Architecting Your Leadership Team For High Performance - Part 3

Finally our third question of the day, now that we know who should be on the team, and how we get a team up and running, if you have a high performing team it’s almost like a finely tuned car, how do you maintain the car to keep it at a regular and consistent basis performing at a high level? It makes sense that since you invested so much time, energy, and resources creating a team, once the team is in place it truly is worth the time to extract the most value from it.

What Is High Performance?

So I think it might help to define some of the terms and definitions that I use:

-    Performance – Applied behaviors done competently for the task/situation and context
-    Productivity – End result (output) of job performance
-    Efficiency – Accelerated movement from performance to productivity
-    Effectiveness – Output makes a difference; has impact

Bartell & Bartell’s Organization Utility Index

A concept that I have found really helpful is called Bartell & Bartell’s Organization Utility Index (OUI). It’s this notion that teams’ performance levels, if you were to measure them, (you can and I’ll show you some tools that do that) they generally fall along the normal curve where you’re going to have most of your teams in the middle in mainstream or maintenance management. You’ll have teams on the left end which are basically in a triage mode where they need to have turnaround management or else they’ll go out of business, and then to the right finally a small section of teams which you can call high performance.

Our focus is going to be on the high performance organizations. We can measure this, and we know at the high end the score goes from 200 down to 100 (teams enter this zone when they get to this number). The low end begins at 0 and goes down to -100, and one way to think of these numbers is the notion that with high numbers it is easier to develop as a team and if you have lower numbers it is easier to degenerate as a team. The numbers themselves are going to represent what the team does with the inputs that it has. So teams that are high performing are able to have a positive ROI on their inputs and are able to generate more than what goes into the team. On the other end of the spectrum there are teams with a negative ROI and in a sense they’re bleeding their human capital, there outputs are much lesser than their inputs, and if they don’t turn around that organization in a hurry they are likely to be out of business.

Most organizations are happy and somewhat complacent with just being in the middle (maintenance management) where they do incremental improvements and their outputs are a direct result of their inputs. They do improve but it’s more of a linear fashion as opposed to an exponential fashion where synergy is important in the high performance zone. So synergy to the right, degeneration to the left, and incremental improvement in the middle. 

I often think of the analogy here in terms of a team, the notion of how fit or how healthy a team is. If you want to go 200 mph as a high performance organization, you better have the engine or horse power to do that, and so you need a very healthy team in order to run that fast. On the other end or in the middle, you could deal with a subcompact and do just fine in most road conditions, but to go fast and perform at high levels, it’s equivalent of a racecar driver who has to coordinate more quickly and efficiently and has to have a longer vision from which to look and they need to be able to be more agile and move more quickly. 

High Performing Teams

How do we make sense of this and how do we work with organizations and teams that are complex? One thing that is important is that teams typically focus on content or what is on their plates. Very few teams spend time on team process and very rarely look at how the work gets done. The research is pretty clear that teams that do both (focus on process and content) will tend to outperform teams that focus only on the content. When you look at the military as an example, they spend a lot of time on process so that they get it right to meet their goals.

So the goal is that you want to create and develop a self-regulating team. A team that’s able to monitor itself and adjust itself so that it can pay attention to process along with the content. I’ve found that by focusing on four variables (I call them the “vitals”) that it’s one way to track how well a team is doing so that it can maintain high levels performance and even reach higher levels than that.  I refer to them as:

•    Team morale
•    Team forecast
•    Teamness
•    Team health

Definition perspective:

•    Morale – Team member’s overall outlook of the workplace environment (emotions, attitudes, satisfaction)
•    Forecast – Team’s sense of confidence in the future
•    Teamness – The productivity of the team
•    Health – How “fit” the team is; how well the team works for one another 

Create A Line-Of-Sight

Many may be familiar with frameworks where you look for an example of creating a vision, helping teams on the other end understand what their purpose is, what their values are, what the mission is of their organization. What I find is that a lot of teams are satisfied with looking at goals, strategies, and tactics and they mistake those for the idea of a vision. So working with teams to really have a clear line-of-sight between “why are they together”, “what’s their purpose”, all the way to a vision and helping them basically craft out an understanding of all points along the line can be a really helpful intervention with teams. In doing something like that, whether its visioning work, helping them align goals, strategies, and tactics back to their purpose, the notion here is that we increase the forecast, become a more confident team, morale goes up and what I’ve seen is improvement or increase in high performance.  

These are some of the more common ways that I’ve used to help teams do this:

•    Develop “visioning” capabilities; increase “focal length” of team to improve their forecast
•    Rally around and reinforce commonly held values
•    Continuously monitor & adjust team “health”

Quite often we think of vision or a vision statement as something written or on the wall and it becomes a very static concept vs helping leaders and leadership teams be more visioning as more of an ongoing process. What that does is it gives them a longer focal length so that they can see out further, it improves their forecast which improves their confidence as a team. Then in terms of getting the team to rally around and reinforce values, continually monitoring and adjusting the team health, and then also supporting the team not just in their content but also in the team process.

That brings us to the end of our webinar with the three questions that we set out to answer.