Innovation Junkies Podcast

Seven Characteristics of High Performance Teams

The Jeffs talk about how to ensure your people are working together to produce the best outcomes for your customers. They discuss practices & attitudes of world-class team leaders, the importance of a common mission and how to foster communication, respect, and encouragement.

Jeff Standridge (Intro):
Are you ready to change the trajectory of your business and see massive improvements? Each week, we’ll share strategies and practices to generate sustained results and long-lasting success in your organization. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast.

Jeff Standridge:
Hey guys, thank you for joining another episode of the Innovation Junkies Podcast. This is Jeff Standridge.

Jeff Amerine:
And I think I’m Jeff Amerine today. I’m glad to be back.

Jeff Standridge:
I just had a terrible, terrible time.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, like an out-of-body experience over there, right?

Jeff Standridge:
For those of you who are listening and weren’t involved in the what will ultimately become outtakes, it only took me about three times to get to where we are at this particular point in the episode.

Jeff Amerine:
And the bottom line recommendation is that microdosing between episodes is not a good idea.

Jeff Standridge:
Hey, listen man, I’m just having water, sparkling water it is.

Jeff Amerine:
You don’t know what’s in that bubbly. It could be almost anything.

Jeff Standridge:
Hey, listen, we are transitioning. We’ve been talking about the various domains that we assess as part of our practice at Innovation Junkie through our GrowthDX, our growth diagnostic. Six domains, about 75 best practices spread across those six domains. We’ve talked about revenue velocity, that domain through a series of episodes. We’ve talked about organizational effectiveness and operational effectiveness.

And today we are transitioning to talk about leadership effectiveness. And the first topic that we have is how do we ensure that we’ve got all of our people working in unison and working together in a teamwork based environment that produces the best outcomes for our clients and for the employees that work together. You good to go on that?

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, it sounds great.

Jeff Standridge:
One of the first things I like to talk about is the definition of a team. Just because you put a group of people in a room and have them working in close proximity together doesn’t mean you actually have a team. I go back to the definition that Jon Katzenbach provided literally in 1993. It’s an old definition. He wrote about it in his book, The Wisdom of Teams. But in my experience, it has stood the test of time. He says that a team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, common performance goals, and a common approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. What do you think about that definition, Jeff?

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, I think it’s great. We’ve seen all kinds of instances where you’ve got a collection of individuals that stay as individuals. They’re not rallied around a cohesive mission or a cohesive understanding of what they’re trying to do. And they’re out for themselves versus a purpose that the whole team could rally around, and it makes a big difference. I think that commitment to a common mission is where you start.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah. About the same time that Katzenbach was writing The Wisdom of Teams, it was published in 1993, actually a couple of local guys, Dean of Business, Bob Fisher, who went on to become the president at Belmont University, I believe it was. And then Bo Thomas, an organizational and even an individual psychologist, they were studying teams. They asked over 5,000 teams and team leaders, team members and team leaders, tell us about your worst team experience and tell us about your best team experience. And they collated all of that information, thematically analyzed all that information, and they came up with the seven best practices that world-class team leaders leveraged to generate outstanding results. And they named their book, which came out in 1996, Real Dream Teams. And it was ironic because in 1992, the whole concept of a dream team came about when we used that moniker to name the men’s basketball team that won the gold medal in 1992, the Dream Team.

And so they published their book about four years later. They were doing the research during that ’92 to ’94 timeframe. I want to walk through those seven practices because it matches very closely with what Katzenbach said as well. And certainly matches closely with the experience I know you and I have had over several decades of business experience as well. Is that first and foremost, that world-class team leaders ensure that everyone on the team is committed to a common mission. They know where they’re going, they know why they exist, and they’re committed to that common mission of why they’re in business.

Jeff Amerine:
And so much as it’s vocalized as well. So they can ask the question, if you think about it in our case, when we’re thinking about do we take on a new product or service line in the core part of our business, our Startup Junkie, or our Conductor business, we have to ask the question, is this going to allow us to empower and enable innovators and entrepreneurs? And if the answer is we’re not sure, or maybe not, then it’s probably not something we’re going to do. If the answer’s affirmative, then it’s probably missional and it fits. But it’s the kind of thing that a leader has to bring to the table every day in thinking about what they’re doing and whether or not something is within that realm or whether it’s something they shouldn’t consider.

Jeff Standridge:
And the people in the organization to generate world-class teamwork have to be committed to that mission. That’s why they’re there. So that’s kind of the tip of the spear. If you imagine a spear that’s the tip of the spear of real Dream Teams is commitment to a common mission.

