Guiding Teams to High Performance

Building and sustaining performance of teams made up of public and private sector leaders is a difficult challenge. Without a command-control structure in place, it requires a high-level of personal influence skills to be successful.

It is impossible to anticipate every problem you will run into as a team leader. But, having led multifunctional teams in the private sector at Procter & Gamble, and then in the public sector, I can assure you every team presents it’s unique challenges and opportunities.

8 Leadership Techniques

Here are 8 leadership techniques to consider using when you are faced with the need to change team behavior in order to achieve a higher level of effectiveness.

1.    Prompting – Prompts are what you do before the team engages in a project and are focused on making success as easy and efficient as possible. Prompts include things like team decision-making rules, schedules, action plans, and team performance reviews. Anything that helps the team understand what good looks like before beginning execution acts as a prompt. Time invested in ensuring proper set-up of the team will pay dividends when difficult conversations are required or controversial decisions need to be made. In my experience, it also helps minimize (contain) the politics involved.

2.    Modeling – Nothing helps teams perform better than a leader who emulates the desired team behavior. “Do as I do” is a good way to encourage effectiveness. If you want the team to focus on data versus opinion, it is important to always clarify your own input. If respecting the opinion of others is a key tenant of how the team should operate, then you need to be respectful of everybody’s opinion even when it is in stark contrast to yours. If transparency is important, you should wear your personal agenda on your sleeve. Modeling is an easy concept to understand, but difficult to execute consistently.

3.    Encouraging – It is important to ensure team members are recognized for exhibiting behaviors that will lead to better performance. There are three general ways to reinforce positive behavior of team members: a) social – provide praise/credit in front of other team members, b) tangible – provide an award for going above and beyond, and c) activity – provide an opportunity for outstanding team members to enrich their professional skill set (e.g. attend an IEDC meeting).

4.    Preventing Discouragement – Often team members have conflicting priorities, and to deliver team objectives they may pay a price. For example, prioritizing work on your team may put them behind on their “day job”. If you want top performance from team members, it is important they feel rewarded and not punished. As team leader, you can help ensure relevant key influencers in their lives are on-board with the importance of the work and time commitment required. Make it easy for people to work with you.

5.    Preventing Encouragement – Sometimes, team dynamics reinforce negative behavior. This can be a real challenge for a leader. You need to call out the bad behavior and address it directly. Often this is done 1:1, but sometimes it needs to be done in a team setting when the behavior is occurring. For example, if the team is engaging in group complaining versus problem solving, you will want to redirect the energy immediately.

6.    Discouraging – This is something negative that happens after a positive behavior and limits the probability of that positive behavior occurring again. For example, if a team principle is to make problems transparent but doing so results in peer ridicule then you should expect to consistently hear everything is fine only hear about a problem when it becomes a real crisis. Instead, as team leader, you want to minimize the probability of a negative consequence for a positive behavior.

7.    Encouraging Alternative Behavior – You can help team members be more effective by helping them understand what good looks like. This may include sharing your experience or providing information on how other people have successfully addressed similar situations (or connecting them with relevant experts). Helping team members learn and master new skills improves their current performance and personal capability. As a leader, not only are you expected to deliver results, but you have a training responsibility as well.

8.    Shaping – This is about breaking complex tasks down to executable parts. This includes the ability to create and effectively manage Action Plans. Shaping is about framing challenges in a way your team can make progress in successfully addressing them. This helps minimize team indecisiveness and helps build trust and confidence. It also helps ensure teams are focused on delivering results that are in their control while allowing you time to remove barriers and secure resources required.

How You Can Help

Leave a comment or share your experience on how to lead team to superior performance and results.  By sharing, you help create a richer learning experience for everybody.

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2 Comments so far

  1. Miki Ellsworth

    August 2, 2011

    The Leadership Challenge

    Good points, mirroring some of the discussions at a recent seminar I attended. However when initially asked to reflect on leadership, my first thought was that it was a challenge. The ideas in the room seemed to lead in other directions so I went along as I was out of my element.

    Upon reflection, I could have added a different perspective.
    Here are my thoughts.

    The leadership challenge is one that:
    Many will shrink from
    Some will rise to
    Fewer still will rush to and embrace

    The old leadership models have been broken by a world in turmoil.
    It was good to be a leader at a time when others would follow.
    If was admirable to lead when others did not question.
    It was clearly definitive to lead when the chain of command was yet
    unbroken.
    It was easy to lead to victory, promising to lead into prosperity.

    It’s hard to lead out of loss and defeat.
    There is no rally toward austerity.
    It is met with much clamour when today’s leader must call
    on others to rise once again to their feet.
    There is no promise to feed on the spoils.
    At the end of this road, there may only await
    more challenges that a leader must yet meet.

  2. Megan

    August 11, 2011

    I really enjoyed this post. I felt that it targeted a lot of aspects that many managers overlook. I agree with this statement:

    “Anything that helps the team understand what good looks like before beginning execution acts as a prompt. Time invested in ensuring proper set-up of the team will pay dividends when difficult conversations are required or controversial decisions need to be made.”

    I think that this is explains how strong communication between employees and leaders helps efficiency in a company. It strengthens the ties between co-workers and develops an exemplary work culture.

2 Responses to “Guiding Teams to High Performance”




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