The transformation of a team into a high performance team is no simple task. It requires individuals to be more than a group of people with complementary skills committed to a common purpose. The members must also be deeply committed to one another’s personal growth and success. This can only happen if the appropriate support structures of individual and collective motivation, mutually accepted methods of decision-making, and empowering team dynamics are put into place.
An understanding of innate emotions and drives is necessary for leaders to properly motivate a team as a collective, and its members as individuals. According to the 4-drive theory of motivation, everyone has an innate drive to acquire, bond, learn, and defend. We have a desire to possess objects and personal experiences that enhance our self-concept. We have the desire to bond and form relationships to others. We have a desire to better know and understand ourselves and our environment. We have a desire to protect ourselves, our relationships, and our belief systems. These four drives determine which emotions we attach to stimuli, thus guiding how they work independently and in balance to motivate us.
A leader looking to build a team into a high performance team must ensure that the work and objectives of the team provide opportunities for recognition and enforcement of the self-concept of the team’s members. The goals of the high performance team must have personal meaning for each member, and must complement one another to foster engagement and commitment to the team. On high performance teams, it is not enough that the bonds between members are strong and that the members care about each other. These bonds must also nurture commitment to the success of the team and allow them to harmonize efforts in ways that effectively achieve desired outcomes.
On high performance teams, members are encouraged and coached to strengthen their own knowledge, skills, and abilities in ways that are mutually rewarding and reinforcing with every member of the team. To satisfy the drive to defend, it is important to remember that the drive goes beyond protecting ourselves, but also encompasses the drive to defend our personal relationships and the things we believe in. High performance teams will have a cohesive identity with each other. They will be driven to defend the team and enhance the team by achieving expected outcomes and by promoting team morale.
The second building block to transforming a team into a high performance team to define and exemplify methods for effective decision-making. Effective decision-making values diversity, enables open and clear communications, and provides a framework for managing conflict. High performance teams place value in having diverse viewpoints and experiences on the team. A high performance team communicates well with one another through mutually understood language, the definition of acceptable channels and means of communicating, and transparency in the sharing of ideas and concerns amongst the team.
High performance teams recognize the need for constructive conflict management. They share disagreements openly and discuss them as a whole rather than in small groups within the team. They erect barriers to fill gaps that regular teams leave open for opposing viewpoints to develop into morale-eroding grudges. For the leader looking to build a high performance team, you must define acceptable methods for resolving conflict into the mechanism for how the team makes group decisions.
In high performance teams, each member has clearly defined role and responsibilities. They understand what they must and must not do as part of their commitment to the team. An important distinction between a team and a high performance team is that the members in the latter also freely share their expertise and coach others members to enhance their knowledge, skills, and abilities.
A high performance team has a cohesive identity that is recognized by its members, and by those external to the team. It has its own culture that is positive, transparent, and believed to be integral in delivering success. Members of a high performance team will earn and reinforce trust in members of the team as well as for the team itself as an entity. They will expect each other to offer commitments and honor them, demonstrating inherent trust and an affinity for the team. The combination of roles, cohesion, and trust will improve and sustain motivation and create positive team morale.
Building this type of team requires an intent to actively work on building the foundations of motivation, decision-making, and team dynamics. It requires effort and vision on the part of leaders to make the model sustainable for a single team, but even more so to then replicate it across an organization. As a leader, you have many teams that you are responsible for, but what are you doing to build them into high performance teams?
[This piece was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse by Jonathan Etheridge, Director of IS and CIO at Cullman Regional Medical Center.]
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