If you’ve ever worked with other people you’ll know that many groups never reach their full potential. They get stuck. They go round in circles. They never transform into a team.
Ask yourself this: Has your team reached its full potential? If not, read on and discover some of the “secrets” to improving team performance.
The Essence of Teamwork
Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. – Ecclesiastes 4: 9, 10
So you want to get more from your team?
Okay. But first, we really do need to better appreciate what teams do to understand why they rarely reach their full potential.
Teams are greater than the sum of their parts. Right? Wrong? You decide.
Think about it. Is this as trite as it may first appear? Don’t be so sure.
To understand teams we must better appreciate what they do.
For instance, we can see for ourselves:
- teamwork can accomplish what the individual cannot do alone
- teamwork requires concerted and coordinated effort
- teamwork is needed to sustain high performance
- teamwork and leadership are fundamental to business, and
- successful leadership occurs in teams.
Isn’t this glaringly obvious? We all know our teams can be more effective. Yet often do little about improving team performance.
Why is this?
First, leading others is not easy. And second, because the team is profoundly influenced by you — the leader.
With this in mind let us take a quick look at 3 reasons teams don’t reach their full potential.
Why Teams Don’t Reach Their Full Potential
If you haven’t already guessed, this is down to what you are doing — or rather what you’re not doing. So if you’re up for some constructive criticism … let’s jump in!
1. You don’t spend enough time with your team
How much time do you spend with the team? Think about it.
If your working day is anything like my average day you’ll spend most of your time in formal or informal meetings. You may even say: “I’m too busy to …” [insert excuse here]
But you’d be missing the point!
When you are in meetings you’re not alone. You are working in groups.
These are the times you get things done. You discuss, debate, listen and interpret information before arriving at an opinion or decision. You build rapport. You get to know people. And you test each other to determine their position in the group.
Do you behave like that with your team? If not, why not?
It’s your team. So get to know the people who can make things happen for you. Know their talents and strengths. Their weaknesses. And what makes them tick.
For a team to reach its full potential you must invest much of your time at the group and personal level.
2. The team has no vision of how it will achieve its goals
Left alone many teams continue operating in the same way. They’re intimidated by new challenges and the same old issues surface again and again.
Simply put, the team is stuck in its ways.
And, if you are lucky there will be some disagreement between the traditionalists and those who want to see improvement.
Does this all sound familiar?
If so, what does it mean? And more to the point, what can you do about it?
Let me tell you: this is symptomatic of a lack of vision.
A team must have a vision of how it can help fulfil business goals. Your vision is a rallying cry. It is what will drive team behaviours, creativity, commitment and determination. These are the things that influence team performance.
But the vision should be meaningful and convincing.
The vision defines the future you want to create.
So, there’s that. But how do you create a vision?
Quite simply, you must have an idea of how the team will achieve specific objectives. Then — only then — discuss, exchange views and sharpen the vision with the team.
To create a clear and relevant vision you need:
- complete conviction that the strategy for change you are putting to work is the right course of action
- a focus on the outcome or future state you need
- to involve others — the team — in the development of a shared vision
- to test ideas and seek feedback, and
- realistic yet challenging aspirations.
3. You are suffocating creativity and innovation
If the vision is your guiding light it is the process of planning that helps the team achieve its goals.
However, I’m not going to take you down the usual road to team planning, flip charts and post-it notes. No, I’m going to tell you what really works. And I’m going to tell you it’s not an easy path.
Let me explain.
Anyone can be creative and come up with ideas. But this won’t propel the team forward. This won’t improve team performance. And it won’t help achieve your goals.
It boils down to this:
An idea is worthless unless it is implemented.
So what do you do? How do you move idea to action?
The simple, surprising answer is …
Let the team facilitate innovative solutions of the best creative ideas.
This may seem somewhat simplistic to you.
For me, I came across this way of leading people through trial and failure. It is proven. It works. But it does take commitment and effort.
But first, there are two things you’ll need to stop investing time and energy in doing:
- looking for problems, and
- focusing only on the ideas.
Your focus should be on producing and exploring useful ideas not identifying problems.
A big mistake that team managers make is to impede creativity by finding fault — or allowing others to find fault — with ideas before they are fully explored. Giving everyone a voice helps break down barriers and encourages creativity.
Another mistake is to focus on the ideas, not how useful they are or how they are implemented. The team manager who does nothing to implement creative ideas is shirking responsibility.
The team leaders job is to improve performance by converting creative ideas into innovative solutions.
Want to know more about leading teams?
Great. But can I ask what you’ve been doing up to date?
Creative Commons image courtesy Max Mayorov.