“Going together is a start. Staying together is progress. Working together is a success.” — Henry Ford
Within organizations the team is the more important asset because in addition of being the one that makes the organization achieve its objectives, it also defines and represents the culture of it. This applies in any professional field, from a startup to a professional football team. How many professional sport teams have hired countless stars without winning the championship?
In 2016 the English football team Leicester City showed what it means to be a high-performance team. In the season ending in 2015, the team was saved from relegating to a minor league, at the start of the new season it had a 5,000–1 chance of winning the premier league title. The board contracted Claudio Ramieri formed a solid team, albeit modest in budget and led them to beat all the odds by making the team champions of the Premier League for the first time in its history. What are the factors that guide a team to success?
A team is formed to recommend solutions to a problem, to do some activity, or to run a project. Teams are based on two levels:
- Task: Refers to the goal that the team must develop.
- Maintenance: Related to interpersonal interaction, including the relationships that form between members, leadership battles, tastes and dislikes of individuals, among others.
Every team must go through four phases in order to execute and be successful as defined by NYU Professor Anat Lechner. Evading a phase can lead to into a pseudo-team.
Initial stage training in which the team is formed. Activities, responsibilities and times are defined. There is an orientation to the task, the team tries to better understand and define their goals, metrics and their skills and resources required to meet the demands of the activity. On a personal level, people wonder “what’s in return for me?” Most people quickly account for the pros and cons associated with being a member of a particular team and come up with an implicit decision about how engaged they should be. In a startup in training these questions will be different for the founder vs the first employees.
This is one of the most complicated stages of any equipment. Most people try to avoid confrontation, and with it they skip this stage. It is advisable to live it fully, in an orderly manner so that there is a growth of the team members. At the activity level, divergences of ideas begin. Team members often panic as an emotional response to task demands and wonder how they will achieve the goals. This is especially true for tasks that are complex and require multifunctional effort. The expression of opinions and brainstorming characterize the dynamics of work at this stage. At the maintenance level there is a leadership challenge with intra-group conflicts. What is being discussed by the team is who will have the power to lead it. The conflict escalates as team members develop concerns about task execution capabilities and attachment to their own positions. Team members engage in political confrontations, form coalitions, and compete for power, influence, and attention.
There is a team conversion challenge. At the activity level, solutions arise that culminate in the development of a plan acceptable to all. There is a challenge to establishing the community. Now that the storm has passed, and a leadership structure has formed, team members feel more united and comfortable with each other. They have greater respect and tolerance for individual differences and use a terminology of “we” and “them”. Roles and goals become much clearer, and the team’s focus shifts toward production issues.
This stage has the challenge of executing activities under the paradigm of continuous improvement and quality control aimed at testing and validating the activity. Implementation begins by selling the plan or prototype to managers, investors or external groups. At the relationship level there is an approach to maximizing infrastructure. The team has established good working and collaboration relationships. Members’ experience and strengths and weaknesses are well known, and the challenge is to capitalize on this clear and robust infrastructure for new synergies and impeccable execution.
There are other key elements that help teams consolidate as high-performance groups:
-Create a balanced and complementary team: Team members must have unique skills, complementary experiences, and cross-sectional networking.
-Own and shared leadership: Individuals must have their own leadership in order to meet the objectives and the team must have shared leadership where roles are rotated according to the needs and experience of the members.
-Horizontal structure: Responsibilities must be where uncertainty is generated in the process, promoting linear structures generates speed and efficiency in processes.
-Open dialogue: Ideas must be confronted at all level in an open, safe and clear manner. All people should be prevented from thinking the same (group-thinking).
-Clarify goals and processes: Always keep in mind the objective of the project or activity, establish processes that can be measured, controlled and improved over time.
-Culture of empathy: All members must act conscientiously to the emotions of their peers without making value judgments. The reaction of the team should always be supporting, thinking not only of the activity but also of the maintenance of interpersonal relationships.
Team dynamics are complex, understanding and living these four stages is critical to be a high-performance team. The COVID-19 pandemic led teams to interact virtually, so it is imperative to apply these steps, seeking the formation of genuine work teams that achieve their objectives, not just the formation of pseudo teams. A high-performance team doesn’t come out of superstar, but it’s made of the talent and motivation of its individuals.
“Talent wins matches, but teamwork and intelligence win championships” — Michael Jordan
Note: please refer to the original publication at EL CEO: https://elceo.com/liderazgo/asi-funciona-una-dinamica-de-equipos-de-alto-rendimiento/
ACV is an international Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) fund investing globally in Startups & VC funds.
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