It’s pretty easy to spot when a team isn’t working…
It’s the side with grass stains during a match of tug-of-war. It’s a company with a high turnover rate. It’s when teammates end up doing the same project because there wasn’t any communication.
But do you know how to tell if your team is high-performing?
Hint: It’s not just about achieving record sales.
Many great leaders understand that company culture is one of their greatest customer advantages. The foundation of culture is in the health of, not only the individual team members but also of the team as a functioning whole.
The first step to becoming a leader of a high-performance team is to be completely accountable as a steward of culture through your behaviors, actions, and communications. Take those first steps today and lead your team to consciously create together.
Why Teams Matter
As humans, people want to be in a community with other people. Yep, even introverts. We are social creatures. It feels so special to be in a community, especially with people who you think you can connect with or do things with.
And so when you’re in a team, whether your team is your family or your work colleagues, your friends, you feel seen, you feel heard, you feel accepted, you feel invited, you feel like you have the ability to act through your Genius. Doing that in isolation is far more limiting than doing it with others.
Isolation is a disease. It is a crippling disease that does not work for the human system because, in my view, we’re actually not individual organisms the way that we often talk about it. Your health impacts the health of your whole family and vice versa because human beings are communal beings.
Teams are actually deeply encoded into our DNA. And the problems we run into when we go into organizations and try to work in teams raise all of these very fundamental human dilemmas and challenges.
Every time you start a new team or a new company, or a new venture, it’s a new opportunity to discover more ways you can grow and learn as a complete human being.
What is a High-Performance Team?
A high-performing team is a conscious team.
Is your team consciously creating together?
One of the biggest issues that gets in the way of teams, when teammates haven’t done inner work, is ego.
We all have core basic human needs. The need for approval, the need to belong, the need to feel safe, and the need for some level of control.
In adulthood, you have layers and layers of experience and a mental map of what’s safe and unsafe in the world. Then you get thrown into a dynamic with other people and all of those inner experiences play out in full force.
Teams start to posture, acting out whatever they think they should look like. But why? They’re posturing because at the end of the day, parts of their ego get rattled and they’re scared. There’s something that they’re scared of.
A great way to combat this as a conscious leader is to get teams talking about what it is they’re most scared of.
When you peel back the layers, it always has to do with those core needs.
I’m scared of not being seen.
I’m scared of not being liked.
I’m scared of not being accepted.
I’m scared that you’re going to find out that I really don’t know what I’m doing.
That last one is where imposter syndrome pokes its head up. Imposter syndrome impacts so many individuals and teams.
Anyone who has seen a team falling apart knows it can be a gut-wrenching experience to have a team that used to be working together collapse into dysfunction. All those egoic projections are just part of us being human.
And the core element of teams crumbling? A lack of trust.
If you don’t have the trust, then it’s going to be extremely difficult to be a high-functioning, high-performing team.
If trust gets broken, everything falls apart. It’s in that eroding process where you stop challenging each other, stop showing up for each other, and maybe norms get developed. It’s not personal, but eventually, task-related conflict quickly falls into being personal, now this is about our relationship, now this is about you, now this is about me, and I’m up all night and there’s no trust left.
Trust is such an ambiguous thing and yet it’s so easy to understand. It’s so big yet so simple. And it’s a formula.
Do I think you’re credible for your job or for your position?
The way I see you, do I see you as credible?
Are you reliable?
Can I count on you?
Are you authentic so that I can have a relationship where I don’t have to wonder?
Trust evaporates if I think you are more concerned about yourself than us and our team.
Trust = credibility + reliability + authenticity divided by my perception of your self-interest. And if that is zero, everything goes to zero.
Leading as a Teammate
You are only going to win, whatever you’re trying to win if you’re a true team. With that mindset, the priority becomes being a team versus the output of what the team is doing.
When you ask a leader “Who’s your team?” they usually will talk about the people who report to them. My team.
What if that was your second team? What if your first team is the team you’re on? The team you are a player on, not the team you lead.
That can look like the executive team, the leadership team, the management team, or whatever level you are a player on with other people who are peers.
When you consider your team to be the team you’re actually on there is more aligned. Things don’t get held back. You’re not posturing for your team and wins. You’re sharing talent, not hoarding it. Your team rising in altitude together. You’re making decisions together and supporting each other.
There’s no competition. You’re not trying to tear each other down.
When you stop making decisions just in service of yourself or your ego, you start making them in service of outcomes, growth, living your values, and more.
The Role of Vision in Teams
Vision is critically important, not just for alignment but also for establishing trust.
The vision that inspires you doesn’t have to be the vision of the company you’re a part of. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. The important part is the vision moves you.
Vision is about who we want to be, not just what we want to do.
Once the vision is set, held, and clear, the vision can unite you and your team without needing to debate each and everything. It removes so many of those little windows where competition sneaks in, or I don’t understand what’s happening over there and I think my role is more important than yours. A shared team vision removes all of those chances where trust could begin to crumble.
The cliche is a cliche for a reason. Teamwork truly does make the dream work.
Teamwork is fundamentally human and provides incredibly valuable lessons that extend far beyond the workplace. Dedicating time and energy to fostering a strong team dynamic is worth your investment.