Thoughts on High Performing Teams

Everyone is talking about High Performing Teams but how do you make sure all ingredients are there to build the team?

Thoughts on High Performing Teams
Photo by Max Winkler / Unsplash

Do they really exist? High Performing teams not only deliver value for the team but also for the company.  I especially care about people and teams.

For me High Performing Teams are interesting because they are fun to be in and they will let you grow as a person. If you work 36-40 hours a week you want to have fun right? And besides having fun you want to be challenged right? If those 2 things are there, other things will follow. I'm not saying you need to be very competitive and career focused. No, you just want to enjoy the thing you do which pays your bills.

In the past 4 years I've been in a couple of high performing teams and I thrived. It was harder to stop thinking about work but it gave me great energy. A days work in such a team will give you more energy then a day not having fun or not being challenged.

So what are the ingredients for a High Performing Team for me?

Key Ingredients

Clear vision and mission

A vision describes the context in which you and your team is working. How the product that you are working on fit in the landscape and how it is positioned in the organization. It tells you how the market is changing and into which direction.

A mission gives you a short and clear reason why the product and your team exists. Most of the times it is something you inspire to be, a goal.

It also very helpfull to decide, together as a team, which values / characterics you want to see in the products and services you deliver. These characteristics tie in to the values that you as a team want to see in each teammember.

Suddenly you've started documenting your culture.

The mission, vision, characteristics and values are also a very important item in the hiring process. I would rather hire people who are inspired by the mission and who feel that they align with their own goals, even if he or she misses important skills for the job, than someone who has all the skills but doesn't align with the mission.

A 1, 3 and 5 year roadmap

Yes this is difficult and the 3 and 5 year roadmap will never be reached and course will be redirected but that is not the point. Having clearity on what you think the future will be allows the team to make choices on the things they want to do.

In my opinion there should always be someone who is constantly working on this particular topic. If that person notices that the company is changing gears or direction he or she can change the roadmap and inform the team. Even if the company isn't changing you need to look outside of the company where the rest of the world is going, how that affects your roadmap and change course accordingly.

I love companies who once a year release a document about how they think the world will change in the coming year. It's good marketing material but it also provides pointers for the internal organization on how to adept and focus.

Clarity on roles, responsibilities and operating protocols

If you are working on a product as a developer your team can change, your organization can change, your manager can change but you are still a developer.

Each team should have a clear description on the roles that always will be working on the product and/or service. I've noticed that for new joiners a RA(S)CI table can really help. It helps them to understand what is expected of them and who they can contact for other things.

If possible also document the relationship between your team and other teams and how you can leverage other teams to do get your job done. But also be clear on how other team can leverage your product.

If there is a clear way of working for your team, document it so new joiners can jump right in. Don't forget to reiterate the way of working in team meetings and don't be afraid to change them.

Experience trust and safety

This is the most difficult thing because it intereferes with believes, culture and how people are "wired". But in the end, everyone wants to feel safe. Safe to ask questions, safe to make mistakes, safe to be who they want to be. That is the only way people will grow and teams will grow. As a leader, be a role model and coach others to feel safe.

Good documentation

As I've written earlier, good documentation is a great way to build great teams! If new joiners have all the information they need they will be up and running faster. If procedures are documened people can help eachother when this is required. People can more easily switch between roles because they can read how to do the work the best way possible!