Then you begin to have this yin and yang thing where you have one side of the coin, but you have the other side of the coin. And the first side of the coin there is this, you got to have people who are individually competent. We talked about this in operational effectiveness as well. It’s critical to operational effectiveness, but it’s also critical to establishing a culture of teamwork. You got to have people who are individually competent. But if you just have individually competent people without clearly defined and accepted roles, then you have a bunch of competent people just stepping all over each other. So you have this yin and yang, two sides of a coin, competent people in clearly defined and accepted roles.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, absolutely. It’s part of the reason why if you think about it in football context, your tackle’s not going to be going out for many passes, right? That’s the tight end, the receiver’s job. Same thing in an organization, you’ve got to have an understanding this is what I’m going to do and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. And I’m going to develop skills that allow me to be the best at that role. And so I think that understanding and that allocation of resources allows you to go ahead and succeed against the common mission.

Jeff Standridge:
So we’ve got this commitment to a common mission, tip of the spear. Then we have these two sides of the first coin we look at, which is individually competent people that are in clearly defined and accepted roles. The next coin we begin to look at is we have this environment where mutual respect, support, and encouragement is freely demonstrated. And the other side of that coin is it goes beyond just mutually respecting, supporting, and encouraging. We actually move toward win-win outcomes. So we don’t have a situation where there’s a disagreement and someone loses. We sit down, we mutually support, respect, encourage, and we drive toward win-win outcomes or win-win cooperation.

Jeff Amerine:
A lot of that goes back to the golden rule. It’s the stuff we all learned in kindergarten or before. It’s like you want to treat other people, not only as you would like to be treated but as they’d like to be treated. And if you do that and you’re kind about it and you listen well and you’re supportive, it can make all the difference. And we’ve seen organizations where there’s dysfunction because there’s points scoring. Someone assumes, well, I can’t get ahead if I make the other person look good. Or I can’t get ahead if I don’t spend a lot of time kissing up to the next level of leadership or whatever the case may be.

And a lot of those sorts of things can’t become the social norms or the mores of the organization. Mutual respect, support, and encouragement says we’re all going to play nice together. Doesn’t mean we’re not going to raise issues, doesn’t mean there won’t be conflicts. It really is about your behavior when those inevitable sorts of things come up.

Jeff Standridge:
That’s right, that’s right. And then the third coin that we’re going to look at is that we have an environment where everyone has a winning attitude. Everybody wants to win and they love being part of a winning team. So they maintain these winning attitudes. But then it goes beyond just a winning attitude to having empowering communication.

I looked up the definition of empowerment and when we empower someone definitionally, we make them stronger and more confident in dealing with the circumstances in which they find themselves involved. Versus disempowerment where we make them weaker and less confident in dealing with whatever situation they find themselves involved in. So if we think about empowering communication, it is communication, we’ve got a winning attitude, but we communicate with people in a way that gives them confidence and strength versus weakness and lack of confidence. That’s pretty powerful when I think about it that way.

Jeff Amerine:
No, it’s incredibly powerful. And sometimes people think winning attitude is all rah-rah and it’s Pollyanna and it’s not realistic, it’s not true. The winning attitude is we’re going to face an issue, we’re going to talk clearly about it. We’re going to have a can-do attitude, but we’re going to be realistic through that process as well. It’s not just we can take on everything and we can do the impossible. I think there’s a clarity that comes with being realistic, being candid, and still being positive through all that, even when things are tough. Bringing that clarity of communication is part of having that winning attitude and that will empower people to speak the truth. And that’s really, doesn’t happen enough in organizations, speaking the truth and being clear will empower people to do their best.

Jeff Standridge:
And it takes them one step closer to world domination.

Jeff Amerine:
Exactly. Same as it ever was.

Jeff Standridge:
Great stuff. We’re talking about the seven characteristics of high performance teams and the way that they generate world-class results. Commitment to a common mission with individually competent people who are in clearly defined and accepted roles. An environment of mutual respect and encouragement that goes even further than that to producing win-win cooperation and win-win outcomes. And finally, an environment or a team of people who have winning attitudes and who have empowering communication. In other words, they communicate in a way that builds people up and that creates strength and confidence in helping them deal with whatever circumstances they find themselves involved in.

The first in a series around leadership effectiveness is making sure you have a high performance team.

Jeff Amerine:
Great stuff, Jeff.

Jeff Standridge:
Good stuff. This has been another episode of the Innovation Junkies podcast. Can’t wait to see you till next time.

Jeff Amerine:
Until next time.

Jeff Amerine (Outro):
Feedback from listeners like you helps us create outstanding content. So if you like this episode, be sure to rate us or leave a review. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to get the latest growth and innovation strategies. Thanks for tuning in to the Innovation Junkies Podcast.

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