How to build a high-performing team: Agreed ways of working

So far, in our high-performing series, we’ve covered:

We’re now going to look at agreed ways of working – inside and outside of the team. This is about creating your own team values and agreed behaviours, outside of but complementing any frameworks the wider organisation has.

When you involve your team in the creation and monitoring of values and behaviours, you are much more likely to secure their commitment. In particular, those values which are pro-social (i.e. encouraging ‘togetherness’) are more likely to enhance commitment and increase job satisfaction.

If you come up with the ways of working on your own, whilst your team might comply, they are far less likely to be truly committed to protecting them.

By working together to define agreed ways of working, you are more likely to build trust across the team.

Research by Mach, Dolan and Tzafrir, in 2010, found that teams that have high clarity, reliability, concern for others, and openness, and in which there is a relatively high degree of harmony and cohesion have the potential to improve their performance. Teams in which members do not trust each other or top management will likely have poorer results.

Here is a simple activity you can use with your team, to help build agreed ways of working. Allow two hours for this activity.

1.Depending on the team size, split the team into small groups of five.

2. Each group is given 40 minutes to answer the following questions and come to agreement:

a) What five words sum up how you want it to look and feel to work in this team?

b) What are the three most important things that need to be valued by the team?

c) If relationships inside the team were at their best, what kind of things would we see and hear?

d) What are the key things we need in our relationships with other teams outside of this team? How do we need to behave in order to make these relationships a success?

3. Get the sub-groups to come back in to the wider team, and working through each question, facilitate a wider discussion.

4. Identify and agree common themes for each of the four questions, mapping these on to four individual flip-charts.

5. Put team members into one of four action groups and allocate each group one of the four questions, with the common themes to have emerged.

6. Each group has 40 minutes to brainstorm next steps to take in the coming weeks and months to make the things identified a reality. Each action should have an owner, delivery date and the outcome to be achieved.

7. All team members come back together again and take each other through their respective action plans. It is then the responsibility of each action group to implement their action plan, with you providing oversight and links across the four areas.

Key to success are team members updating each other on progress, along with any overarching communication from you.

So, for example, an action may be to produce a one-page visual of the values which have been agreed. Once this is done, the sub-group who produced it can let everyone know; you can also reiterate it in your own comms update; and then arrange for the visual to be put up in the office etc.

You can also make this a regular item on your management team meetings (or equivalent).

Hope you found this useful. Let me know how you get on with this activity. Why not share your outcomes in the comments box so others can learn from your experience?

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