how to build a high performing team

 Car maintenance?

No thanks. What does that have to do with high performing teams? Well, a great deal actually. A car only runs effectively if all the parts are in good working order – if one part fails, that can impact on the whole vehicle. If you’re not a mechanic, then you’ll need the assistance of your local garage or breakdown service to get you back on the road.

Want to build a high performing team? Then you need to understand the internal workings, just like a car. If just one of your team is not working effectively, or is not a good ‘fit’ with the team, then you may have trouble ahead.

Whether you are working with a new team, or an established, well-functioning team; whether you formed the team yourself or inherited it, the guidelines included in this article can support you in building an even stronger, focused, more cohesive team.

Choose your direction

Teams without a clear purpose are like a car without a steering wheel. In facilities management in particular, it’s crucial that both you and your team understand how you impact on the wider organisation. In the past, FM had often been seen as a ‘cost’ rather than a core part of the business, but that is rapidly changing as FM is being more widely recognized as a profession that can impact the objectives of an organisation. You need a thorough knowledge of the business’s objectives, and to know exactly how your team will help in their achievement.

You may be surprised to find your team may not have a clear understanding of their own purpose in the team, let alone the wider organisation or it may just be vague, or even very different from your own.

Action: Provide your team with direction and purpose. Outline the objectives of the organisation and how that impacts on FM delivery; detail the team objectives and the specific roles of each individual. Then regularly repeat and update as necessary so that everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Understand that teams ebb and flow

Any change – be it to responsibilities, the addition/loss of staff, or new ways of operating – may result in teams, that have previously been well-functioning, sometimes losing their focus or understanding their purpose. When this happens, you may need to revisit and re-clarify roles, purpose and process.

Take the time to listen to any concerns or problems that your team raise, so that you can act swiftly and keep everyone on track.

Action: Take the lead in defining your team’s roles and responsibilities early on, but revisit them regularly and listen and act on what your team is saying and how they are acting.

Recruit well

Be clear about each role in your team and then recruit the people that are not only the best fit technically, but also most closely mirror the values of your group. For example, if teamwork is critical, hire people that flourish in team environments, rather than those that prefer to work independently.

Then develop them

Give your team the support that they need as individuals to perform at a high level. This may be training, coaching, mentoring, or simply close management. Knowing your people, their strengths and how they work most effectively, are keys to great management.

You’ll get more out of your team if you understand what drives them

Without wanting to pigeonhole people, they tend to fall loosely into one of four categories in the workplace:

  1. Success- and status-driven. These people are entrepreneurial; they’re able to work on their own and may get frustrated that others don’t work at the same pace.
  2. People-driven. People that want to work in teams, involve and consult, to ensure buy-in and keep the peace.
  3. Recognition-driven. People that want to be praised for their work, by both their manager and their colleagues.
  4. Process-driven. Those that take their time to produce high-quality output, prefer written instructions and time to reflect on their objectives.

There are many different psychometric tools available to identify ‘types’, but if you simply take the time to observe, ask them and use common sense, it won’t take long to understand how people want to managed, communicated with and involved.

Team ground-rules

Establish your team-specific ‘ground-rules’ – the unwritten norms that guide how work gets done in your team. These might include agreeing a forum for how the team can make suggestions for improvements; and how communication will work amongst team members.

Action: Take some time to think about how you want your team to interact and communicate and then agree with them how that will work. Do it as soon as you can so that your people know what to expect and what your standards are.

Communicate consistently

Consistent communications is vital in developing a well-functioning team. The key here is ‘consistency’. There’s nothing more frustrating than a manager who behaves inconsistently with different team members, or with individuals on different occasions.

Don’t run energy/morale sapping meetings

Well-run, focused meetings can be an efficient way to get things done quickly, support a team environment, and enable collaboration among key people to produce a better outcome than possibly working independently. On the other hand, meetings that lack focus, involve the wrong people and are run just because it’s Monday morning, will sap energy and negatively affect morale. Here are some top tips to get the most out of your team meetings:

  1. Meet with a purpose – only call a meeting if you have a clear reason for doing so. Set a clear agenda with key questions and issue it to the team ahead of the meeting. Tell people what the goal of the meeting is and what deliverables and outcomes you want to achieve, so that they come prepared.
  2. Arrive prepared with materials that will support your key points, so that there is a stronger sense that everyone’s time is being well spent.
  3. Ensure that every single person in attendance is there for a reason and that they understand their specific role. Think in advance about how people could contribute. Do they have specific information, skills, experience that you can leverage in the meeting? Help them to feel useful by letting them know about the important role you’d like them to play.
  4. It’s helpful to assign roles before the meeting begins. Possible roles include: a. Scribe – to record key information and minutes
    b. Flipchart reorder – to capture key points, visually on flipcharts
    c. Timekeeper – to help keep to the agendad. Devil’s advocate – useful if the group tends to always passively agree to all suggestions. It can be helpful (and fun) to assign someone to this role purely for the purpose of creating creative debate and discussion.
  5. Before you end the meeting, capture and review outcomes and agreements, along with the responsible parties for each item.
  6. Discuss timeframes for the completion of action items, and review next steps. This may include setting up a follow-up meeting and then let everyone know what you anticipate will need to be covered in the next meeting.
  7. Every single person’s time is precious, so show your appreciation for their participation and contributions. Motivate key participants by letting them know after the meeting just how helpful their contributions were during the meeting. This will help to ensure that the next time you have a meeting you’ll find willing participants ready to go.
  8. Reflect on your process, identifying what went well and what didn’t. Learn from your experience and find ways to improve as you move forward. If you feel that you need help developing facilitation skills, ask your HR department for training.

Give your team time to reflect on what is going well

Too often, we focus only on problems, and yet taking some time to think about what is going well can do wonders for morale. And, if done alongside co-workers can have a virtuous spiral effect on the overall team.

In almost all of the meetings that I run, I start by asking the participants to take tell the group about something that’s gone really well recently, something that made them feel appreciated or happy to be at work. I call them ‘sparkling moments’. This always had a very positive effect on the team and puts everyone in a good mood.

Action: Encourage your team to find their ‘sparkling moments’ and help them to feel part of a team that supports the softer side of personal development.

Create a collaborative team environment

Build a collaborative environment where every member’s strengths and talents are utilised and appreciated. Whether at a fixed period during monthly staff meetings, or at the annual retreat, allow some time for your team to bond and reconnect with one another as well as you.

Listen out for concerns and frustrations, and to the extent possible, empower them to own the solution.

Action: you don’t need to start doing this, you should be doing ALL of it ALL of the time! List down what you will do to make it happen, now.

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