Creating and Sustaining a “REAL” High Performance Team

By Leon Goren

There are numerous articles speaking to the definition and characteristics of high performance Executive Teams. You won’t see me disagree with the necessity for trust and accountability; however, I thought  I would be a little more succinct in suggesting a few characteristics of these teams and how they operate to retain such a title.

  1. Lead By Example The leader must set the acceptable behaviors of the team and abide by them. A leader’s actions speak much louder than their words. This maybe the most difficult responsibility of the leader as he/she follows through on their actions in a fair, firm and consistent manner.
  2. Achieve Financial Targets You will often find this point much further down the list. To be called a high performance team, the team must always be moving towards and/or hitting their financial objectives that were developed and agreed upon by its members. I understand that other goals and objectives are important; however, the sustainability of any organization is highly dependent on a positive inflow of cash, whether it is generated internally from operations or through an investment which ultimately promises some type of return on investment. A high performance team delivers on the building of real value in an enterprise over time. To be clear, the statement above does not provide permission for an organization to operate without values and moral responsibilities.
  3. Create An Environment Of Safety and Openness The executives on the team need to be able to express themselves professionally in a manner that is objective and in the best interest of their team and organization.  There can be no fear of reprisal of expressing one’s thoughts concisely when you are in a disagreement with the thinking and/or course of action of the team and/or organization. Every member of that team must feel they can challenge, and be challenged, on their thinking, actions and performance. If you are concerned about individuals who may overuse this right be very specific and/or create a process in which everyone abides by.
  4. Refine Your Problem Solving Skills Every member of the team has to be trained and regularly practice the process of complex problem solving. Businesses are changing at an unprecedented rate through the evolution and convergence of technology; making problem solving one of the most sought after skill sets. It has to start at the top with a high performance team setting aside the necessary time to tackle problems and challenge their thinking. If timing is tight in any meeting – then time is set-up in another meeting and/or an addition to the agenda of an upcoming meeting. Developing and utilizing a framework helps in developing this skill set around the team.
  5. There Is No ‘I’ In Team High performing executive lone wolves are not isolated, they are removed from the Executive Team and the organization. To be successful at this, the leader needs to be proactive versus reactive. People management is an essential skill of every member of the Leadership Team. Often a scary decision, rarely a decision that a team and/or organization regrets.
  6. Walk Outside Your Box To be able to join a high performance Leadership/Executive team, each member of the team has to be able to look beyond their functional silo. As the leader, consider rotating the Chair position at your Executive Team meetings among the team members in order to either kick-start or reinforce that thinking.
  7. Walk The Walk & Talk The Talk Alignment in a high performance team is an essential ingredient – when key strategic decisions are being made by the team, each member must indicate their intention to participate by verbalizing to everyone on the team that they are “IN”.
  8. Get Inspired A high performance team will look for every opportunity to move outside of their box in respect to new learnings. As you consider your next executive offsite, avoid the temptation of using that typical resort venue. Think about exposing the team to new thinking and experiences by potentially visiting companies in different industries with best of class innovation, operations and practices.  As a team, spend a day touring their facilities and engaging with their top performers.  Alternatively, think about taking your executive team to a conference outside of your industry (i.e. an innovation conference). Take one day exploring new thinking and another on your strategic planning.
  9. Keep Your Finger On The Pulse There are no comparable substitutes to having the Executive Team spend face time with their customers and stakeholders. Members must be able to present in front of the board of directors at least once a year, spend time visiting with customers multiple times per year and engage in various other initiatives that test the business when a headwind emerges. These are all critical factors in ensuring the team is well versed in what is important today and where the organization must go to be successful in the future.
  10. Have Fun With all that said, time must be set aside to simply enjoy each other’s company and have fun!  Celebrate the successes!
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