While the quality of relationships can be observed and evaluated within one-on-one interactions as discussed in our previous two posts, nothing brings to light the quality of relationships more than in the workings of a team.
Teams have become the primary and core structure for getting work done and it would be difficult to find an organization which does not have “teamwork” as a fundamental value.
This is highly logical when you consider that it is nearly impossible for a single person to possess the same amount of knowledge and experience that a high performing team possesses, and that the involvement of multiple people in decision-making strengthens commitment. The exchange of ideas that takes place in a team environment, (as opposed to a setting in which people work in individual silos), promotes new thinking and innovation as well.
Yet, it is interesting that although the value of teams is readily accepted, it is rare to find teams that have truly reached their potential. In team language, this means they have yet to reach a level of high performance.
What is often missing is the realization that creating high performing teams is not just about implementing the basics of team structures. Going from an effective team to a high performing team requires additional skills, practice, commitment, and most importantly, in the words again of Mike Morrison, “It’s the relationship!” Teams seeking to become high performing must have strong relationships at their very core.
Consider the following key areas when measuring the strength of your organizational or team relationships:
- Mutual Accountability
- Trust and Loyalty
- Esprit de Corps
- Commitment to Results
These characteristics are exemplified by the preeminent model for high performance — The Navy SEALs! Their creed, actions, and success solidly point to their reputation of high performance.
Observe any high performing team and you will find these same characteristics evident — and not just “some of the time.” A high performing team reflects these characteristics in every way and at all times.
You might also take a look upward, or a more reflective look depending upon job function, because a concerted, focused effort needs to take place. And as is most often the case with any change or improvement initiative, it needs to happen at the top. Hence it is an absolute requirement that the Senior Executive Team “walks the talk” of high performing teams. It is not enough to accept a “do as we say, not as we do” attitude. Failure to model high performing team characteristics at the executive level is a sure path to mediocre team results throughout the organization.
In actuality, high performing executive teams are less plentiful than high performance workforce teams, and possibly for good reason. Many executives got to the top by their individual ability to be the best; and many successful executives have not necessarily had a track record of either leading high performing teams, or even having been a part of a high performing team. In addition, because of the rotating door of management (one of Dr. Deming’s “deadly sins”), many executives aren’t around in one position long enough to develop the skills and most importantly the relationships required for high performing teams.
Yet, in spite of the inherent challenges for executives to truly create high performing teams, it is a challenge worth overcoming.
This need is particularly strong, not only because of the clear advantages of a high performing team anywhere in an organization, but also because of the need to model such behavior at the executive level. When any value is proclaimed by an organization (in this case teamwork), the first and constant litmus test of the value is evidence that the value is demonstrated at the top levels.