4 key ingredients for a high performing team

September 22, 2021

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Whether you work together in an office or remotely, great teamwork almost universally starts with the same four ingredients:

1. Clarity of objectives 

2. Communication patterns 

3. Psychological safety 

4. Reinforcement 

At Saberr, we summarise these principles as the 3 Gets:

Get Set 

Clearly define your objectives & have regular 1-1’s with all equally

Get Safe 

Build a safe environment by deliberately defining your rules

Get Strong

Reinforce what works and bin what doesn’t through reflection

How to apply these principles at work

Get set

Clarity of objectives 

Google’s Project Aristotle research was designed to discover what makes a great team.  Structure and clarity of responsibilities and objectives was one of the top five factors essential for team success. Our first principle - Get Set ensures teams have covered the foundational factors for high performance.

  1. Clarify roles and responsibilities of team members.
  2. Develop concrete project plans to provide transparency into every individual’s work.
  3. Regularly communicate team goals and ensure team members understand the plan for achieving them.
  4. Ensure your team meetings have a clear agenda and designated leader.

Communication patterns 

Alex Pentland’s MIT study - showed that the patterns of communication in a team can explain 30-40% of the variation in team performance. The two key factors he identified were

  1. The higher the volume of communication the better.
  2. The more evenly spread the communication the better.

The patterns of communication you develop are almost more important than what you’re communicating. This is particularly important to focus on if you’re working as a remote team. It can be difficult to maintain the same level of communication outside of the office, so it’s important to make a conscious effort to over share. Managers need to speak equally to their direct reports and ensure they’re having regular one to ones. 

Successful one to ones 

There’s a correlation between how much you communicate, the quality of your relationships and the performance of the team. One to ones can help improve performance if they’re done right...

  1. Have one to ones with all your direct reports regularly
  2. Talk about tasks AND feelings
  3. Encourage your reports to schedule 1-1’s with each other

On top of the agenda, for remote teams it’s important to consider the platform you use for one to ones. Video call (VC) is best for most occasions and a phone call is a good second bet, text chat doesn’t work nearly as well because you lose the rich social cues that help you gain the full meaning of what someone is saying.

Saberr's one-to-one feature can help you have more effective one to ones by prompting both attendees to add to the agenda ensuring nothing is missed in the meeting. It can also suggest further useful talking points or provide smart tips based on the agenda topics. For example, results focused managers can be prompted to ask about feelings and people focussed managers can be promoted about objectives.

“Saberr makes it easier to switch mindset during a meeting, from results to asking how people feel.”

Get Safe

Psychological Safety to be the single biggest factor in distinguishing high performance in teams. Amy Edmondson defines psychological safety as a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.

As a team rules consciously or unconsciously define collective behaviour. High performing teams always consciously define their behaviour. Take some time to run a behaviours session with your team to help you define a list of behaviours that work for the whole team. Agreeing shared behavioural norms is one way to lay the foundation for psychological safety.  Defined behaviours can also help in times of stress. Having clarity of objectives and behaviours already set, means when you face a crisis situation managers know what to do. They have some autonomy and an emotional safety net, so regardless of the situation teams can make quicker progress towards solving problems.

Get Strong 

Reflection, where a team considers what has and hasn’t worked, and whether they have or haven’t worked together according to their own rules, is linked directly to outcomes.

Regular team reflection has been found to significantly impact effectiveness and innovation, two of the most sought after qualities of high performing teams. In some cases increasing performance over non-reflecting teams by 25%. Regular feedback also makes it easier to change course quickly and adapt to changes within the business or in the market.

Booking a team retrospective can help encourage productive reflection. There are a couple of models that work really well for reflection: 

1. At the end of a project or collaborative team task, sit down as a team and ask each other 3 questions.. 

Based on this work, next time what should we:

  • Start doing?
  • Stop doing?
  • Keep doing?

2. Ask ‘what are the 2 most important things to focus on over the next week?’

Ensure everyone has the opportunity to have their say by providing the opportunity to add ‘retro notes’ at any time before or during the meeting. 

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