5 steps to becoming a high performing team

Team wellbeing improves team performance

At Improveon we believe that improving team wellbeing is the best way to improve team performance. The focus on improving performance at work is often directed at individuals, but how often do we focus on team performance?  I’d argue that the latter is much more important as a key driver of organisational success.

If team members, and the team as a whole, feel good they will perform better. The CANBE Wellbeing Model, pictured below, provides a good summary of key things that can be done to improve wellbeing across eight domains: Mental, Emotional, Physical, Spiritual, Social, Cultural, Environmental and Economic Wellbeing.

The CANBE Wellbeing Model applied to team performance

In this post we’ll explore all the elements outlined above but your team will be performing well in some areas and not so well in others. This is why improving team performance should start with an understanding of where we want to be and where we are now. By revealing the gaps, using a team audit, we can then focus in on the key areas that will improve team performance.

There is a very simple audit tool at the end of this post but for now let’s explore all of the elements in a little more detail.

1. Creating meaning

We all want to create meaning in our lives. When we understand ‘why’ we are much more motivated. Start by understanding what your team is thinking. Do they think they can or think they can’t?  Is the team currently thinking in a helpful or destructive manner? Confident or afraid, ruminating over mistakes or reflecting and moving on, worrying about the future or optimistic?

Thinking, feeling and team behaviours are all closely linked. When was the last time you spoke about how your team was feeling? If your team feels good they will perform better. Find out what is working, what isn’t and plan a way forward. Your teams behaviours will likely give you a good indication of how they are feeling and thinking. Which habits and actions are detrimental to team behaviour and which are supportive? Where are the mismatches between how your team thinks, feels and behaves?

Identity is about your team aligning around a common set of values, behaviours and beliefs that support the company mission.  It’s also about playing to the unique character strengths and personality of each team member.

Team members don’t need to be friends, although this will probably help, but they do need something to bind them together in common interest.  Of course, the team purpose can help here, but by exploring other connections we can create greater team spirit based on mutual benefit.

The way of life, or ‘way things are done round here’ must be clear to all but also flexible enough to accomodate different styles. Management needs to provide individuals with the right level of autonomy and freedom to get the job done without micro-managing and stifling creativity.

Team members must also be made to feel at home. An affinity with the workplace can be achieved by getting team members to organise their own spaces to reflect personal identity. What else can be done to make team members feel at home? 

Finally, how well are team members needs being met? Team members are working because of their needs across the eight domains of wellbeing: mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, social, cultural, environmental and economic. What can you do in each of these areas to better meet their needs?

Achieving potential

A high performing team is one that is achieving it’s potential. Where is the team’s focus right now?  Living on past glories, worried about the future, or focused on the present? It is useful to think about both the past and the future, but we must live in the present. The team strategy and vision provide a path to the future, reflection on the past can help learning, but the team must focus mainly on day to day activities to support company objectives. In this respect team members must develop SMARTER personal goals in an environment where time and resources are managed effectively. Distractions should be removed so that the team has the best chance of success.

To achieve our potential we must control our emotional response to situations and people. Is your team calm, composed and proactive or impulsive and reactive? Team mangers and leaders set the tone through emotional intelligence but discussing emotions and training can also help.

Mastery means team members having the necessary knowledge and skills to deliver products & services to customers. Training, mentoring, and coaching can all help here. When mastery is combined with focus and challenge, a good understanding of team direction and individual roles, there will be higher levels of motivation. But motivation also requires managers and team members to understand each individual within the team and ‘what makes them tick’.

According to Katzenbach and Smith a team is

  • a small number of people with complementary skills
  • who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach, 
  • for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

How does your team match up to this definition? Is your team even really a team? For the highest levels of teamwork to occur these conditions and the characteristics in this CANBE Wellbeing Model must be in place.

Governance includes policies, procedures and leadership. For the best results governance should be enabling and empowering. Where bottlenecks, bureaucracy and control are inhibiting team performance they should be challenged and removed. 

