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Why you shouldn’t leave team performance to chance

Inspiring leaders can achieve outstanding results by walking the talk, focusing on feedback and coaching to develop their teams.

Inspiring leaders can achieve outstanding results by walking the talk, focusing on feedback and coaching to develop their teams.

If the recent General Election in the UK has taught us anything, it would be how leaders who are inspiring AND who have the right teams around them can achieve extraordinary results.

It’s true that leadership is less about the job title and more about the way leaders behave. The leader of an executive or senior management team plays THE critical role in role modelling the behaviours that will make that team a high-performing one and achieve outstanding results. It’s also true that senior teams underperform for a variety of reasons, such as meeting agendas becoming too crowded, the team not focusing on the ‘right stuff’ and rocky team relationships where mutual trust is lacking and constructive challenge (of behaviour in meetings and decisions made) is not the norm.

A high-performing team doesn’t happen by accident. It takes time to develop and build trusting relationships. Often leaders have to work with an existing team, but may have the opportunity to create new appointments or restructure. Whatever the case, the team needs to be built around absolute trust and full alignment with the organisation’s mission, vision and values.

Tip number one: Put in the legwork for you and everyone to get to know each other, warts and all
A high-performing team has the right structure and governance in place as well as the right behaviours. It’s important to invest time in finding out how the team works, what makes them tick and what the team and individual development needs are. If team members can all recognise who they are and what they do best, it’ll be dead easy to understand how they can fit into and contribute to the team.

A 360° assessment and feedback tool can be a really helpful intervention here, as well as fly-on-the-wall observations and shadowing from external people to understand how behaviours and relationships play out day-to-day. Often though, teams are unable to see the consequences of their normal behaviour (“it’s just how we are!”). One of the biggest insights can be gained from ‘visitors’ to the team who more often than not come to present papers and leave meetings feeling battered, bruised and unloved – a message that they’re happy to spread to their colleagues. It’s important to note here that any assessment done with the team should be bespoke, describing behavioural areas that target the challenges and issues that are specific to that team.

Tip number two: Identify what will make your team a high-performing one and encourage the team onto a coaching programme
An individual coaching programme for each team member based on the results from the 360º feedback can be a really powerful tool in building a high-performing team. These coaching sessions, led by experienced internal or external coaches, can help everyone in the team focus on their own strengths and development areas, based in part on the feedback from their boss, peers and direct reports. Great coaching interventions can push people (willingly!) outside of their comfort zone and improve their personal and team performance as a direct result. Every individual, at whatever level, skill or background, can develop to be the best that they can be with one-to-one coaching. Every individual is unique and talented, and coaching them to see this increases their competence, capability and confidence, so it’s a positive experience for everyone.

Tip number three: A simple ‘team charter’ which focuses on specific high-performance behaviours can achieve outstanding results
Running alongside the 360º feedback process and coaching could be another powerful (yet elegantly simple) tool. Teams could be encouraged to agree and own a ‘behavioural charter’ that will be a future guide to interactions and how meetings are run. It can be developed by helping the team understand what helps and what hinders them in their current performance and what needs to change. Any behavioural charter like this has to be created and owned by the team themselves and can’t be imposed (getting them to sign it and refer to it in meetings is also a great help). It may feel a little ‘clunky’ at the start as people get used to it, but the behavioural principles will soon become the accepted way of working together. It’s also worth saying that the team will need to review progress against this charter and seek feedback regularly to ensure the behaviours stick and become the norm.

Tip number four: A leader with high emotional intelligence knows themselves and works hard on their own development areas
Leadership is not defined by a badge or job title; it’s a mindset and approach that can be learned and developed. Many leaders think that the problem lies elsewhere and forget to consider their own development needs. They need to embrace the 360º feedback process themselves and work hard with their coach (yes, they need one too) to address their development needs. Throughout, they need to keep asking for feedback along the way. Tricia Wright, HR Director for Transport for London, and a big fan of the 360º feedback process and coaching commented: “Coaching and feedback helped me focus on what I needed to do to help my team be high-performing. With challenging coaching, which often took me out of my comfort zone at times, I was able to make significant and observable progress on the less helpful behaviours my team had told me I needed to work on.”

David Scott, Director and founder of Rambutan, summed up how powerful the combination of 360º assessments, team charters and one-to-one coaching can be: “To quote Einstein, ‘insanity is doing things the same and expecting different results’. I firmly believe that inspiring leaders need to think in different ways so they can achieve their outcomes. Challenging their team’s (and their own) thinking is vital, as it will open up fresh ideas. Teams who ‘work at it’ become great teams. It doesn’t happen accidentally, and it can be measured. Great teams have an open and honest ethos and a pride that is palpable to anyone who interacts with them.”

Rambutan found that working with Summit Events, who organise and manage the Human Resources Summit, can help discussions with organisations about developing high-performing teams. The next Human Resources Summit event takes place in Lisbon from 11-13 October 2017.

Based in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, Rambutan are a bunch of talented people who give their clients the ability and confidence to think, lead, perform and communicate brilliantly. Rambutan believe in creating engaging work experiences where people, teams and whole organisations can fulfil their potential. They guarantee the quality of their work by not charging for anything whatsoever that their clients aren’t 100% happy with. They link their risk-free guarantee to achieving business measures be they employee engagement, customer satisfaction, sales, profits or anything else a client would like a guaranteed improvement in. Put simply this means if they don’t achieve your objectives then you don’t pay; you can’t say fairer than that!

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