Blog · Oct 3, 2014

Business Team Performance – Why is your Team not Succeeding?

Team Performance – not good enough?

“Teams have been studied to death in recent years, and the verdicts are in. They’re a success— and a disaster. They lead to big productivity improvements—and they peter out ineffectively. People love ’em. People hate ’em” – Harvard Business Review

There’s certainly no shortage of research on teams and teamwork. And there’s no limit to the descriptions given to teams that work and those that don’t. But fortunately, certain agreements do emerge from the studies, the research and our experiences – primarily that business teams do not succeed on their own. It takes strong leadership from you and dedication from each individual team member. Harvard Business Review has explored the characteristics of high performing teams and concluded that a clear set of goals – spelled out unambiguously – and a set of clear metrics to allow the team to measure progress is key to the performance of any team that wants to succeed in its ambitions

The Will it Make the Boat go Faster? Performance Principles focus directly on these areas that drive the performance of your teams. All teams are different, but we believe that the principles of success are consistent across different sectors, industries and organisations.


Performance Principle One: Focus on What’s Important

Strong team leadership starts with establishing a clear, stretching goal that then determines the dynamic, culture and daily habits of a team. We call that memorable and stretching goal a Crazy goal. We like the term Crazy goal as it implies a lifting of the restrictions to your thinking about the possibilities, the potential, the future.

To monitor your progress on the way there you need to set Concrete goals: measurable steps that will move you closer to your Crazy goal. As outlined in the Harvard Business Review, it’s worth ensuring that your team can measure their progress toward their Concrete goals themselves. This will help your team feel more in control of their work and boost their engagement.

But establishing a clear goal is only the first step. Successful teams then ask their own version of our question “Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?”

Imagine the challenging conversations in the office of one of our clients with a team Crazy goal of ‘To create customers for life’. It’s my Crazy goal to return to that client and overhear two employees in reception challenge each other with a simple question “Will that really help to create a customer for life?”

So great teams focus on what’s important by setting a Crazy goal – but then constantly challenge, test and measure their progress towards that with their own compelling question.

What’s your version of the “Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?” question for your team? Take a minute and write it down. Easy or difficult? Is your team’s Crazy goal clear or fuzzy?

For more advice about focussing on what’s important when setting your team’s goals take a look at our Goal Setting Exercise.


Performance Principle Two: Focus on Performance, in Order to Get Results

Results really matter. For individuals, for teams and for organisations. But focusing on winning a Gold Medal at the start of an Olympic final didn’t bring Ben his result.

Focusing on his performance did – and the result he wanted came.

It’s the same when it comes to business team performance. Only by focusing on the elements of performance that make up a great team – and then reviewing that performance regularly – can you understand if you’re doing the right things, and then doing them better each time.

So build in a culture of continuous performance review to your team. Not a once a quarter ‘big review’ but a daily or weekly review of how well you’re doing, how well you’re improving on the habits and behaviours that will bring the results you want.

We use four simple questions – take 5 minutes now to reflect on your performance in your team this last week:

  1. What were your best performances?
  2. What were your most disappointing performances?
  3. What were you doing in the good performances that you weren’t in the disappointing performances?
  4. What will you do differently next time?


Performance Principle Three: Work Effectively with Other to Achieve Goals

Teams are not just groups of individuals. Teams work most effectively if they develop distinct identities and find agreed ways of working. Understanding the dynamics of your team (and making sure the team members understand those dynamics themselves) is critical if you want them to be successful.

Which team members are natural leaders? Are there team members who don’t trust one another? Which of your team are your ‘Basils’ – individuals who aren’t helpful to you achieving your Crazy goal? What’s your plan to counter their negative approach? How does your team culture impact these dynamics?

Knowing these answers is essential if you want to drive excellent performance.

Top team performance isn’t a given – but working hard to ensure your team performs well is crucial if you want to meet your business goals.

Our three Performance Principles are a start to your team journey ahead. And our Performance Insights is an exclusive resource for business leaders looking to create high performing teams.

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