Build the winning team for 2013

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To build the team that is truly cohesive and performing at its peak, leaders must be focused on teaching, encouraging and ‘rallying the troops’ – not ruling or controlling. How can you ensure the balance is right heading into the new year?

According to one HR consultant and recruitment expert, building a high performance team takes a lot of hard work and skill and what is comes down to is being able to blend the different personalities, abilities and agendas into a cohesive unit willing to work for a common goal. “A well-oiled and disciplined team lets members achieve results far beyond their individual abilities,” Karen Colfer from Kelly Services Australia said.

How can HR leaders take the visions for 2013 and turn them into a reality? Kelly Services offered the following advice to help build a high performance team:

Define the need. As a leader, you must establish the broad, compelling purpose for the team. What do you want to improve? Eliminate? Change? Resist the temptation to handcuff the team by writing a detailed prescription in advance of the diagnosis.

Your vision, properly articulated, will be the engine that drives and inspires your team. It will determine who should be on the team, what resources are needed, how quickly a conclusion must be reached, what falls within the scope of the team, and how success will be measured and rewarded.

Recruit the right people. Find the talent that is willing to commit to your vision with zeal. Choose members who represent a wide range of backgrounds, skills and abilities. Look to imbue your team with a wide mix of cultural, generational and professional viewpoints to provide diverse ideas and opinions that might not otherwise have been aired.

Shared values. Not only must team members embrace your mission, they must share your values. Effective teams demand close collaboration, trust, honesty, passion, and genuine appreciation for each member's contributions.

Develop common goals. A high performance team thrives in an environment where they can unite behind a common and compelling purpose, a cause everyone can understand, identify with, and commit to. Ideally, these goals should be developed by the team members themselves, which create ownerships, buy-in and commitment. Goals should be a written agreement that clearly states what the team wants to accomplish, why its goals are important and how the team will work together to achieve the desired outcome.

Set ground rules. Make sure team members understand why the team exists and know the roles each member plays. They need to know how decisions will be made, how to deal with conflict, how to communicate, and how results will be measured. The success of the team depends upon creating an environment in which team members openly contribute ideas while recognising and respecting the differences in others.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. If a statement of purpose is the engine that drives the team, communication is the oil that keeps the engine well lubricated. Fail to lubricate the engine and it will lock up. The team will fail without effective communication. Communication is about listening intently, and asking questions to get clarification. Face-to-face meetings generally work best in a team environment, supplemented by electronic communications, however every team is different so it’s wise to discuss communication processes with team members.

Promote curiosity. Curiosity and the search for new solutions fuels great groups. Members don't just solve problems. They are engaged in a process of discovery that serves as its own reward. They also have another quality that lets them both identify significant problems and find creative, boundary-busting solutions rather than simplistic ones.

Keep score. A team can't perform if it doesn't know what it's doing. But that's not enough; there must be a commitment to constant improvement. To accomplish that, you have to measure performance. Feedback should be immediate. Practice open-book management and make sure team members have those numbers that are important to them in tracking their success.

Reward. Even though their contributions may not be exactly equal, it's important to recognise the team's efforts. Acknowledge individual achievement during group meetings and compliment the team as a whole on working well together. Highlighting and celebrating interim successes can be a great morale booster. People repeat performance that garners reward and recognition. When you focus on the positive, you develop the habit of doing things right.

Back off. If you've implemented the above steps correctly, then get out of the way. As the leader, your role will change over the life of the team. In the beginning, you may have spent a lot of time developing the mission, identifying what the team was setting out to accomplish, and, more importantly, helping develop interpersonal and group skills such as conflict resolution and meeting management. Trust the team process, even if you think you know better. Nothing undermines a team faster than for their moves to be trumped. Teams must be empowered to achieve the results, without fear of being overridden by the top floor.

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