This is the second part of my Autumn series “The 4 personalities you need to educate a high-performing team”. Having explored the early days of team development, let’s see how teams can sustain performance and maintain a positive atmosphere in the long run.
A team grows as a person grows.
It has its “infancy”, where relationships and bonding are the main focus. The subsequent “teenage years” can be highly emotional; all energy must be funnelled towards productivity.
According to Psychologist Bruce Tuckman, “forming” and “storming” are the early stages of team development. They’re followed by “norming” and “performing”, where the group really starts to gain traction.
Driving a group to a position of cohesion and efficiency is a tedious job. But when you master periods of transition, your team will enter its “adulthood” fully equipped to deal with the challenges of growth and innovation. They will become the crew that any leader dreams of: engaged, effective and resilient.
Creatives strengthen independence
I know exactly when each of the teams I have helped reached the norming phase…
It was when I had time for a coffee in the afternoon.
Norming teams look like a well-oiled machine. There’s a good level of understanding, and all members know how to adapt their communication to get results. They own their job. They know what they’re doing. Efficiency increases, team performance surfaces, and we can celebrate team success.
All of the groups I have helped landed in the norming phase with a good level of team performance. But their main asset was their strong sense of connection. The group shared a common culture (they were actually very proud to be seen as “different”). They embraced gratitude at work. Instead of tearing them apart, the storming phase taught them that challenges are a way to improve the group’s delivery and personal growth at the same time.
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Time to unleash autonomy and creativity
A norming team can adapt its level of effort to the nature of the job. Due to boosted team productivity, norming groups have more time to think. This leads to design thinking – without fear of conflict – and marks the start of continuous improvement.
I always found that leveraging the creative people in a team had the most impact. They encourage the group to contemplate alternative solutions. They support a style of work that is based on small, targeted, innovative projects. They can even help you avoid complacency (which often occurs once things have settled in a bit).
For team leads, norming is when the team finds their own operating pattern. As maturity and confidence levels grow, it’s important to focus on the autonomy of the team: they know it, they own it, and they rock it.
Adding small, creative projects on top of their usual routine will not only encourage autonomy, but also heightened performance, as a means to absorb the extra workload. This is the perfect way to transition the team to the next phase: performing.
Leaders prepare for the long-term
The best performing team I know are a group of banking consultants, who I partner with extensively. We work as friends. We’ve been through challenging (I mean nearly impossible) deliveries, which we now refer to as the “good old times”. Flexibility and engagement are the rules to live by. The mantra is to remain authentic in times of change, respect others, and NEVER compromise the group’s alchemy.
The team is regularly recognised for its performance and professionalism. The level of connection, interaction, and efficiency within the team make it a delivery machine.
As a leader, this is what you should aim for.
Passing the torch to those who come next
In a performing team, leadership is shared, as individuals are able to sort out their issues together. Conflict or disagreement are expected, but not feared. The group finds its own path for growth, takes risks safely and team performance improves without anything but strategic direction from its leader.
That’s what makes it a terrific asset for any business.
To get there, you need the trust of forming, the innovation of storming and the autonomy of norming. If you want to capitalise on these aspects, focus on the people who naturally empower others. Leaders who instinctively drive the group and ignite the team spirit.
As a team reaches its maturity, the leader decreases her involvement. It goes with delegating more strategic tasks. And who will be the first ones to put their hand up? The people with innate leadership; who can see the big picture, make strategy real in the day to day, and take over your efforts to build a high performance team.
When your crew are in a place of great team performance, the expansion phase follows next! Having natural leaders within the team itself will protect its core ethos and spirit, whilst ensuring new additions blend perfectly with the delivery pace and culture. They can spot good team players who will add fresh blood and enhance what already exists. Another good reason to make full use of your leaders!
A crucial moment for a leader is when she lets her team fly on its own.
We all know that the best learning happens through trial and error – the same goes for developing team performance. The keys are to understand the team’s level of maturity, maintain a positive attitude and create a culture of efficiency (for instance, by introducing innovative projects).
Then, what should you do when your team reaches its best performance? This is precisely the time to prepare for the final growth step: structural improvements where the highest-performing individuals finally take over from their leader.
What’s the best team you’ve been involved in? Share your story in the comments!