Team sourcing for high performance

There’s some great news for leaders. If you want a team that aspires to, and achieves high performance, you don’t have to lead from the front.

In fact, you will know you are an effective leader when you can sit back and observe your people leading themselves and each other. At Catapult we work with dozens of leaders and their teams each year, and we see some huge and inspiring shifts take place.

A key learning from our experience is that great teamwork and team performance happens as a result of an inclusive process. It’s something that is achieved by the team as a whole, not solely by the leader.

So what’s the winning formula for starting a transformational shift in your team? Team-sourcing.

First, team-source a vision

Imagine you are part of a team. One day the leader announces they think the team can do better and they know what needs to be done. The leader thinks they have solved a problem and everyone will be delighted to receive their wisdom. For you, however, the feeling might be different. You may feel threatened and on the defensive. Something is being imposed on you. You are unlikely to throw yourself happily into whatever process the leader initiates.

Now imagine that the leader asks the team an open question, with a genuine spirit of inquiry. The open question is this: Do we think we are operating to our potential as a team of smart, capable people?

Note the “we”. The leader is not making a declaration and announcing the need for change based on their judgment. The leader is inviting you and your colleagues to form your own judgment on how you are collectively performing.

Now let’s assume you are this enlightened leader. You now ask the team to visualise what they would love the team to be like in a year or two:

  • What would you love working together to be like?
  • What would we love others to say about us as a team?

In every team development session we are part of, teams asked these questions quickly create an attractive picture of their desired future state. This happens even when a team is low on morale, in a state of ‘crisis’, under extreme pressure, or even when team members are in conflict or just plain don’t like each other! Because the future hasn’t happened yet, people can be ambitious and aspire to something they don’t currently have.

Even if some members of the team are skeptical about whether the vision can be achieved, they are at least engaged in the process and they now have something at stake.

Second, team-source the current team story

The team now knows what it wants to be and achieve. But before any ideas about how to get there can be generated, the team needs to align around its current state. As the current state is the starting point for change, it must be understood if everyone is to commit to the journey.

Again, it is best if the team defines the current state, not you. You can facilitate the conversation by asking the team to identify its current strengths and weaknesses.

Third, discover the team’s high performance score

Catapult’s High Performance Team Assessment has been designed and refined over many years to enable a team to better understand its internal dynamics. It provides a series of graphs showing how team members rate the team against the features of high-performing teams.

Joint exploration and discussion about the results of the Team Assessment provide the basis for identifying how the team will move from its current state to its desired state.

Fourth, team-source the way towards high performance

The Team Assessment gives the team a collective understanding of where it needs to lift its game. The team must then identify and commit to specific actions and behaviours that will propel it toward achieving its envisioned future.

As with the other steps, your role as leader is not to determine these behaviours and actions but to help the team define them. The result is the team will have greater ownership and accountability of the outcomes. As the leader, your job is to create the space for discussion, keep a positive outlook, ask both supporting and challenging questions, and ensure clear commitments are made and locked in.

Keeping the team honest

After the team has sourced the wherewhat and how to high performance, your role as leader is to simply keep reminding the team about the commitments it has made.  You can do this by initiating regular formal commitment and progress check-ins. These check-ins will drive team discipline and accountability.

Leadership lies in getting the best out of people, which means you don’t, and shouldn’t, do the heavy lifting around catapulting your team’s performance. If you see your team as being capable of more, follow the four-step process outlined here and prepare for an easier life as a leader.

John Boyd is a Senior Catapult Consultant with a particular interest and talent in working with teams to create high performance. To learn more contact john@catapult.co.nz

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