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Principles of High Performance Leadership Teams
Why All Stars aren't always important, lessons from racing and the ensemble cast
When you have a team of highly talented individuals, it's natural to expect that you’ll have a high-performing team.
And for senior teams, performance is often taken for granted especially when each leader excels in their own domain.
But there are many examples, all around you, where brilliant leaders in their field just don’t seem to work well together.
In cinema, ensemble cast films are a prime example; the bigger the cast list of A-listers, the more challenging it seemingly becomes for those directing films to create something truly special.
The nineties US men’s basketball “Dream Team” who dominated the 1992 Olympics, scored 100+ points every game, and eventually took the gold medal are another well-cited story.
With some of the greatest players in history (Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen) in the early days they failed spectacularly, even losing to a group of college players during their first month of practice.
“We just didn’t know how to play with each other,” Pippen has been quoted as saying.
The loss was the shake-up they needed, and it drove them to the work that needed to be done to create a real ‘team’.
As with basketball, it’s normal especially at leadership level, for businesses to want the best talent. But it creates a challenge when these high performers don’t function as brilliantly together as a team.
Teams, no matter how brilliant the individuals, take work.
So what does make the difference between a team of all-stars and an all-star team? And how does your team measure up?
Here are six things to get you started.
Meantime, if you haven’t already, you know what to do:
Assess: When teams aren’t co-located, Deloitte identifies nine core components for high performance in their report on virtual enablement through high performing virtual teams and leaders.
Rating each of these on a scale of 1-10 how do you rate your leadership team?
What would the other members of the team say?
And what would the view of key stakeholders be?
Data: McKinsey research of senior executives identifies that:
1/3 of top teams did not have the right mix of people and capabilities
38% said their teams focused on work that truly benefited from a top-team perspective
30% of the time they spent together was in “productive collaboration”
This research isn’t new, but neither are these challenges. And senior team performance shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Do you have the right mix of people in your leadership team?
Are your team (and you) focussing on the work that only you can do?
What amount of time has been spent on productive collaboration in the last week? What would you ideally want that to be?
Learn: The key teams in your business need to perform well during business as usual and in high-pressure environments. As for the “Dream Team,” that doesn’t happen without effort. Draw as much insight and learning as you can from past experience.
Reflect back on how your team did during the last crisis. What worked well? What didn’t?
This piece on how to conduct a leadership de-brief along with a free template will help you.
Insight: Don’t just get 360 feedback on the individuals in your team, get 360 insight on the performance of your team too.
How is your leadership team perceived by its key stakeholders relative to your ambition?
What do people come to your team for and what do they avoid bringing to you? Why?
What needs to happen to make a step change closer to where you want to be?
Equip: Team chemistry, collaboration and cooperation don’t happen overnight. But there are many tools that will speed up the process. I use Everything DiSC® with my clients to accelerate understanding, and appreciation and help them value the different strengths that each leader brings to the team.
Increasing the level of respect and trust enables the team to engage in more open conversations and more productive collaboration.
What tools do you have at your disposal to help you do that?
Watch: For high team performance in high stakes environments there’s no better place to find inspiration than motorsport; and Red Bull Racing’s latest record for changing a set of tires in 1.82 seconds, under considerable pressure, simply bowls me over.
This is high pressure finely tuned high performance; where every individual knows their role, where they need to be, and what they need to do then.
There are no Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen big names in the pit lane team. Yet the performance of every individual has a direct impact on the ability of the team to win or lose. It’s how they work together in those 1.82 seconds that count.
Play the video and then imagine yourself looking down at your leadership team in action.
How slick is your leadership team performance?
What one tweak would enhance your choreography?
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