5 Unglamorous Steps to Running a High Performing Team

Posted: June 15, 2009 in Business 2.0

In the last week I’ve heard many ‘interesting’ ways to take an average under-motivated team and turn it into one of the illusive High Performance variety. Office furniture, pool tables, team structure, salaries etc. all appear to be important.

I thought I would throw my 10 cents in and describe the tangible elements I have always found in teams that performed better than most.

I apologize for my exclusion of pot plants, natural light and meeting rooms that look like ski lifts.

1. People
Forget trying to change people – it just takes too long. The famous book Good To Great said correctly ”Get the wrong people off the bus and the right people on it as quickly as you can”. If you want your team to perform above average you need better than average people (no brainer, huh).

If you don’t know how to pick or recognise these people make sure you start by hiring a manager in their field who does. I personally always start with the same profile. Youthful, extremely bright people, with a genuine passion for what they are doing. These are the people who won’t let you down, will work on into the night and spend their spare time reading articles online to improve their skills.

Simply put, if you staff your team with these people you can’t go wrong.

2. A clear and exciting mission
You won’t get these people past a first interview unless you have a clearly defined and inspiring mission to offer. They don’t want to be on a losing team and they see their time as an investment which should take them somewhere great. You need to lay out a mission ie.“We’re going to be first to market with a world beating product using cutting edge technology, in 12 months we predict 100% growth etc.”.

If you do it right, good people will be climbing over each other to become part of it.

3. A clear business goal
It’s common sense but every great company needs a clear goal and a plan to get there. For a team to perform well they need to know exactly where you want them to take the company. Enough said.

4. Inspirational Leadership
Your team will be running on strong coffee and long hours so it’s very important they have an inspiring leader to keep them motivated. Sure, your highly intelligent staff members are like race horses but they still need someone to motivate and keep them running in the same direction.

5. A Reason
You now have a team of smart people working towards your goal and you better believe they will be asking themselves…what’s in it for me. You need a good answer to this question. There are plenty of ways to address this. Options, shares, bonuses. Pick something which suits your situation but just make sure there is something in it for them. There is nothing more demoralising for a smart, in-demand person than the feeling of working extra hours to make someone else rich. This should be avoided if you want to keep the talent you have spent so much time and money recruiting.

Put these factors together and your team will perform, it won’t be able to help itself. You will have the best talent working on an exciting and clear mission, motivated by an inspirational leader, happy in the knowledge that their late nights are going to make them rich.

Here are some photos of what Google believes makes a team perform. (Spot the people working – no I couldn’t either). For more go to Picasa

  1. Thanks for letting me know about your post…

    Perhaps I need to re-title my article to ‘6 downright ugly steps to running a high-performance teams’


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