8 Core Elements of High-Performance Teams

team
This is an excerpt from Team Quotient: How to Build High Performance Leadership Teams that Win Every Time by Douglas Gerber. Doug is Founder and CEO of Focus One, a consulting firm that helps leaders create High Performance Teams.

 

High-Performance Teams

Culture defines us in our family units, businesses, and organizations. It distinguishes who we are and how we are described. Employees can readily describe their organizational culture, using such words as supportive, open, results focused, etc. Much of that culture is built up over years or even decades. Yet we don’t have decades to build a successful team culture; we endeavor to create a strong and powerful culture within one to two years. We do this deliberately and consciously by defining the culture we want and then bringing it to life. When team members start to identify strongly with the team, we know that the team culture has become embedded.

 

THE 8 ELEMENTS OF HIGH – TQ TEAMS

As a result of working with hundreds of teams over many years, I have found that there are certain elements of High-Performance Teams that can be summarized by the acronym VIVRE FAT!

The idea of VIVRE FAT is not to create a group of ‘bon vivants’ or ‘gourmands.’ It’s rather about focusing on the ingredients that will create a great team that fulfills its mission and realizes its vision. Let’s examine each of the eight elements more closely.

 

Vision (Mission)

High-Performance Teams know where they are going and have a keen sense of direction. The Vision syncs with the overall company vision yet is distinct to the team. The Vision is not something created and communicated by the team leader alone; rather it reflects a core team effort, allowing all to feel ownership. The Vision is a motivating factor that propels the team forward. It allows team members to set clear goals, and targets and measures success. The Vision encompasses not only the business but also other aspects, such as team, people, key financial metrics, industry, and stakeholders. Besides Vision, we may also want to define the ‘purpose’ or ‘mission’ of the team, which essentially defines its ‘raison d’être’ or reason why the team exists.

 

“Every company needs to nurture its own culture organically, developing a distinct personality.” -Douglas Gerber

 

Identity

High-Performance Teams identify with the team and are proud of it. This sense of pride is due, in part, to the personal efforts that each team member has invested in moving towards High Performance. Identity forms an important part of one’s own self-perception and may even be more powerful than company or industry Identity. Identity places the team first and knows that team effort is a key to overall success. The sense of being part of something much bigger drives team members the extra mile. They believe what they are doing has meaning and creates value.

Life Advice from Top Thought Leaders

leadership board room

Leadership Lessons

Early in his career, Rodger Dean Duncan interviewed interesting people like Lyndon Johnson, comedian Jack Benny, Baroness Maria von Trapp, pollster George Gallup, and anthropologist Margaret Mead. He traded jokes with Norman Rockwell and discussed home carpentry with Robert Redford.

Later, as a leadership consultant, he advised cabinet officers in two White House administrations and coached C-suite executives in dozens of Fortune 500 companies. He also headed global communications at Campbell Soup Company. He received his PhD in organizational behavior at Purdue University, and writes a regular column for Forbes.

Duncan’s latest book LeaderSHOP: Workplace, Career, and Life Advice From Today’s Top Thought Leadersis a collection of lessons from these interviews.

 

“You can rent a person’s back and hands, but you must earn his head and heart.” – Rodger Dean Duncan

 

Change Your View

Like you, I’ve interviewed many leadership experts. Were there any surprising interviews that gave you a different perspective?

The interviews for LeaderSHOP certainly provide some thought-provoking perspectives.

Drew Dudley emphasizes the value of regarding every new day as a fresh start and an opportunity for self-reflection on specific behaviors. Leadership, he says, is not a title or accolade. It’s a daily choice about personal practices. His Day One approach to personal management involves making your life less about living up to the expectations of others and more about a disciplined commitment to acting on your core values each day.

In discussing purpose and meaning at work, Dave and Wendy Ulrich highlight the importance of humility in the leader. Humility, they say, is at the heart of a growth mindset that encourages and unleashes learning that, in turn, gives meaning to work and fosters engagement.

