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The word “team” has been used a lot in organizational motivation in recent years.

However, there is big difference between just a group of people calling themselves a “team” vs. a high performing one.  A team that doesn’t perform or work well together will, in most cases, not be able to help the organization achieve their objectives.  Moreover, demoralizing team leadership can result in pushing all decision making upwards to avoid “getting into trouble” and stifling new ideas. I’ve been fortunate over the years in leading many cross functional teams in multi-million dollar consumer product businesses.  So I thought I’d share with you my 10 ideas on how to develop high performing teams.

1.  Encourage “outside the box” thinking

It’s important not to tell your team members “how” to do things.  Just establish the “goal line” and make sure they get any help they need.  Moreover, it’s also important you teach/train your team members on how to think “outside the box” to help them look at problems from many different points of view.  This is how seasoned leaders think and it’s a skill that can be taught.  It starts by asking different types of questions to uncover any gaps in team members thinking about the problem.  This helps to get your team to think.

2.  Delegate till it hurts

The only way team members will grow is to learn by their mistakes as well as successes.  If you micromanage, all it will do is push ALL decision making up to your level and they will never grow.  You can provide direction on what’s “in/out” of bounds, but don’t do the work for them. My motto is “It’s OK to make a mistake, just don’t make the same mistake twice.”

3.  Be open to new ways of thinking

Yes, you’ve been successful or you wouldn’t have been made team leader in the first place.  However, as Albert Einstein so cleverly stated, “We can’t solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”  So don’t be insecure to think you know everything—you don’t.  In addition, ask for volunteers with new ideas.  They will be most motivated to come up with new ideas and/or thinking.  This helps with idea #1.

4.  Never talk down to your team members

Even if you think you know everything, never talk down to team members to show them how smart you are.  The workplace is not a forum on who’s the smartest.  It’s more about learning, letting go, performing, and motivating others to do great work.  Moreover, who wants to perform for someone who is always talking down to them?  Team members have feelings just like you.

5.  Give credit where credit is due

While you are responsible for the ultimate product of your team, be sure you never “steal” their work.  Nothing demoralizes team members faster than bosses claiming their work as their own.  Don’t worry, you’ll get credit for your team’s work since your boss will you’re you credit for leading the team that came up with the idea in the first place.  That’s leadership.

6.  Promote your team members

Be an advocate for your team.  Support and promote their work throughout the organization.  Remember, their work is a direct reflection of your leadership.  If you promote your team you will get promoted in the long run.  Moreover, you will build solid relationships with your team members for life.  They will remember how you promoted them and thus they will promote you—especially when you’re not looking.

7.  You must be authentic

Everyone wants to be liked.  This means you need to be “real” and listen to your team members concerns and issues—even if you don’t really have the time.  You need to make time.  Moreover, no one wants to be “sold” or coerced into thinking you’re someone you’re not.  People can easily spot a phony and this leads to mistrust and ill feelings.

8.  Be sensitive to team member personal issues, but be careful

While it’s important you’re sensitive to team member personal issues (this is part of being authentic), you need to be careful and not get “sucked in” to solving their problems.  Some people can be too “needy.”  Listen and try to make some relevant suggestions, but remember you’re not a psychologist.  This is work, and if your team members need additional assistance, suggest they seek outside counsel or contact your company’s employee assistance program (EAP).

9.  Train team members to do your job

If team members request any developmental help be sure you do your best to get them the help they need.  This includes spending money on training.  The goal here is help train team members do your job so you can have time to do your bosses job.  Everyone on the team should have the goal of continuous improvement so they can remain employable and take themselves to the next level of development.

10.  If your team doesn’t have the right skill sets—seek out new team players

It’s your responsibility to make sure the team has all the right skill sets that get results.  Today’s marketplace is changing daily, and your team needs to step up and consistently produce results for the company.  If your team is unwilling or unable to address any needed skill gaps, then you need to find people who have them.  Don’t be afraid to restructure your team as needed.  Your boss is looking for you to get the job done.

Team leadership that produces results isn’t easy. However, if you follow some or all the principles I’ve mentioned, you will have a better chance of producing a team that can exceed your expectations.  Moreover, you will build relationships for life even after you’ve moved to a new team.  You never know when you might need their help down the road.

What are you doing today to produce a high performing team in your organization?  It should be one of your most important priorities.