The concept of a workforce can be a fairly daunting idea to wrap one’s
head around irrespective whether it the simplest building block – the
individual, or the most complex organisation as a whole – a veritable bee hive
What then, in this complex web of intangible constructs, forms the
essence of a workforce what
agent(s) can be influenced to create a high performing workforce?
The workforce, in all its dynamics, is quintessentially represented in
the humble, omnipresent team!
In my experience, a high performance team is not built, but rather
uncovered – much like the famed sculptor whose art is described thus:
“It is the sculptor’s power, so often
alluded to, of finding the perfect form and features of a goddess, in the
shapeless block of marble; and his ability to chip off all extraneous matter,
and let the divine excellence stand forth for itself.”
The power of a leader to bring forth excellence in the form of high
performance is no less. However, what does it take to facilitate a high performance
Most simply, a high performing team balances 3 elements of performance
abilities- the tactical, the adaptive & the cultural.
Helps a team to deliver on a
plan. These abilities provide a foundation. Over time, the team can
deliver increasingly higher standards, even at exceptional levels. But
delivering the plan is key.
Team rituals & Work ethics:
Teams that consciously co-create a working methodology – including, but
not limited to – team rituals,
shared team values, ways of working, organising, partnering etc.
They key is that members hold
each other accountable & keep each other committed to these.
Performance standards: A clear set
of accepted performance standards.These must demand a performance challenge
that pushes individuals to work together to leverage complementary
Collective outcomes: Choosing goals
that are not achievable as a summation of individual efforts but only
possible when members leverage each other. The absence of this element
can singularly stall high performance.
Helps a team to deviate from a
plan – to ‘go the extra mile / achieve audacious goals /innovate’. This
opens up possibilities of creating & building by innovating &
experimenting. Breakthrough levels of performance, characteristic of high
performing teams comes from being good at tactical performance, but being great
at adaptive performance..
Experiment: The space to be
curious, experiment & learn in the work process. The freedom to adopt
a working & learning style as per one’s preference, making the work
in itself a state of flow & enjoyment.
Purpose: Teams that can identify a collectively meaningful purpose
have a rallying point to work towards. The shared WHY of the team’s
existence/ goals. Their satisfaction is from the end outcome of the
efforts, no matter the effort itself.
Potential: Everyone has their own
personal & professional aspirations. In high performing teams, each
member has a clear connect between their own potential aspirations – the
teams purpose – and the path to achieve the purpose.
The multipliers – they enhance the impact of other elements & foster
learning, empowerment, trust.
Information management: Hierarchies
are felt & executed not as much in org charts, but in the degree of
information skewness. High performing teams are flat with respect to
information dissemination & availability. Volume of ‘privileged
information’ is negligible & problems are solved together in the trenches
Empowerment & Personal
commitment: Most aptly demonstrated in citizenship & empowering via
giving opportunity beyond hierarchies & supporting even though the
task is another person’s.
Empathetic communication: Presence
of trust & safety to share each one’s authentic feelings, to listen,
be heard, understand & be understood.
In summary, the leader must be able to help members find answers as a
coach, continue trusting during stormy times & be an anchor, lead when
blocks need to be removed – but always behave as a team member who is wearing
the additional hat of its leader.
Such a team believes they will win/ fail together – the pursuit of the
purpose is their fuel to make it all happen.