Bill George talks about how “authentic” leadership is made possible when the practitioner follows an internal “true north” compass of selflessness and integrity.

Elizabeth Crook emphasizes that our gifts are found at the intersection of what energizes us and what we know how to do. Hint: it’s probably something you’ve been doing in one way or another most of your life.

Hugh Blane talks about a mindset he calls JDTM—Just Doing the Minimum—and how getting clarity on what lights your internal fire can be a critical step toward high achievement.

Rob Fazio gives specific examples of how honest conversation is the key to handling office politics. He also says that listening is bad for your health—that is, listening to discouraging messages from others or to negative self-talk.

Ann Rhoades, former Chief People Officer at Southwest Airlines, underscores the importance of rewarding behaviors that are the foundation of the culture you want—and taking quick and decisive action when expected behavioral norms are violated.

Social psychologist Dan Cable talks about a de-motivator he calls “learned helplessness,” and he explains how leaders can create a work environment that encourages smart risk.

Ira Chaleff reveals the secrets of saying “No!” without getting fired, explaining the situations in which refusing a directive is not insubordination but rather smart collaboration.

Jim Kouzes explains how a feedback-friendly work environment is to everyone’s benefit and why dialogue skills are a hallmark of effective leadership.

Carmine Gallo teaches communication techniques used by great presenters as disparate as Steve Jobs and Pope Francis. The “Rule of Three,” he says, has been used by everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Goldilocks.

Career coach Mary Abbajay discusses approaches to “managing up”—dealing proactively with an incompetent manager in a way that doesn’t derail your career. She suggests tactics ranging from keeping the manager (overly) informed to building your own reputation by filling in where the manager is deficient.

Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen talk about how striving for perfection can serve you well early in your career (because it supports doing outstanding work), but it can later hold you back because being so invested in precision can dissuade you from taking the kind of risks that characterize strong leaders.

Other people I interviewed—like Brian Tracy, Tom Rath, Jodi Glickman, Laura Vanderham, and Stephen M.R. Covey—provide a rich mosaic of ideas on leadership and personal development. People tell me the individual conversations are interesting, but the real value is having them all in one place that provides insightful “connective tissue.”

 

“Teamwork has been given a bad name by a world of bad practitioners.” – Rodger Dean Duncan

 

How Leaders Impact Culture

Culture is a big topic in leadership circles. Share a few ways leaders best impact culture for the positive.

How to Fuel Business Growth with Cameron Mitchell

Click above to watch our video interview.

 

What is the question?

Our stories are very different, and yet there are some striking common themes: Both of us started in restaurants as dishwashers and became CEOs. Both of us mapped out our goals early in life. Both of us believe in people as the way to transform company culture.

Perhaps that is why I was immediately drawn into the pages of Cameron Mitchell’s compelling book.

More likely the answer to my intrigue is the fact that I find myself in one of his restaurants every week. You can always count on superb service, delicious food, and an inviting atmosphere.

 

“Yes is a state of being.” -Cameron Mitchell

 

Recipe for Growth

The recipe for his latest book includes equal parts entrepreneurial advice, culture how-to, and business mixed together in an autobiographical stew that is seasoned with honesty and experience.

Though I am well-aware of Cameron Mitchell’s success, I found myself nervously reading parts of it, wondering if they would make it.

But make it they did, and the journey is worthwhile reading for anyone looking to emulate success.

Cameron accepted the invitation to visit me in my office where we discussed a range of topics from his mistakes, to company culture, to his recipe of success.

 

“Guaranteed fun = guaranteed success.” -Cameron Mitchell

 

Get his new book, Yes is the Answer! What is the Question?: How Faith In People and a Culture Of Hospitality Built A Modern American Restaurant Company, to learn more about his compelling story.

 

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The Future of Humans in an Increasingly Robotic World

Humanity Works

The professional landscape is transforming, and the only way to maintain competitive advantage is to maximize the unique skills of your workforce. In Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future, consultant and futurist Alexandra Levit provides a guide to making the most of the human traits of creativity, judgment, problem solving and interpersonal sensitivity.

