The Recipe for High-Performance Teams

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Building and leading a high-performance team requires an understanding, first and foremost, of your own personal leadership style.

 
The best leaders are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and can identify exactly what the team needs (and what skills they need to hire) to succeed.  That’s where the talent of the team comes into play.


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Each team member brings unique skills as a solutions provider to the team.  While some skills can be outsourced, depending on a company’s business model, competencies, and budget, an internal team is built around the talents of the members.  Within a context of the leader’s style and abilities, employees must present their talents for consideration within the following context:

  1. Relationships: both interpersonal (within the team) and professional (connection to the organization and to leaderhship personnel).  Does a particular candidate have a prior relationship with your company, your customers or (watch out!) your supervisor?
  2. Personality/Fit: ability to connect with the boss is key, especially at executive levels.  Personality also goes to the foundation of good team dynamics:  key characteristics include integrity, honesty, work ethic, coach-ability and willingness to take on responsibility/ownership
  3. Quantifiable results: For hiring managers, “soft” skills like integrity and work ethic are hard to measure.  Even past performance is no guarantee of future results.  Testing tools help to stack rank employee capabilities, and provide insight into personality traits.   Balancing relationships, personality fit, and measurable characteristics are key to wise hiring decisions.  Rely on testing to confirm or deny your instincts on candidates and team compatability.  Then, tracking performance with scheduled feedback will help confirm your choices, as a hiring manager…or help you to understand when it’s time to make a change.

Finally, all teams exist within a cultural framework.  Creating a culture of open communication, integrity and honesty is the job of the leader.  If team members know that they are supported (as well as measured!) with clear objectives and straightforward feedback, the team – and the company – is much more likely to succeed.


Chris Westfall is an award-winning MBA instructor at Southern Methodist University, through the Business Leadership Center. He regularly conducts workshops on team leadership and team dynamics. His elevator pitch workshop is required for all entering MBAs at SMU.

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