Are organisations helping or hindering high performance teams?

A discussion was started today on how to raise the bar for mediocre teams to create high performing teams.  This is a passion of mine, so I went onto comment about the basics of team development

  • How is the team being led?
  • Are the right people in the right jobs (at the right times?)
  • Do the systems, processes and procedures of the organization support the team?
  • Team dynamics – how does the team interact?

And most critically, does the team know what it stands for, what it is there to do, and how that links with the achievement of organizational goals, strategies and direction?

Being clear on the diagnosis of these elements of high performing teams, will assist with answering the question of “what does a high performing team look like in our business- within our culture”. This last question is important, as high performance in a high end investment bank will look and feel very different to that of a not for profit charity (same characteristics – just delivered in a way that is appropriate for that organization)

The diagnosis of some of the elements above are self evident.. If the team has a crappy leader; eventually that will take a toll on the performance of the team.  Team dynamics can create conflict (some of which is healthy) but too much of which creates drama and distracts from the real game, which is high performance.

One which is harder to address (and which often gets forgotten or put into the “too hard” basket) is the organizational systems, processes and procedures.  Often a team is like a hamster on a wheel, spinning its feet because there are barriers (usually inadvertent) that stop the team from achieving high performance.  Here’s an example as told in Roger e Jones latest newsletter:

Here’s a story I was told of an actual event at my client’s luxury hotel.

A businessman checks into a luxury hotel. The valet parks his car, the bell hop attends to his bags, the receptionist is delightful. The room exceeds his expectations. A call to the concierge is immediately answered and a few questions are answered to his satisfaction. He empties his bags and takes a bath to relax after a long journey. The phone rings. 

“There appears to be a leak in your bathroom; we need to get an engineer to take a look”. 

Within moments, there’s a knock at the door.  Dripping wet from the bath, the guest asks who’s there. 

“It’s the engineer”, is the reply. 

“Please give me a few minutes to dry off and I’ll let you in”. 


Two minutes later there’s another knock on the door – more like a bang.  The guest throws on a robe and opens the door to find a stern looking Maintenance Manager accompanied by Security. 

“We need to get into your bathroom urgently”. 

The guest explains that he had asked for a few minutes to dry off since he was interrupted while in the bath. 

“But we have leak in the lower level”, said the Maintenance Manager. 

The guest reported this to the Hotel Manager and these were his notes. 

“I appreciate that you had a problem, but it was your problem. Due to your failure to maintain your plumbing systems you had a leak. Instead of giving me time to get out of the bath and get dressed you demanded instant access. Your manager was rude and accompanied by security for some reason. I was not only inconvenienced but I felt intimidated”.

The lessons?

  • The Maintenance Manager was doing his job (he did not have an assigned role in the customer experience). 
  • The guest was thus an inconvenience.  
  • The guest’s failure to immediately comply with his priority (to fix the leak) made the guest a “numpty”.

The story did not have a happy ending.

It’s an interesting question to ponder. How is the broader organizational system affecting your team’s abilty to operate – whether that be the performance of other teams, the IT systems and processes, the procurement policies and processes.  Is it helping or hindering?

More importantly – what are you going to do about it?

Tammy Tansley
I am a coffee loving, energetic human who loves words, bright colours and spots, silly t'shirts and good champagne. Mum to two beautiful mischiefs. Long time wanderer around the world. Author. Blogger. Speaker.

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