Most of us understand that diversity of backgrounds and thought processes will most likely result in better results. With that understanding we might think that it follows that a diverse team is a high performing team. But this is not always the case. A high performing diverse team is led by a good leader. Without a good leader a diverse team could be dysfunctional. According to a Harvard professor, William George effective leaders are authentic leaders. Authentic leaders are self-aware, practice their values and principles, seek criticism and “stay grounded.” Above all, they empower others to become leaders themselves.
Strong leaders have courage to challenge the status quo and point out failures in the organization. They develop and coach others and build positive collaborative relationships. Teams that are high performing are collaborative.
To illustrate the importance of team collaboration let’s consider a flock of geese. A flock of geese has a common goal – fly south for the winter. They can get where they’re going much easier by using the strength of the group – they fly in a V formation in order to add 70% greater flying range. They stay in formation – if a goose falls out of formation, it immediately feels the drag and quickly returns to the formation. They take turns doing the hard work and sharing the leadership role – when the lead goose gets tired, it rotates to the back of the formation and another goose takes the lead. They encourage each other along the way – the geese honk to encourage each other to continue. They assist each other and stand by each other in good times and bad times – when a goose gets sick or injured two other geese drop out of the formation to stay with that goose.
According to Suzanne Willis Zoglio, Ph.D. author of 7 Keys to Building Great Work Teams, there are seven elements that high performing teams have in common. They are commitment, contribution, communication, cooperation, conflict management, change management, and connection. Here is a short description of each.
The first element is Commitment. Commitment is being committed to the vision of the organization. All team members are focused on the same goal and moving in the same direction.
The second element is Contribution. Contribution is when all team members are participating and taking responsibility for accomplishing goals.
The third element is Communication. Communication is more than just talking. It’s having open and honest communication between two or more people.
The fourth element is Cooperation. Cooperation is when all team members do what they say they are going to do (follow through), it’s done right the first time (accuracy), outside of the box thinking is encouraged (creative), deadlines are met (timeliness), and all are supportive of each other (spirit).
The fifth element is Conflict Management. Conflict management is being able to address conflict effectively. Team members will have differing opinions and ideas, and that’s a good thing. Conflict provides the opportunity to enhance team performance by identifying and respecting others perspective and approach.
The sixth element is Change Management. Change management is allowing the team to be innovative. High performing teams need to be flexible and adjust to change.
The seventh element is Connection. Connection is when a team is connected to the organization, other teams, as well as team members. When connection occurs, a new culture is created where team members step in and help each other and all are working toward the organization’s goals.
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