If you’ve ever wondered what the ‘robot takeover’ will look like, how talent and machines can work side by side and how you can make organizational structures more agile and innovation focused, you will be interested in Alexandra’s work. I recently spoke with her about her research and observations.

 

“Enlightened 21st-century leaders will abandon command-and-control to diplomatically govern their organizations.” -Alexandra Levit

 

When Robots Do More

You cover some sweeping trends. Would you share a few of the macro themes that are the backdrop of your work?

The book addresses a few essential questions: In a world where robots can do more and more, where does that leave us as humans? How will leaders build integrated human teams that can compete in a business world with constant evolutions and disruptions while remaining productive, marketable and sane? We explore the demographics, technological advances, work structures, organizational priorities, leadership models, individual career paths and human roles coming to fruition in the immediate years to come.

 

“The speed with which information populates the online world means with one wrong move, your organization’s reputation could be in jeopardy.” -Alexandra Levit

 

As you look at the workplace of the future, what are a few of the major changes we will see?

The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust

humble leadership

Humble Leadership

 

To be successful today, leaders must develop relationships based on openness and trust. Leaders can no longer rely on formal hierarchical structures and processes. Instead, the new era of leadership is based on service, on teamwork, and even on humility.

In their new book, Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust, authors and organizational culture experts Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein introduce their new model of leadership based on personal relationships. I recently spoke with them to learn more about their perspective and research.

 

“Leadership is wanting to do something new and better, and getting others to go along.” -Edgar and Peter Schein

 

Traditional versus Humble

To get us started, compare and contrast traditional leadership with “humble leadership.”

We see two common myths surrounding “traditional leadership” that humble leadership calls into question. First is the heroic “I alone” myth that suggests that the greatest leaders rise to the top on their own individual brilliance. By contrast, humble leadership proposes that leadership occurs throughout an organization, at all levels and in all roles, and reaches its pinnacles of success when groups drive better decisions and achieve better outcomes.

The second myth is that organizations are machines, directed with command and control, most successful when they can be described as a “well-oiled machine.” Humble leadership proposes that this is at best an antiquated view of organizations. Instead we think of organizations as living systems capable of cooperative resource sharing and adaptation better suited to the volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous (VUCA) world we are only now starting to accept.

 

“Humble means accepting that no individual can know more or make better decisions than any group at work.”

 

What do most people get wrong when they think of humble leadership?

Humble leadership is not about humility in the individual or religious sense. Humble means accepting that no individual can know more or make better decisions than any group at work. Humble means I go to work embracing the fact that I do not have all the answers and will do a better job by asking for help and helping others in the group to arrive at the best decisions. In Ed Schein’s Humble Leadership series, he refers to this framing of humility as “here and now humility.”

We see leadership as a verb not an entitlement. The foundational idea is that humble leadership requires the formation of personal relationships (at work and home) that allow two people or a group to achieve more than the sum of their individual outputs.

In Humble Consulting and Humble Leadership, a human relationship model is presented that describes human relationships in four levels. Level 1 is domination and exploitation (think prison guards or shop floor bosses in a sweatshop). Level 1 is transactional role-to-role interaction, cordial but typified by “professional distance.” Level 2 is a cooperative empathic connection between two whole persons formed by inquiring and sharing information. A Level 2 relationship is based upon, and continually reinforces, openness and trust. We refer to the process of creating Level 2 relationships as “personization.” Level 3 adds intimacy to openness and trust. This Level 3 ability to “finish each other’s sentences” is typically associated with lovers more than co-workers, though we do see Level 3 relationships in the highest performing teams (e.g. SEAL teams, orchestras, improv performers, and so on).

The essence of humble leadership is building Level 2 relationships with the people around you in order to improve and maximize information flow (openness) and cooperative work (trust). With these Level 2 relationships, anyone can arrive at work with here-and-now humility, knowing that he or she does not have all the answers, and confident that with inquiry and curiosity, better answers and outcomes will result.

 

Would you share an example of humble leadership?