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5 Steps for Improving Team Performance

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Why do some teams have breakaway performance while others continually struggle? This is a question that many leaders have pondered. To gain some clarity on why, organizations such as NASA, Google, and Cisco have invested in researching the qualities high-performance teams possess, as the value of these teams to an organization cannot be disputed. As Michael Jordan, the legendary basketball player once said, “talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

Is it who is on the team, the team dynamic, or team leadership that had the greatest influence on success for high-performance teams?

In a study conducted by tech giant Cisco, they looked at 297 teams, where 97 were high performing and the remaining 200 were average. They were shocked to find out that there was in fact a noticeable difference between the two groups. Positive group dynamics was the largest contributor to successful team performance as they found the three key areas that distinguished the best teams included, the team played to their strengths, teammates felt safe to be innovative and share out-there ideas, and the team was aligned on their values.

From this study, it is evident that a team leader who builds and/or leads a team without an intentional plan focused on establishing the right team dynamic from the start may suffer from less than optimal performance.

If you wish to avoid this, here are 5 steps you can take to create an environment that truly optimizes team performance.


How To Improve Team Performance

  1. Create a Compelling Team Vision
  2. Establish the Team Culture
  3. Uncover Strengths to Determine Roles
  4. Promote Team Connectivity
  5. Celebrate Success Along the Way

How To Improve Team Performance


Download the Team Culture Toolkit to Better Understand Where Your Culture Is  and What You Want It To Be. >>



Create a Compelling Team Vision

A team vision statement is a clear articulation of what you’re trying to accomplish, and how that achievement will positively impact the organization is the first step in optimizing team performance. It has been found that when there is a shared vision that everyone rallies around, there is a 1.9 times increase in the likelihood of above-median financial performance.

Having a clear team vision is important as it acts as a roadmap of where you’re going that builds energy and excitement in a team. Your vision should be so compelling that it inspires those on the team to achieve what some may think is impossible.



Establish the Team Culture

Team culture is the behavioral norms, team values, and the way the team interacts with each other is one of the main factors that separate optimal team performance from the rest. In a two-year-long study conducted by Google to determine what qualities that high-performance team possessed, they found that “what really mattered was less about who is on the team and more about how the team worked together.” In this study, researchers found that psychological safety was the number one quality that determined team performance and success.

Team leadership requires intentionally outlining the desired behaviors which will become the set of operating principles that will shape team members’ interactions with each other and the workplace culture. To create a great team culture that promotes psychological safety, focus on cultivating the following behaviors:

  • Considerate: Pay attention when others are speaking, actively listening, and asking questions to seek to understand their perspective
  • Self-aware: Admit what you do and don’t know
  • Enthusiastic: Keep a positive attitude even when times are tough
  • Trustworthy: Resist placing blame and instead take accountability for commitments and be honest even when delivering constructive feedback may be difficult
  • Caring: Genuinely care for each team member so that it eliminates ridicule and negative comments when others suggest ideas that seem “out there”, or admit to a weakness or area of development for improvement



Uncover Strengths to Determine Roles

When the makeup of the team has been established, the next step is to understand the strengths each team member brings. When leaders play to and focus on team members’ strengths instead of conversely trying to fix weaknesses, their results drastically improve. In one study, it was found that leaders who focus their teams on the strengths they bear saw a 14 to 29% increase in profit and a 9 to 15% increase in engaged employees.

When strengths have been identified, establish each role on the team and how that role plays to their strengths. Each team member needs to understand what is expected of them on the team and what is expected of their teammates.



Promote Team Connectivity

As one can imagine, it is nearly impossible to have stellar team performance without frequent and timely communication. That may be why highly connected team teams have been found to have a 21% increase in profitability over their less-connected counterparts. Moreover, 35% of the variation in a team’s performance can be attributed to the number of face-to-face interactions among team members.

For that reason, team leaders must be mindful of encouraging collaboration among employees if they want to optimize the performance of the team. You can promote connectivity and collaboration through regularly scheduled meetings and digital technologies. With the advancement of technology focused on teams, it has been found that 70% of employees said digital technology improved their collaboration. Fortunately, there are countless options available that promote collaboration, even some that are free team leadership tools to get you started.



Celebrate Success Along The Journey

There will be ups and downs along the journey to achieving your team vision. To keep up momentum and engagement, create check-points and milestones to hit along the way. Celebrating milestones reinforces the goal and vision for the team and why it is important, focuses the team on their progress towards the goal, strengthens the relationships on the team, and is an opportunity to stop and reflect on all that has been accomplished.


Assessment: How Effective and High-Performing Is Your Team?

Before you apply the steps listed above, it can be immensely helpful to find out where you currently stand regarding team effectiveness and performance. To help you do that, we recommend taking the following team effectiveness assessment and from there, formulating a plan to make the improvements you want to make a reality.



The Team Culture Toolkit Conains Resources That Will Help You Understand Where Your Culture Is Today and What You Want It to Be