During my 12 years as business consultant & coach my clients frequently ask me „how do I improve the performance of my team ?“ This question is strongly related to the increasing war for talents and fluctuation-rate as well as the fact that teams become more and more diverse.

The industrialisation and digitalisation is suggesting that human beings can as well be brought to higher functionality with the right algorithm. But the truth is, the more technological our environment becomes, the more human skills are required from the manager in leading positions.

Excellent executives regard themselves as service providers and they recognize the team-performance is the result of constant relationship work. In other words a dream-team is the result of an exploring-journey strongly related to the following big five.

1) Attitude is key

The right attitude of the leader towards his team-members is a strong contribution to the team-performance.

Low expectations create moderate success.

The following example from my practice, give you an insight:
Order 1 for a team-workshop from leader A: „I don´t need a dream team, I just want my team to work together in order to deliver the required performance.”
Order 2 for a team-workshop from leader B: „I am convinced that this team will be the pearl in the value chain of the company. That´s why I want to decide together with them how we can achieve this. “

In which team would you prefer to be a part, for which leader would you like to work and in which of these two workshops the outcome will be higher?

This reminds me of the famous story of Victor Frankl (psychiatrist known for Logotherapy Existential analysis, author of the book “man’s search for meaning ) which he often shared enthusiastically with his students. At advanced age he took flying instructions and learned how to orientate in case of cross winds with the “crabbing method”.

When you want to fly to east and you aim east, you will land in south.
Only if you aim for north, you have a chance to reach the east.
He used this metaphor to illustrate his psychotherapeutic credo and refers to Goethe´s quote: “When we treat man as he is we make him worse than he is. When we treat him as if he already was what he potentially could be We make him what he should.”

This is also the credo of excellent leaders!
 

2) I before WE

I can´t remember a decision-maker, executive who wasn´t convinced of the idea that a strong team-spirit contributes to high performance. The willingness to invest in the “WE” is usually given as long as there is a direct return on invest.
I can understand the frustration if the investment in team-buildings has no outcome or even leads to a worsening.

It´s not evident but a lack of team-spirit roots often in a lack of focus on the individuals.

Human beings have a sense of belonging and do want to be part of a bigger idea.
The meaning is not given by the fact to be part of it, the meaning is given by “how” the individual contributes to it.

Like a puzzle-piece. Every piece has another form and colour and only by perceiving it accurately the right place can be found.
No vision and mission-statement can have the power to be the ultimate attractor for a majority.

The relevant question is “how can each team player contribute to deliver the best for himself and the others” .

Knowing this it is evident that a team-leader has to invest not only in the team but in each individual. Yes this takes time, but it is a worthwhile investment.

 

3) Do not divide function and person

I am convinced that people are a unity of function and person.
This doesn´t necessarily mean that everything has to be shared in the office but I have never met someone who was not pleased by getting to know others by discovering similarities.

In this context, I very well remember two discordant team-colleagues in a business-department, who – thanks to the discovery of their shared passion for playing the guitar – broke the ice and became reliable co-operators.
The right mixture of uniqueness and similarities is relevant for successful team-work.

Joint experiences promote both.
To achieve this is it not necessary to organize a survival trail or to run over hot coals.

It´s completely sufficient to discover the right hiking trail or to watch birds, to cook together or to learn how to juggle.
Simply find a setting in which the participants can contribute with their individual strengths. E.g. one is the best card-reader, another one an excellent entertainer or photographer.

Focus is on the joint experience or creation not on the fun-factor. But joy and fun will be a nice side-effect.

4) „Freesponsibility“

The much described „generation Y“ seems to need a lot of freedom: freedom to plan their time, to choose their workplace and their way of working.

Nevertheless this range of freedom does not guarantee more loyalty and less fluctuation. It can even lead to the contrary. The issue with freedom and incentives is that we can´t get enough of it. This can be explained by our evolutionary instruction. 

Our neurologic „happiness-centre“ is in fact a „learning-centre“ . Happiness-feelings evoked without effort are not long-lasting.
Which view of the summit will be the stronger memory : the one obtained with the mountain-lift or the one after a challenging foot-march? Employees won´t ask for strain but as a leader you should know that effort, especially joint effort will enhance the sense of achievement. 

Knowing this, team-leaders should combine freedom with responsibility, let´s call it “freesponsibility”. 

E.g. if you identify a team-member who is not satisfied with the current meeting-settings put him in charge with a new design and organization of it. If you simply ask him to make suggestions, you are in charge to choose the best alternatives, implement them and probably get concerns from other employees. Enable the team-member to change the situation and define in advance the outcome. 

 

5) Empowering joint responsibility

The powerful combination of freedom and responsibility is relevant for individuals as well as for teams. In the team-context there is another important factor to be considered: the joint responsibility.

Joint responsibility means “winning together – losing together”.

Winning together is easy, even for teams with a low degree of maturity Challenging situations, setbacks or failures make the difference and invite teams to finger-pointing and justifications.

High performance team-members would never do this. They are welded together. Even if they are battered down and upset they won´t blame other team-player.

This means that strong teams need to develop strategies for joint decision-making and for resilience-training.

Facing challenges, the leading question is „what are we called to do?“ instead of “why and how could this happen?”

Many team leaders feel forced to answer this question immediately – this is not necessarily so. In a first step you just have to remind the team what the relevant question is.

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Each of these big five will guide you on the journey from teamwork to dreamwork. The all important conclusion:

People don’t take journeys, journeys take people!

 

Daniela Philipp

 Consultant, Coach & moderator 

Under the motto “communication on point” Daniela is specialized in intra- and interpersonal communication, enhancing individual and team-performance in challenging situations. In a creative and sensitive way she leads people to answer the questions of life through the power of responsibility and meaning-orientation.  

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