The team environment should be cultivated to enhance performance. From simple basics like temperature, air quality and light through to higher levels needs such as spaces to socialise, the team environment is an important consideration.

Finally the team must measure it’s impact. A team dashboard, based on the CANBE Wellbeing Model, can be created with measures and KPIs reflecting the teams’ unique circumstances.

Nurturing relationships

A high performing team is more than the sum of its parts. In terms of relationships this starts with team members regard for themselves, each other and the people they deal with.  If a team has high levels of disrespect for customers, or other teams, this will be detrimental to performance. One way to build regard is through empathy, ‘walking a day in another persons shoes’. Encourage the team to see different perspectives and to feel what others are feeling. Swapping roles or encouraging team members to follow a customer journey are two practical examples. 

Daily team interactions are the sum of your current team performance. We are what we do. This includes the way we communicate with each other. Team members need to develop skills in listening, questioning, communicating and giving/receiving feedback with each other, other teams and especially customers.

What is/are your team story/stories? Stories help us engage with the world and each other. They can come from individuals within the team, the team manager, from the organisation, or outside. Telling stories help people to connect.

Relationships are built on trust. Delivering on promises, no matter how small, helps to build trust and loyalty. Do what you say you will for team members, customers suppliers and anyone else.

Belonging is a relationship and powerful human motivation determined by our need to give and receive attention to and from others. It describes mutual concern for one another and is a common need across cultures and different people. From recruitment, to the first day in the office through to 10 plus years service, ensure team members feel like they belong.

Our environments can help to build or destroy relationships. With economic, political and social divisions growing, we need environments that help facilitate integration and social cohesion for the benefit of our collective and personal wellbeing. This is just as true in the team environment. We must provide safe, non judgmental environments where team members can share views and opinions without the fear of being shouted down, humiliated or sidelined.

Low levels of cohesion are often exaccerbated through lack of fairness. Policies, procedures, resources, information, management and pay should all be organised based on what people need and what they merit.  

Building resilience

To remain effective the team must be able to overcome obstacles and operate flexibility, looking for solutions and options rather than putting up barriers. To do this it must have a growth mindset where learning and reflection are used to develop in all areas. This is also about creating a stimulating environment from both a physical and mental perspective. 

Emotionally teams must learn to be agile, using the right emotions in the right place at the right time with the right people. It’s ok to be angry if this anger can be used constructively to move things forward. Good team performance isn’t based on being happy all of the time. Different emotions must be recognised and used for positive outcomes. 

Of course two of the most recognised facets of wellbeing are physical and mental health. Sleep, diet, exercise, relaxation and many of the other inputs discussed in the CANBE Wellbeing Model all play their part here. Whilst, in the main, these things are the responsibility of the individual, high performing teams inspire each other to greater levels of health. Of course organisations can also play their part by providing appropriate support in each area.

To deliver consistently high levels of performance teams must grow.  This isn’t just about individual development. This is also about team development. 5 star individuals all pulling and pushing in different directions don’t make for a great team. This is where team coaching can play its part.  Using this model as a basis for assessing the team we can begin to focus on areas that will help deliver the greatest improvements.

Relationships help us develop and provide access to additional financial, emotional, physical, spiritual and mental resources. It is no wonder then that the strength of our support network is often seen as the most important aspect of managing stress, developing resilience, and even our wellbeing as a whole. High performing teams have excellent support mechanisms both within and outside of the team.

Diversity, whilst sometimes leading to greater conflict and misunderstanding, can also help teams to be more resilient, and lead to higher levels of performance. Ensuring teams have a good mix of different people from across demographic, experiential and cognitive types will help. How diverse is your team? Does it reflect the customers and communities that it serves?

