How to build a high-performing team: Before ‘what’, there is ‘why’

Recently I delivered a one-day workshop for a group of cross-sector chief executives and senior managers on how to build high-performing teams. This short blog post is the first in a series, taking some of the key components of that workshop.

My aim is to break things down step-by-step, to help you and your team go from good to great.

First things first.

Does your team have a crystal clear purpose? Yes? That’s great. So…

…if I were to ask any one of your team member what the team’s purpose is, they would they all roughly say the same thing which would concur with what you’ve told me? Hey! Where are you going? Come back.

Joking aside, this seemed to be a major ‘ping’ moment for a number of the workshop delegates.

Whilst most of them knew what their team’s purpose was, they realised that their team members might not really know. Some also realised they were using corporate jargon which would be pretty meaningless to the average person. And some had really long statements that would be difficult to remember.

So, here’s an activity you can do with your whole team which will help you test their understanding and get everyone on the same page…

1. Ask each team member, individually, to take a couple of minutes to think about why your team exists. They then need to write a sentence that captures what they think the team’s ‘why’ is?

2. Get people to pair up and share with each other what they each think the team’s ‘why’ is. They have no more than 30 seconds each.

3. Each pair then feeds back to the wider team what they’ve heard the other say. Your job is to capture, without comment, what everyone has said.

4. What follows is a discussion, led by you, where you can clarify and confirm what the team’s purpose is. Your aim is to develop one short sentence that sums it up neatly, incorporating some of the words that your team has used.

5. Stick this sentence up in prominent places so that people are reminded.

In my experience, both of leading teams and supporting leaders to develop teams, those who have clarity of purpose tend to be more united. And a united team is a powerful thing indeed.

I’d love to know how you get on if you use this activity. Post your comments in the box below.

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