A leader is only as good as the team around her/him. Every leader wants a high-performing team, but how can you achieve that?
Success is attained through the accumulation of many small actions done effectively. Similarly, building a strong team comes from building a strong foundation of habits that the team follows. Charles Duhigg, author of "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business" stated that “about 40% to 45% of what we do every day sort of feels like a decision, but it’s actually habit."
Here are five key habits to develop in your team in order to optimize performance:
1. Set and review goals regularly
How can a team perform well and produce results if they don’t know what goals they’re trying to achieve? A team without goals is ineffective — no direction, no drive, no impact. They may be doing good work, in terms of quality, quantity or both, but is the work adding to the overall vision of the organization? According to ClearCompany, "97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project."
Goal-setting allows the team to know and understand how their work contributes to larger organisational aims, and it gives them something to shoot for. Setting goals can be more of an art than a science: the goal has to be large but not unattainable, it has to be meaningful in terms of impact, and it has to be measurable. The SMART framework is one that has proven to be effective in guiding people to set motivating and appropriate goals.
What some leaders miss in the goal-setting process is the review of those goals. It’s not enough merely to set good goals for your teams; it’s even more important to evaluate them on a regular basis and use those assessments to chart your next course.
When reviewing goals, here are some questions to reflect on:
- What factors contributed to attaining your goals?
- How does your team manage the current workload?
- What big obstacles or impediments do you or your team members face in achieving your team goals?
- How can team members better support each other?
- What can you do, as a leader, to develop the skills and talents of your team so that you can achieve bigger goals in the future?
Think of goal-setting as steering a ship: set a direction, and as the weather and wind changes, be prepared to make adjustments to your route so that you reach your destination safely (and in good time!) If you don’t set or review goals, your team is akin to a ship cruising to nowhere.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
The best teams are the ones that communicate often, clearly and constructively.
A high frequency of communication ensures that each member is aware of new developments and changes, as well as the progress of the project. It is not enough just to check in at the start and completion of a project — in a high-performing team, there is a constant flow of information and discussion that connects everyone to the project.
Clear communication ensures there is a lower chance of misunderstandings and that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the next actions to move the project forward. Constructive communication allows for team members to learn from mistakes or mishaps and improve the quality of their output.
As a leader, set the tone for frequent, clear and constructive communication by doing it — your team will follow your example. Remember that communication is a two-way street, so encourage your team to receive and give feedback on issues that affect their work.
3. Have a problem-solving mindset
A key quality of a high-performing team is their ability to overcome obstacles. In a workplace, nothing is ever smooth-sailing. Problems come in many forms; it could be a delay from a supplier, technical breakdowns or an idea that didn’t translate in the real world. Regardless of the nature of a problem, a team with a problem-solving mindset is one that is best equipped to deal with obstacles.
What does having a problem-solving mindset entail? Such a mindset means having an optimistic outlook whenever something bad happens, and having the capability to quickly come up with possible solutions to resolve the issue. It involves being resilient when failure occurs and having the fortitude to continue testing different methods to attain the desired outcome.
A team with a problem-solving mindset does not allow obstacles to set them back permanently — instead, they focus on solutions, improvements and coming up with new ways to attack the problem.
4. Share resources and information
As the saying goes, there’s no "I" in "team." The best work is not achieved in isolation. In today’s corporate world, collaboration and synergy are crucial to optimize your team’s performance.
Sharing resources and information may seem like an easy thing to do, but the truth is, sometimes we get too caught up in what we know and do individually that it doesn’t occur to us to share that with the rest of the team.
As a leader, you likely have a better grasp of the big picture as every team member reports back to you. As such, you can play a more proactive role in encouraging the exchange of information and resources.
You can utilize your regular team meetings as a forum to keep everyone updated on new developments, information or changes that will affect the team’s output. Encourage each person in the team to share their progress as well as any challenges they are facing — and also give room for others to offer help, resources or expertise to resolve those issues.
5) Develop trust
Too often, we think of our colleagues only in the context of the office — how they present themselves in the workplace, the work they do, whether or not they’re caffeine addicts who need 5 cups of coffee to get through the day. But the truth is, every person has their own values, history and story, and they bring those qualities (and more!) to their work.
So one important way to develop trust between teammates is to develop a genuine relationship with each person that goes beyond just workplace matters. Find opportunities to connect with each other as individuals and not just as colleagues.
Scheduling short icebreakers before every meeting is a simple method of getting to know your team. Through these games, you can discover commonalities such as hobbies, travel experiences or similar family backgrounds. Such information can provide a starting point for further conversation and connection.
If your team is lacking in some of these five habits, participating in team building can be an effective way to develop them. Simply select an activity that focuses on the mindset or skill you’d like to cultivate, and give your team the opportunity to experience it through experiential learning.
Building strong habits in a team takes time and requires concerted effort on a daily basis. So even after your team has gone through some team building activities to bring out these qualities, it’s important to reinforce them in the workplace.
Little things such as putting up team goals up on a wall to remind everyone of what they’re working towards, or organizing regular after-work get-togethers to bond with your colleagues can go a long way towards building these five habits for strong teamwork.
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