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What is a high-performance team?

By Richi Gil May 17, 2018

Having a high-performance team is crucial to the sustainability of organizations. A dysfunctional team can derail the strategy and create tensions that could have a direct impact on the bottom line.

So what does it take to become a high-performance team?

We sat down with Richi Gil and asked him about his 30+ years of experience working with high-performance teams.

What is a high-performance team?

What needs to change or shift to move from being an average team to a high-performance team?

Do you have an example of such a team?

How do high-performance teams deal with the exponential, disruptive and virtual world?

Transcription

What is a high-performance team?

In our view, a high performing team is a team that either meets or exceeds its performance targets. So every team has performance targets and a high performing team consistently meets or exceeds its targets, but also creates a context where the individuals can develop themselves, can grow, can learn together, create a community of people that are willing to support each other in the pursuit of each other’s goals and dreams. And it’s also a group of people that work for a purpose, that has something that brings it together, that has an impact that they want to create either in the bigger ecosystem in which they operate or in the company or in the world.

What needs to change or shift to move from being an average team to a high-performance team?

That reminds me of Jim Collins’ definition as to why are there so little great teams. His answer is, “Well, because there are lots of good teams.” In a way, good becomes the enemy of great. Having a good performance, sort of accomplishing your targets, sort of having a good time, sort of developing here and there, become, many times, the biggest enemy when you want to invite the team to make this shift from good to great. I believe that this burning platform that lies beneath the shift, wanting to become a great team, may come from either a problem you are facing in business, or an inspiration of an unfulfilled dream that you want to accomplish together. That creates the launching speed, or the energy, to break the gravitational pull that many times the cultures in companies create.

Do you have an example of such a team?

I have an example of a team that was running across a function in a region where they were seen by the rest of the teams of the region in Latin America as not being real team players, as having this kind of nowhere energy where they all wanted to have it their way, and where they would not understand their clients and they wouldn’t listen to their internal clients. They were clearly hurting the system, because the overall system, they were accomplishing their goals but the overall region was suffering because of the way they were interacting with the bigger system.

Through this work, and here I must commend, especially the leader, because he embarked himself in a personal transformation process. Then, his team also started to operate according to certain principles, and they developed certain skills that included, for example, how to engage in conversations, that really wanted to understand their clients. What were their needs, what were their hopes and fears? How could they respond in a way that they could better the overall system, rather than optimize the subsystems?

All that happened in a period, I would say, of one year, and the transformation was so incredible that this team today is perceived as one of the best teams in the region, that they have radically changed the way in which they interact with the rest of the teams in the region.

How do high-performance teams deal with the exponential, disruptive and virtual world?

Well, one of the characteristics of high-performing teams is that there are no undiscussables in the team. What that means is that no topic is off limits. They can discuss anything. They can have strong, very strong disagreements and even then the relationship, the essence of the person of the team members is never at stake because they realize that they are not their ideas. They are the thinkers of their ideas, and when you stop identifying with your idea and you realize that you can change your mind and still be yourself and still grow as an individual, as a leader, as a team member, then the attachment to ideas is a lot more gentle.

So people in the teams become a lot more agile in their conversations, so it’s very easy for a team to change direction and to, you know, realize quickly that they have failed. They have tried something, they’ve failed, and then the egos are not compromised. Then everybody learns from that and they move into another direction together as a team and they try something different. The agility that that creates and the capacity to respond quicker and faster without attachments and without regrets and moving forward with enthusiasm and excitement is, in my opinion, one of the main characteristics to deal with a disruptive and exponential world because things change exponentially.

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