Learning – The Foundation of Team Performance

In my previous post, I explored why a learning environment is one of the most critical components of high performing teams, based on a recently published study by a group of researchers from Belgium and the Netherlands. Today, I’ll discuss the one key ingredient to building a learning environment within teams – leadership. Alright, so we’ve established that according to research, high performing teams are teams that are always learning. This is a very nice ideal, I’m sure you’re thinking, but when it comes to the real world, it’s not always as easy to implement as it sounds. Well, I would completely agree with you. Taking the risk to share your personal ideas with the team can make you vulnerable, while ensuring that ideas and strategies are “co-constructed” often requires usual protocols to be modified. Seeking constructive conflicts means that we need to override our natural tendency to harmonize our differences, while offering honest feedback during reflections can harm team relationships. All things considered, it’s easy to understand why most teams struggle to create a culture of learning. Yet, it’s essential to team performance…so what do we do? We lead. According to the data from Koeslag-Kreunen and her associates’ study, leadership within a team positively influences the extent to which members engage in learning behaviors (e.g., sharing ideas, reflecting, taking action, etc.). It’s undeniable that leadership can facilitate team learning – at least, according to the research. Because team members usually don’t engage in team learning behaviour automatically, leaders have to guide their team as they pursue the process of learning. Leaders have to establish learning as a norm...

Ingredients for High Performing Teams: #4, Meaning & Impact

The final ingredients for high performing teams that Project Aristotle revealed are meaning and impact. Leaders of teams need to articulate a clear vision, and reinforce how each member’s work contributes to bringing the team closer to that vision. On the surface, this sounds simple and straightforward. Let’s be honest, it’s nothing groundbreaking – the importance of meaning and impact to team effectiveness seems fairly intuitive. I mean, most organizations nowadays have mission statements. Meaning just seems to be another buzzword and lofty ideal in the corporate world. As I’m sure you’re well aware of at this point, implementing these ideals in ‘real life’ is a whole other story. The importance of meaning in team effectiveness is obvious – but how do you actually foster a sense of meaning and purpose in teams from the real world? A quick Google search reveals thousands of articles discussing how to develop meaning and purpose in teams (for example, this Harvard Business Review article). Most, however, just end up reiterating how important a purpose is in a team, and that you should “find it”. Finding the purpose as the leader, though, isn’t the hard part, in my opinion. To get the entire team to buy in and connect with it…that’s the real challenge. So in preparing for this post, I set out to explore this exact problem – how can we not only find a team’s purpose, but also get the entire team to ‘buy in’ to it? Before I dive deep into the question of how, though, I want to explore the why – why is making sure each team member...

Ingredients for High Performing Teams: #3, Structure and Clarity

Everyday at work, it’s easy to get caught up in ‘tunnel vision’. We go in, check off our to-do list, then check out and go home. But how clear is our understanding of what’s really expected of us at our jobs, and how that impacts our team and company? According to Google, the third ingredient of high performing teams is structure and clarity. Team members need to have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them as part of the team, how they can fulfill those expectations, and the consequences of fulfilling those expectations. The leader’s job, therefore, is to make sure that they establish clear expectations for all members of their team, and to bring to light how each person’s work on the team can contribute its mission. Without it, it’s unlikely that your team will reach high performance and engagement. As Summit President Scott Kress always says, “you cannot expect anybody to live up to your expectations if they do not know what those expectations are”. But let’s be honest, the reality of today’s workplace is that we often just don’t have enough time to get to that. Given the limitation of time and resources, how can we efficiently establish clear expectations for each member of our team and show them how it connects to the mission? Here’s an idea… One component of adventure education programs is called the group agreement. At the start of every program, the facilitator takes time to discuss with the group its goals (i.e., its ‘vision), and what the team will do to achieve those goals together. Specifically, two aspects that should...

How to Lead Teams to Greatness

At Summit Team Building we specialize in helping organizations and leaders build high performance teams. Sometimes we work organization wide on culture, collaboration and communication, sometimes we work with individual teams to help them figure out how to bring out their best, and sometimes we work with leaders and leadership teams to help them determine how to be a great leader and builder of teams. In this blog I will focus on the development of a leader into someone that consistently builds high performance in teams and the individuals within those teams. There are 6 elements critical for a leader to focus on to build high performance. Other elements will come into play, but this is the place where it all begins. Step 1: Know how you lead. Each leader has their own personal style. It is created through a combination of their innate personality traits, past experiences, the organizational culture, and their training. Most leaders that are in touch with their own self have a pretty good idea of their style, but it is always a good idea to dig deeper through assessments, training, coaching, and reading. An assessment such as MBTI will help a leader better understand their inborn personality traits that drive so much. An Emotional Intelligence assessment will help a leader understand their strengths and some of their blind spots. Whereas the Life Style Inventory (LSI) will help them understand their default leadership style. Armed with this knowledge a leader can modify their leadership style and approach to the needs of the team. Step 2: Have a Vision of High Performance. It is hard to...

Leadership as a Way of Being

Leadership is often seen as a title bestowed on a person who has risen above the norm. These people are looked up to and guide their ‘team’ in good times and in bad. The challenge is that if we only look to people with the title of leader than we are missing out on the value that can be accessed from the vast majority of people who are not leaders in title. Leaders are critical in helping others become high performance. They are our coaches and our mentors. They motivate and inspire us and hold us accountable. They are very important people and it is elitist to think that only people with the title of leader can help us in these ways. If we look beyond leadership as a title and look at it more as a way of being it becomes much more universally attainable and empowering. Generally speaking, leaders are proactive, analytical, and decisive. Followers (everyone who is not a leader) wait to be told what to do by their leader. The challenge in this is that the leader cannot be in all places all the time and many opportunities are lost and production (whatever this may be) is slowed. Ideally you want to build a team of leaders. Yes only one person has the official title of leader, but if everyone in the teams sees themselves as a leader then there is far more power available for any task. Therefore, leadership is not just a title, but it is a way of being. It is an attitude. It is not bestowed upon anyone, but something you...

Do You Want to be a Leader for The Right Reason?

Many of us aspire to be leaders, but do we want to be a leader for the right reason? To determine if someone wants to be a leader for the right reason one needs to consider the various mix of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. With the role and title of leader usually comes various perks such as a bigger pay cheque, bonus opportunities, an office with windows, a reserved parking spot, and sometimes even a new car. These are external factors we call motivators. A motivator is something that gets us to do something for a reward. It is the reward or punishment. The carrot or the stick. External motivators are powerful and necessary and usually play to our ego. The make us feel good and important and provide us with power. The challenge with external motivators is that they will only take a person so far. We all have our limit and will say “I will not do that regardless of how much you pay me, or “I will not do that regardless of how much you punish me”. Internal factors, however, are much more powerful and long lasting. These internal factors are intrinsic in nature, meaning they come from within. One does something not because of punishment of reward, but because they want to. Someone who is intrinsically motivated will walk through fire to accomplish what they set out to do. They are far more willing to endure hardship and personal sacrifice. So when you think about being a leader are you doing it for the motivating or inspiring factors. Of course there is a combination of...