the fantastic achievement.

A dream has no boundaries, rules or past history. It is focused on transforming anything as we know it and approaching something from a direction never pursued or never attained before. Think of Kennedys dream, “To put a man on the moon before the end of the decade” or that famous speech by Martin Luther King, “I have a dream”. Hence to achieve remarkable results, the first step clearly is the need for the team to have a dream that inspires and lifts them to great results.

An Unshakeable Belief:

dream belief success

Source: Created in CanvaThe secret of a dream coming true is in the belief of the people or the team chasing it. As Henry Ford rightly put it, “Whether you think you can do a thing or you cannot – either ways you are right”. Closer home, achieving independence through a process of non-violence still seems to be unthinkable to most human minds. But the unshakeable belief in non-violence & satyagraha of one single man – not only pulled a country out to freedom, but galvanized a whole generation of people to come out in the streets, in support of him.

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The belief in reaching the finish line, overcoming all the hurdles on the way – drives teams towards success. The corporate world is replete with many such stories too – about the dream, the belief, the chase and the ultimate success. A few interesting stories are:

  • Zappos.com
    a company that dreamt and believed that they can change the online shoe buying experience,has resulted in one of the best companies know for customer satisfaction.
  • Apple
    a company that dreamt and believed that they can not only change, but also dominate the music industry. The Apple iPod enabled the dream to become a reality.

Calculated Risks :

risk

Source: FlickrChasing a big dream, which has no boundaries, rules or past history is bound to be seen as risky. Clearly, bigger the dream, bigger should be the risk taking capability. It has been said through the ages “No Risk – No Gain”

Bill Gates decision to sell software in a hardware driven world was a big risk which resulted in spectacular success. Similarly, the decision that Intel took years back to get out of the memory business and venture into microprocessors, was hugely risky – but the payoff has been huge too.

High performing teams promote this risk taking culture by encouraging calculated risks that drive a behavior of innovation. They also ensure that when the risks don’t pay off, there is no culture of fear, blame and finger pointing. In the words of Steve Jobs “Be curious, Be foolish”

Consistent Measurement:

PERFORMANCE assessment

Source: PixabayA truth that has come down the ages is: “What gets measured, gets done”. A related saying comes from that wonderful childrens book, Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. So at the start of any journey towards greatness, the first requisite is to do a ruthlessly honest assessment of: Where do we stand? The next question being: What are our milestones & how are we doing against it?

Closely measuring ongoing performance also gives high performing teams a chance to celebrate little achievements and improvements. It also gives them the much needed transparency and openness along with demanding greater levels of accountability from individuals within the team. Score cards and measurements can be unnerving to many, but such openness is important to build the culture of accountability and responsibility.

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Being Persistent:
The Scottish legend of King Robert Bruce, who got inspired by seeing a spider fail time and again, but not giving up, holds an important lessons for teams in the corporate world too. Similarly, it was Thomas Edison who said: I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”Great achievements, by teams often require this important quality of “being persistent”.

When going for great achievements, teams are bound to make mistakes. Member of great teams though, don’t focus on the mistakes and rather see it as small blips on the way. Richard Bach put it very elegantly: “There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we have chosen to go.”

To arrive at this level of maturity, understanding and persistence though, teams needs to communicate openly about their differences. This ultimately helps in creating a strong bond and trust among the team members. This helps them regroup again to create optimum results.

Telling Stories:
There is something about stories that take us all back to our childhoods. Memories of grandparents and the stories they recited to us, somehow seem to stick with us much longer. Great teams understand this power of stories in creating a culture of success. Stories repeated again and again through the corporate grapevines, often inform team members of success behaviors, build pride, models the way and helps create a virtuous cycle that feeds into itself.

Great teams tell stories frequently and with passion. It’s the secret ingredient of their success. The power of stories is in its specificity and intensity, which makes them so memorable that the act might become history, but the stories remain fresh because they are told and retold with the same enthusiasm. Stories are important in helping individuals in teams understand how world class results are achieved and in making the possibilities of doing so believable.

These six traits followed meticulously can help create a world class breakthrough team, which can help transform an organization. How does your team fare on these 6 traits? Do share your thoughts.

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