Developing high-performing teams is the core objective but also the biggest challenge of any manager or leader. It requires balancing performance objectives, commitment, and accountability, as well as emotional aspects of interpersonal relations and conflicts. An optimal high-performance team invigorates each member with energy, pushes performance to achieve strong performance objectives, and maintains a sense of belonging and reliability on each other (Folkman, 2016). Such teams rarely occur naturally, and they must be developed through a painstaking process that centers around its leadership. Developing a high-performing team is based on key leadership behaviors in the areas of communication, conflict resolution, guiding team members, and energizing the whole team.
Communicating Common Goals
Before doing anything else, and arguably the most critical aspect to high performance and success is communication. Leaders must ensure to communicate goals for several reasons including aligning team members with the strategic objectives, establishing the company culture, maintaining engagement, and encouraging collaboration. Precise communication is of the utmost importance for leaders as it serves to motivate and inspire as well as accurately guide teams towards organizational goals. Leadership communication is inspiring and encouraging a group by systematic and meaningful exchange of information by using good communication skills.
It is a complex process, which starts with developing strategies for communication to being able to relay information effectively and control difficult situations. Communication is primarily based on establishing the trust of employees and stakeholders, which allows a manager to lead efficiently. By creating trust in an environment, a leader can then motivate and guide employees to achieve organizational goals. Communicating common goals is also important to ensure that others are convinced by the purpose of their work and understand the principles that underlie the specific objectives. Sharing essential information and working on building open channels of communication with employees is essential to facilitation team growth and development (Luthra & Dahiya, 2015).
In any context where teams work together, there are bound to be various levels of interpersonal conflict, both on a personal level and professionally. Without conflict management, which leaders are responsible for as a neutral party interested in a productive environment, the workplace can be a toxic environment. Navigating and resolving conflict is complex, requiring a good understanding of psychology, personal dynamics, and other contexts such as culture and workflow. At the same time, leaders must maintain neutrality and respect, resolving the conflict without taking sides and preventing disruption.
Avoidance of conflict and tension, an approach that many leaders take, is also not effective in the long term as conflict can become rampant through the workplace ecosystem. Some strategies that leaders can utilize for conflict resolution include timing, understanding boundaries, and respecting differences. Timing of intervention in conflicts is critical, it is easier to demonstrate leadership by intervening early and preventing the conflict from exploding while the rest of the teams views one’s inaction.
However, knowing boundaries is important as well. Individuals have different behavioral tendencies and triggers, and a leader can work with members unique to shift mindsets and establish standards in the workplace to prevent future conflicts. Leaders must maintain their position but not impose one’s hierarchy, but rather recognize differences in people that may lead to understanding and resolving conflict. Seeing the differences can be used to find common ground on which conflicts are resolved and teams become more unified (Llopis, 2014).
Assisting Team Members
Most modern teams in any business, sector, or industry, including healthcare, consist of complex and interdisciplinary dynamics. As examined in the study by Carson et al. (2016), objective outcomes and client satisfaction improve with team collaboration across providers. Team collaboration can be empirically tracked, including through strategies of optimizing staffing and identifying the best performing characteristics of individual members and the overall team. To optimize staffing, a leader must find the most suitable role for team members.
Ruch et al. (2016) offer a role behavior model that allows team roles to be formulated based on their character strengths. These include the roles of “Idea creator, information gatherer, decision-maker, implementer, influencer, energizer, and relationship manager” (Ruch et al., 2016, p. 190). Placing individuals in suitable roles within the team is positively correlated with job satisfaction, which reflects positively on work-related settings and the formation of well-functioning teams.
An effective leader can help team members find their roles through communication discussed earlier, utilizing both objective and subjective assessments, and coach members on achieving certain goals or attaining necessary skills that contribute to their professional development. Through this, a leader also develops team strengths and improves weaknesses to create a high-performing team. Building the team around individual strengths and roles is helpful for motivation and empowerment as well as fulfillment of projects that can showcase these talents.
Attitude and energy are vital in the atmosphere of a high-performance team. Good leaders know how to create enthusiasm in the team to trigger inspiration and confidence from team members that their work is important. Effective team leaders most often inspire more than they drive or push (Folkman, 2016).
While management at all levels will require some level of pushing the team to do better, the underlying success lies in inspiration, even beyond motivation as inspiration highlights passion and purpose more than the material and objective incentives. Leaders can energize their teams through a variety of ways, with the three primary methods being building personal relationships and engagement, work process elements, and fostering creativity.
Leaders can spend quality time engaging with their employees, ranging from simple conversation during breaks to proactively offering support when employees deal with personal issues. This contributes to a positive atmosphere in the workplace and trust. Furthermore, such a close relationship between a leader and the team can benefit by the manager serving as a role model, showing enthusiasm or resilience in difficult situations which is contagious. Work process aspects should be used to energize the team.
This includes celebrations for big breakthroughs, honoring special occasions that uplift the spirits of the team, but also includes reflection and learning from negative experiences. A candid discussion of errors and fallbacks without placing blame can invigorate a team to perform better (Webb, 2016). Finally, fostering creativity is a good step towards team energy. This can be done through challenge points that are designed together with employees to create a vision plan or through brainstorming activities that can be incorporated into the work process by either providing more team planning or individual creative projects (Hirsch, 2019).
It is evident that high-performance teams are not created, they are developed. Even putting together the best specialists in a multidisciplinary team is not a guarantee of success, but rather depends on strong leadership and collaboration. Leaders can create high-performance teams through the communication of common objectives, helpful conflict resolution, finding the right roles for team members, and energizing the team. Using a variety of strategies, such leadership ultimately defines optimal effectiveness and maximum inspiration that drives some of the most successful teams and companies in the world.
- Carson, M. B., Scholtens, D. M., Frailey, C. N., Gravenor, S. J., Powell, E. S., Wang, A. Y., … Soulakis, N. D. (2016). Characterizing teamwork in cardiovascular care outcomes. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, 9(6), 670–678. Web.
- Folkman, J. (2016). 5 ways to build a high-performance team. Forbes. Web.
- Hirsch, J. (2019). 4 simple ways leaders can energize their teams in 2019. Inc. Web.
- Llopis, G. (2014). 4 ways leaders effectively manage employee conflict. Forbes. Web.
- Luthra, A., & Dahiya, R. (2015). Effective leadership is all about communicating effectively: Connecting leadership and communication. International Journal of Management and Business Studies, 5(3), 43-48. Web.
- Ruch, W., Gander, F., Platt, T., & Hofmann, J. (2016). Team roles: Their relationships to character strengths and job satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13(2), 190–199. Web.
- Webb, M. (2016). 7 ways to re-energize your team. Forbes. Web.