I have had the privaledge to be part of, coach or observe a wide variety of high performing teams at the top of their game over the years. These teams have included special forces, airforce and aerobatic groups, police anti-riot teams, professional international rugby, football and rowing teams, and business teams that are out performing everyone else.
I was with another such team this week who were moving into the high performance bracket. They were doing well, but weren't quite in the 'fit and flow' of the best teams on earth.
What I mean by 'fit and flow' is that the individuals in the team fit together like a tight jigsaw. Each team member having a precise place and fitting perfectly with those next to them, so that there are no gaps. Tight fitting so that there are few if any bumps as the work transitions from one team member to another. Imagine running your fingers over the surface of a jigsaw and finding it hard to discern where one piece ends and another begins. That's a tight fit. In a work team that means the work moves between the members seamlessly or flows without interruption. Everyone is working in concert as if the team is one organism.
Getting a team to this stage is no mean feat, but with the right guidance most teams could achieve this
So what is the one thing that makes such a difference? Feedback and not just any feedback. This is constant and consistant intra-team and coach feedback. Every high performing team I have ever worked in, coached or observed have a constant flow of feedback or information about every minute detail of performance as they work together. They give each other feedback all the time. They have a coach who not only gives feedback but ensures everyone pulls their weight in terms of giving and responding to feedback. After every operation, project, flight, game or whatever they have a debrief run by the coach, where every minute detail is gone over and they leave with a definite plan of action. As a member of a high performing team you get really good at noticing things about the teams performance and taking responsibility to help maintain, correct and improve by saying what you notice at the time and listening to the other team members and the coach and taking immediate action.
I am lucky to have had the privelidge to have worked with some of the best teams on the planet and as I watch this new team transform itself I know they are a whisker away from achieving high performance. Teams like these, who embrace this attitude, bring tears to your eyes as they flex and flow. It is a beautiful thing to be part of.