The Goal And Soul Of High Performing Teams

April 11, 2015

Last week I talked about The Characteristics of Team Flow and how having “the best team in the world” doesn’t always guarantee the best outcomes. Instead, the level of success of the team is more dependent on how groups of people come together and commit themselves fully to achieving the team’s goal.

Based on my extensive hands-on experience in supporting CEO’s transforming top teams in organizations across Asia and Africa and being inspired by true gurus like Lencioni, Drexler and Sibbet, Dave Ulrich, and, of course, the original work of Katzenbach and Tuckman, I’ve developed a model that helps you develop High Performing Teams. The model works for both teams that have been given a “special assignment” and for natural work teams responsible for delivering exceptional operational results in an organisation on an on-going basis.

High Performing Team Spiral

Two basic principles form the High Performing Team Spiral. Firstly, achieving team flow is an outcome of a number of steps that are (1) more or less sequential and (2) expansive in nature. The second principle is related to the fact that teams can only transform into high performing teams if you develop, nurture and grow two different components simultaneously. These components are like Yin and Yang. They’re apparently opposite forces that are actually complimentary and can only exist together and keep each other in balance. I have called the Yin and Yang of team development: Goal and Soul.

A team needs both, the hard (goal) and soft side (soul) to deliver. In my client work I neither focus on one or the other. You can’t focus on team building and enhancing team trust without talking about what the teams purpose is. Similarly you can’t set, let alone achieve, an outrageous goal without healthy team dynamics.

Delivering An Extraordinary Goal

Developing an extra goal is the ‘hard’ side of the team. It answers questions around getting the right skills and experience in place, helping the team create a meaningful purpose and aspirational goal, set the right strategy, enhance their ability to execute, and learn and persevere.

You create a team goal by taking a number of different steps where the depth and impact of your the activities widens and widens. You start with setting up the team and gaining commitment from individuals and work your way up to creating and achieving the goal. The work obviously doesn’t stop there because high performing teams spend time on learning and reflecting. All of these are just some of the steps required to deliver an extraordinary goal.

Creating A Team Soul

Creating a team soul is the ‘soft’ side of the team. It recognizes that without healthy and enduring team dynamics no team can perform on a sustained basis. It explains why ‘David’ sometimes beats ‘Goliath’ and it explains why some teams can deliver top results again and again.

Just like with the extraordinary goal, the steps for team soul widen as you go up the spiral. You first have to set the tone and break the ice, build deep levels of trust, before you can set a number of ground rules along the team wants to deliver. Similarly, they need to be ready for when the going gets tough and agree on how they will handle conflict and have each other backs before they can celebrate and grow together.

If you’re already part of the my community, you’ll be getting the link for the actual High Performing Team Spiral in your inbox with this week’s newsletter. If you haven’t signed up, I highly recommend you do so because next week I’ll be talking about each phase in detail. That way, everyone will be armed and ready to go with getting their teams into High Performance mode!

Photo credit: Yin Yang Sky Earth – Illustration via photopin (license)

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