It takes great leaders to build high-performing teams. It takes even greater leadership to sustain high-performing teams. Late John Wooden set the standard for great coaches in sports, leading UCLA to 10 NCAA national basketball championships in a 12-year period — seven in a row. His success was so iconic, Wooden created his own “Pyramid for Success” to help others excel through his wisdom.
Sustaining a high impact team year on year is a tough task. It is an ongoing process and certain fundamental aspects of leadership are critical for a high-performing team to continue delivering results. In order to build long-lasting successful teams, leaders need to keep in mind three key points:
1. Your character is more important than your reputation:
As the leader of the team, you must be aware of your leadership style and techniques. Evaluate yourself and be critical about where you can improve, especially in areas that will benefit those whom you are a leading. Honesty, transparency and open communication are the cornerstones to creating a safe environment where issues can be addressed openly and candidly. This is key to removing obstacles that might hinder the team’s performance. There is no substitute for authenticity, and it goes a long way in creating a cohesive and supportive environment for the team.
2. A team should operate as a mosaic:
You can convert the unique strengths and differences of your team members into a powerful united force. Therefore, you must have a keen eye for talent and evaluate people not only on their ability to play a particular role – but even more so on whether they fit the workplace culture (the system) and will be a team player.Team members must exhibit a sustained commitment to performance excellence, exercise candour and mutual respect, and hold themselves and their organizations accountable at both the individual and team levels.
3. Stick to the fundamentals:
Continue to keep the purpose, goals and approach relevant and meaningful and challenging enough to motivate high performing teams. Morale typically increases as performance increases. Over the long term, intrinsic motivators such as personal satisfaction at work and working on interesting projects provide the greatest impact on performance. In addition, a belief in one's self and abilities encourages people to take more strategic risks to achieve team goals. Empowered work teams increase ownership, provide an opportunity to develop new skills, boost interest in the work and facilitate decision-making.
As a leader, creating norms such as open lines of communication, early resolution of conflict, regular evaluation of both individual and team performance, high levels of respect among members, a cohesive and supportive team environment, a strong work ethic that focuses on results, and shared recognition are critical to your teams’ success. The key is that high-performing teams actually discuss and agree to their operating rules—standards that each team member agrees to uphold and for which they hold each other accountable.
Guest contributor Aditi Sinha is the Senior Executive Director at Kantar IMRB in Mumbai, India. She has a demonstrated track record of success in leading organizations as diverse as The Neilsen Company, where she served as COO, Consumer Insights and Innovation for the India region as well as several leadership positions within DHL.