David Wilkinson

Author and expert on Ambiguity and Emotional Resilience.

Step-by-step guide to a high performance team

Step-by-step guide to a high performance team
I was teaching some managers yesterday in the City of London and the conversation turned to how to develop high performance teams. If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that the main ingredient for a high performance team is feedback. But not any old feedback.
This is continual feedback as a habit within the team on everyones performance.
Such constant, habitual feedback about performance on a continual basis nudges everyone to continual improvement. No one in a high performance team is immune. If you don’t give and receive feedback you are not part of the team and that includes the team manager or leader. 
The special forces, sports teams and individuals for example all work under constant and continual feedback as the edge closer and closer to the levels of performance most organisations can only dream of.
When I was an advanced driver in the police, we would be continually critiquing each others driving, all the time. Every run, every overtake, every corner with no let up. What this meant was the initial advanced driver training was just the start. As you gained more experience you got better and better, finessing our technique, learning and designing new routines, claiming 1/10ths of a second off timed runs, and then when you were in a pursuit or a blue light situation you were on top of your game. Performance was natural and all because of the continual feedback about performance. And when you weren’t driving, sitting in the observers seat, it was your turn to switch on and give feedback, helping your colleague get better, faster and safer, bit-by-bit.
The maxim is 'anything is better than nothing'.   
When you think about it there are some really advantagous and positive underlying attitudes and values which develop when feedback is a constant part of your life.
  • The first attitude is that you are open to learning - all of the time. You have to be to be part of an elite. This stops complacency, laziness and our ego’s inflating and preventing the learning.
  • The next attitude that developed is that you can always improve. We had a saying - "there is never a 100% drive”. The mindset that you can always improve keeps you striving, especially when everyone else is continually upping their game around you.
  • You start then to develop the linked attitudes and of curiosity, experimentation and innovation. The whole team values these attributes as they keep you sharp and it is fantastic to find a new better way of doing things. In such teams once a new tweak is found it spreads like wildfire around the rest of the team as they test it and try to improve on the innovation. This sense of creativity keeps moral up and makes performance an exciting issue.
  • There is than the levels of honesty and trust that develop in such teams as a direct result of continually giving and receiving feedback. Once these are on the up the team bonds and starts to work as a single entity, striving, improving and taking joy in the level of performance they achieve. I can tell you from experience, being in such a team is a life changing and life affirming thing.
  • All of this then gives everyone in the team a sense and value of collective responsibility for the success of the team.
The interesting thing is when you get into the habit of continual intra-team (internal to the team) feedback on even the smallest issues, big issues like someone not pulling their weight or not performing at all disappear. No longer do managers have to ‘have words’ with a poorly performing employee. The constant tweak-by-tweak feedback deals with just about everything. 
Sounds all very nice but where do you start?
In my next blog I will walk you through some of the processes I use to develop high performance teams.
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