How to develop high performing teams
Great leaders know that without a high level of interdependence teams lack the cohesion, focussed drive and combined might to achieve great things.
But here’s the big misconception; that teams achieve more when there is balance and an absence of conflict.
Let us first consider Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Maslow split needs into two distinct levels.
- Deficiency needs, such as our physical needs, security, belonging and esteem.
- And higher level needs of self-actualisation and self-transcendence.
Without the lower level needs being met we will be unable to progress to the higher level needs.
However, we need more than just to achieve our deficiency needs, we need to master them. And this is the key point which too many people forget.
To have our deficiency needs met would put us in a place of balance, but for growth we require a mastery of the interplay between the various needs. This is more akin to Tony Robbin’s version of the 6 Human Needs where we attain growth through the interplay between certainty and uncertainty.
Balance has been variously described as a state in which competing influences are in equilibrium, resulting in no net change. Or where any movement forward or backwards results in a zero force, ie, a body at rest. Balance then is equivalent to a passive state of inertness, stagnation and zero growth.
So, the last thing we need is balance, What we actually need is a healthy tension. So much then for eliminating conflict.
This, of-course, is very different to inviting dysfunction into our lives or organisations.
- Clear signs of dysfunction would be too much agreement (too much balance) which could indicate a lack of motivation, inspiration or engagement.
- While disagreement that becomes too personal could indicate an unhealthy attachment, fixed mindset or one-sided outlook that can be stifling for the individual or the business, and lead to a breakdown of trust.
There are practical steps for a coach/leader in developing high performing teams:
- Awareness raising. The job of the true leader is to enable awareness raising and an understanding of personality types within the team, in order to benefit from the interplay. A great mechanism for doing this is through DISC personality profiling which looks at our individual personalities in relation to our environment. See my book DISCover the Power of You: How to cultivate change for positive and productive cultures which elaborates on these points and many more. This step is necessary in order to lower your teams cortisol levels and so reduce their anxiety towards the change process, enabling them to accept who they are and their responsibility for the journey to come.
- Focused attention. This is where the team channel their energies towards those aspects relevant to the current situation or environment. It is not uncommon for change processes to fall short at this stage if the team have not defined the reward for going through the change process sufficiently, or indeed if the reward is not a strong enough motivator to drive up the teams dopamine levels and so (combined with low cortisol) allows for that inquisitive state required for the next stage, that of open and honest reflection.
- Reflect on values, beliefs and habits. This is where a good coach will be able to get the team to reflect on and consider the current situation and how their values, beliefs and habits have got them to where they are now. It is extremely important at this stage not to fall into denial or blaming others. The team need to accept responsibility for their own journey focussing on the big ‘why’, values, beliefs and key habits.
- Identify limiting beliefs. The coach will help the team to identify which of their beliefs or habits are no longer supporting them and so blocking them from the high performance sought? So which of their beliefs or habits have become limiting. This can be an emotionally draining and difficult stage that requires a determined yet supportive coach, but without this support becoming a form of collusion that can knock the team into denial or blame.
- Challenge and commit. This is where the team will need to be willing to challenge their own limiting beliefs or habits. If they are beliefs, they will need to start to reframe them to become more supportive and beneficial alternatives. If they are habits they will need to start creating new habits. This is where the team will really step outside their comfort zone and into their stretch zone. Practice, practice, practice are the watch words here.
- Act. This is where the team need to be brave enough to act on what is right, not on what is easy. This will require a high level of self and team awareness, and will require high levels of focussed attention and energy. This is not a one off activity, but repetitive, which can result in a fight or flight response; attack without consideration which can result in a loss of focus and wasted energy and resources; or withdrawal and procrastination so stagnation or decline.
Bringing it all together
DISC is an extremely powerful tool that has the potential, especially when further strengthened by new findings in the brain sciences, to drive effective communication and support raised awareness for personal, team and leadership development.
Having raised the teams awareness sufficiently so they are able to accept the need for change and the need for new strategies for doing so will reduce stress levels sufficiently to identify the rewards change will bring. This in turn will enable the focused attention required to reflect and identify the key limiting belief/s holding the team back. The team will be well placed then to challenge those beliefs in order to take the required and focussed action. This is a repetitive process (over and over) that will escalate any team to greater and greater success.
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Pre-order my book DISCover the Power of You: How to Cultivate Change for Positive and Productive Cultures due for publication through John Hunt Publishing Ltd in August 2017.
“Robert’s book leads you through a powerful journey of self-discovery, one that shows you the importance of self-awareness, how to create a culture where staff can perform at the highest level and more importantly a culture where staff feel rewarded, and empowered to make a difference.” Andrew Green, CEO Brighton Film School and Deputy Principal, Chichester College
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