Welcome to Part 2 of a 3 part series: “The Essence of a High Performing Team”

Like it or not, most people are selfish.  It is not their fault.  Man is born to be that way.  If not born with a selfish nature, many are taught to be selfish. In general, leaders gravitate toward individuals who are competitive. Because of our involvement in sports, academics, or the dating scene we grow up with a very self-serving nature.  This can be used to a leader’s advantage.

To develop a high performing team, a leader must make use of this selfish ego- centricity. Any good sports coach knows how to play to an individual’s needs, leaders need to do the same.  On the one hand, it is critical to develop a strong degree of team spirit, there is no “I” in team. On the other hand, you have to play to the need of each team member.  It can be a difficult balancing act.

The first step is to have regular one-on-one sessions with each direct report.  We do this monthly at Systems Personnel.  Those meetings are used to understand what is important to the individual, to map out his next career step and the progress that needs to be made.  This is the time for the leader to let his guard down and show how much he or she cares about this person and how committed to advancing this individual he is.  If the person is not performing well this is the time to use written performance improvement plans (PIP’s), and demonstrate how the individual’s behavior is holding him back from what he desires.  The message needs to be clear, I care about you, I understand your personal desires, and I am committed to getting you what you need.

The next step is critical.  At every one-on-one meeting, each individual must commit to what they are going to accomplish before the next meeting. This commitment is done in the name of achieving their individual goals. Leaders need to hold each individual accountable to their own goals. This individual accountability is almost as powerful as team accountability. Additionally, at the beginning of each quarter, they must come up with a list of things they agree to accomplish, week in and week out, to meet their goals over the next three months. The leaders job begins with providing an environment in which each team member can envisioning their career development. Then the leader holds each individual accountable to their weekly, monthly, and quarterly commitments. This is the essence of managing selfishness.

After doing this the leader must step back and examine where the holes lie. Often times, the direction your collective team members wish to take their careers leaves unmet team needs. Weak leaders pick up the slack or make up the gaps with their own hard work. Strong leaders find a way to get the team to meet all needs. In order to reconcile individual needs with team needs we recommend an exercise the whole team participates in.

It starts with a team brainstorming session. Each person is armed with a pad of sticky notes.  The leader outlines what the team needs to accomplish.  The team then brainstorms ideas that will lead the team to its destiny.  They write their ideas on a sticky note and post it in front of the team.  After all ideas are posted, each individual note get mapped onto a four-quadrant grid.  On the ‘X’ axis is labeled “Impact” low to high. On the ‘Y’ axis is labeled “Resources” low to high. In this way you have ideas that are: High Impact low resources; high impact high resources; low impact low resources; and low impact high resources. Concentrate on high impact ideas. The team then agrees on who is going to work on the high impact ideas, and we write the individuals names on those notes.  After identifying what needs to be done and who is going to do work on the high impact activities, we incorporate those commitments into each individual’s personal goals.

In this way the leader is assured that the important activities have outcomes that are mapped to individual players on the team. Incorporating the important team activities into an individual’s personal performance dashboard is the way the leader holds individuals accountable to what the team needs to accomplish and covers any gaps.  The key is having the team members come up with the ideas, and allowing them to agree to sign up for and commit to accomplishing these tasks.

The leader is now poised to take the final step in affecting behavior.  We will cover behavior modification in the last article of this three-part series.