Our environment is constantly changing and high performing teams must adapt. As outlined earlier, we can cultivate our immediate environment to improve wellbeing and performance, but we must also adapt to nature’s ways to foster resilience in the face of the adversity we currently face. We all have a responsibility to tackle climate change. Teams can review suppliers and practices, look at reducing use, reusing, repairing,  repurposing and recycling. By using resopurces more efficiently and effectively teams can achieve a joint goal of improving performance and helping save the planet!

Integrity describes both the moral and resilient qualities of a team. Here, the CANBE Wellbeing Model itself provides a framework to achieve both.  A team must be economically viable. Does your team provide more value than it takes? Does it contribute to the net wellbeing of all that it serves? This is where a team must look outside itself to consider the wider environment. Is the team acting responsibly when it comes to global issues such as biodiversity loss, the pandemic, climate change, consumerism and materialism? 

Enriching lives

Wellbeing is both individual but it is also collective. As such a team should be viewed in relation to all of its connections. How well is the team improving the lives of its team members, colleagues, suppliers, customers, communities and the planet as a whole? Where are there gaps? To improve in these areas a team will require imagination and creativity. This is about developing a positive approach to risk taking where people aren’t blamed but encouraged to learn from mistakes. The collective wisdom of the team must be used to the greatest advantage.

When teams are performing well there are high levels of energy, 1+1 = 3. Our energy is really about our intentions, our commitment and the ‘heart’ we put into things. It draws from all the other areas of wellbeing. It’s hard to describe but you know when you see, and feel it, in yourself and others. As such it is perhaps a good barometer of overall team wellbeing. What are energy levels like in your team?

Purpose is the way we bring together an understanding of our self or group to determine how we can best serve others. When a team has a clear, motivating purpose that individuals can align with, there will be more commitment and pride.

To perform at their best team members must be empowered. This is about removing ‘shackles’ and helping the team shoot for the stars. When people can deliver in their own unique way, they’ll take greater pride in their work and gain confidence. There is an added benefit in that autonomy naturally facilitates creativity, meaning, greater innovation and original solutions.

Obviously, there are instances where policies and processes need to be followed, and those rules exist for a reason. For example, Health and Safety or Quality Control. However, when people believe they are being constrained unnecessarily, it’s time to question and challenge the existing systems.

We can give the team ‘fuel’ by developing a workplace where thanks, gratitude and celebration of other team mate’s success is commonplace. Encouraging team members to find the fun and enjoyment in work whilst also supporting each other through difficult times with compassion and kindness.  Developing a confident and optimistic outlook. It’s amazing how a simple smile can go a long way! 

Many teams fail to reach their full potential due to the lack of team member integration. The typical approach is to assimilate a new team member into ‘our way’ of doing things. There are some advantages to this but I urge you to be more open. At its best, successful integration is the action or process of combining, amalgamating, fusing and blending to achieve something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a ‘best of the bunch approach’.

No individual, team or organisation can perform at their best all of the time. Each requires time for relaxation and renewal. From an environmental perspective, renewal goes two ways. Our environment plays a huge part in helping us renew, heal and revitalise. But to continue to benefit we must play our part in renewing, healing and revitalising our environment. 

Whilst the design and decor of our buildings themselves can help to bring nature into the office we should also encourage team members to get out into nature whenever they can. 

Finally we must work on freeing team members from any ‘traps’ that may inhibit performance. These traps may be financial worries, beliefs, lifestyles, relationships, lack of opportunity and many more. Understanding the team and providing the necessary support will free them up to perform at their best.

Individual, team and business benefits

A focus on team wellbeing can help to reduce absenteeism, cut staff turnover, increase creativity and drive performance. It makes sense doesn’t it. Confident, healthy, happy, employees will be less sick, have higher engagement, be more adaptable and overall will perform better.

A simple team wellbeing audit

For a very simple, high level audit of your team’s wellbeing use the CANBE Wellbeing Model Team Audit.

Get in touch

Improveon provides wellbeing consulting, coaching and speaking services to help you, your team and organisation thrive.

Call or contact David now for a more detailed team performance review and to find out how Improveon can help your team improve.