Saturday, June 21, 2008

Manifest Team 1: Characteristics of High Performance Teams

In my last post, I announced my plan to share my current study of team building and collaboration that coincidentally happens to be somewhat list centric. Manifest Team is my title of this series of posts that will summarize these lists. Manifest Team 1 is the first of several such posts.

A team and collaboration list that I encountered a few years ago, continues to influence my thoughts about team building and collaboration. The list comes from the book, Interpersonal Skills in Organizations. Authors De Janasz, Dowd, and Schneider provide research background and a very concise list of the "Characteristics of High-Performance Teams." Here is their list with my comments and summary:

Common purpose and goals: Leaders need to ensure that all team members clearly understand the mission of the team. It's an obvious characteristic and on the surface seems easy when there is a single mission. However, in my work environment, many team members are engaged in multiple projects and clarity and priority becomes challenging in the face of multiple projects.

Clear roles: Team members need to understand their roles and assignments. And it's better when the understanding includes the big picture, task interdependence, and how one members work affects other members.

Communication processes: High performance teams use extensive communication methods. A variety of approaches (in person, phone, email) are used and updates are frequent.

Accepting and supportive leadership: High performance teams have leaders that function more like coaches than managers. These are leaders who look to influence and not control. This is quiet leadership at work.

Small size:
High performance teams range in size from 6 to 10 members.

High levels of technical and interpersonal skills: The members of the team have both people and technical skills. The team is able to apply these skills to areas like problem solving, feedback, and conflict management.

Open relationships and trust: High performance team develop cooperative behaviors, assist each other, are approachable and dependable.

Accountability: The members of the high performance team understand that performance matters and that members share a mutual responsibility for the success of the team. The perfect scenario is when all team members feel accountable to the team rather than accountable to a project or resource manager.

Reward structures: High-performing teams are rewarded for team accomplishments in addition to individual performance. Team success needs to be celebrated.

One characteristic of this list that seems very compatible with Lead Quietly principles is that none of the "Characteristics of High-Performance Teams" cited by HeJanasz, Dowd, and Schneider recognize a dependency on the work of a project or resource manager. A team comprised of quiet leaders, who have a clear mission and roles, communicate well, and are generally accountable to each other and the team can self direct and achieve great success.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

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