How do you build high-performing teams? Here are the 4 fundamentals you need to get right

Is your team suited for scale-up life?

We recognise that companies are nothing without high-performing teams to execute growth strategies well.

As teams have become a melting pot of dynamic, skilled individuals who can work from virtually anywhere, collaboration has become trickier than it was in earlier decades.

However, one silver lining stands out: This issue is not impossible to overcome. 

Great teamwork goes beyond complementary attitudes, personalities, and behaviours. From our experience, we have uncovered 4 success factors that can help your team become more suited for the scale-up life and achieve collective long-term success. 

In this article, we are going to take you through what these 4 critical success factors are and how you can replicate them within your own team dynamics to maximise your brand’s chances of winning in any industry.

1) Shared aspirations

In a previous article, we have discussed how shared purpose, mission, and vision can sharpen any company’s focus and unlock long-term success.

In a nutshell, a shared purpose, mission, and vision inspire your teams to work toward collective goals. It galvanises your internal team toward a compelling direction that, subsequently, your customers will notice and buy into.

Remember that these aspirations should be challenging enough so that your teams can stay motivated, while also being practical enough to consistently strive toward. Your company’s shared aspirations should also be gratifying, both internally (personally fulfilling) and externally (professionally validating and financially rewarding).

This is important in today’s business world because it gives much-needed clarity on which direction to go and what routes to take to reach the destination in the most cost-effective way possible. This is especially true for teams from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

To avoid this kind of clash of understanding, establish an agreement on what all your objectives mean and the best practices needed to reach each of them. 

Break down bigger, more complicated goals into smaller ones. Use simple language to avoid misunderstandings. Avoid abstract concepts and be more deliberate. Regularly provide opportunities for teams to communicate with each other and clarify any confusion.

2) Diversified talents, insights, and characteristics

High-performing teams have diverse and well-balanced characteristics and capabilities, including technical and social skills, expertise, knowledge, age groups, genders, ethnicities, beliefs, and perspectives. 

This setup ensures that your team avoids groupthink and, consequently, is able to stay on their toes creatively. 

For example, a team with both domestic and international members brings in local, national, and/or global insights in how to approach and what to expect with certain initiatives. It also answers questions like, “How will this strategy play out on a smaller and/or bigger scale?”, “What problems, from experience, can we anticipate?”, “What were the steps taken to navigate these issues or should be taken to avoid them completely?”, and so on.

So, hire well from the get-go. It is not enough to only consider talent, expertise, and chemistry. You need to go beyond these things and tap into other areas to ensure your team is able to handle varied, ever-changing business challenges holistically.

One thing you need to watch out for is bloating your team. Increased size can backfire and cause fragmentation, lack of accountability, and poor communication.

Many heads are better than one, but only if each head serves its purpose well. So, only add members when needed. And, if possible, stay within a minimum number for maximum efficiency.

3) Common identity and understanding

Shared aspirations and diversified talents, insights, and characteristics significantly impact teams in positive ways. But these things alone are not enough.

Now that more and more people are working from home, teams have become more isolated within their respective chat rooms and, in turn, adopted an “us” and “them” mindset. This arrangement often leads to teams viewing their own group more favourably than others, leading to tension, poor collaboration, and bad communication.

Your team needs to have a shared mindset in order to overcome the issues that arise when dealing with differences, distance, and digital workspaces.

So, how do you turn an “us” and “them” into a “we”?

One thing we can recommend to successfully foster a shared identity and understanding as well as break down collaboration and information barriers is to ensure that every group is acknowledged, rewarded, and valued for its contributions to collective goals.

Leaders have a responsibility to emphasise that all teams depend on each other for the company’s overall success. Ask yourself: How do I build more bridges? Realistically, how often should I bring the entire team together in person? How do I create better shared experiences?

4) Increased appetite for risk

Your team should be able to anticipate and understand risk in every part of your company. This can mean focusing on and mitigating internal and external threats as well as managing positive risk.

Positive risk, after all, can add value or backfire, depending on how your team embraces it. But how can you make sure that your team is equipped to take smart risks?

Determine how much risk your company is willing or able to take in order to reach goals. To do this, create risk appetite statements to serve as a basis for every team decision.

A few questions that help you sort this out are: 

– Does our industry and/or company culture create an environment that encourages risk-taking or does it punish it? (Bear in mind that industry standards, regulations, and acceptable practices can change over time.)

– What kind of risk initiatives are currently being pursued in our company, industry, or by our competitors? And can we afford to make the same in terms of where we currently are financially, strategically, resource-wise, and talent-wise?

– Are the risks our competitors making paying off or not? What can we learn from them? Do they add or take away value from our stakeholders?

– Do these risks fall under what our company deems “acceptable”

– Do these risks inch us closer to our desired objectives (both short-term and long-term)?

Then, start building your risk statements. They should be simple, jargon-free, and allow your team to consider risks in their respective roles and avoid mismatched objectives throughout the company.

At the end of the day, risk statements make it easy for your team to determine which risks align with the company’s risk appetite (the ones they can take without second thoughts) and which ones need additional considerations (Should it be mitigated? Shared? Delegated to another team? Or abandoned completely?) before they can be accepted.

Focusing on getting these 4 factors right allows for better returns and increased chances of success, despite the increasingly complicated terrain modern teams navigate today. 

To address these struggles, we have helped numerous scale-ups prime their teams for long-term success by helping them find the best ways to incorporate these 4 fundamentals into their overall strategy. Partner with us if you want us to do the same for you.

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