Hi Andrew, thank you for stopping by Activia’s Expert Insights section. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself for our readers?
I guess my back story is about learning to overcome my own personal difficulties and to start believing in myself. During my career years, I've reinvented myself a few times now. For example, I started my career as a design engineer, then pursued the opportunities in the technology sector during the dot com era in the 90s. After that bubble burst, I then took all my experience and followed my dreams and desires to run my own business. I now help teams and leaders to grow and develop. I have never been happier.
I'm also a published author of two books now and I love writing blogs about developing leadership.
I am proud to be a 3rd Dan Karate and 1st Dan Kick Boxing black belt. But I'm very creaky now - I blame old age and a slow brain. My close friends know me as a frustrated architect (it’s a long story). With my wife Sarah, we're passionate about helping couples to get the best out of marriage.
You’re a consultant who specialises in developing managers and leaders in terms of performance, which is one of the reasons why you decided to create The Authority Guide to Developing High Performance Teams: How to develop brilliant teams and reap the rich rewards for effective collaboration in the workplace. What was it in particular that drew you to this topic?
What was my rationale? Well, in short, it's a quest for leaders to recognise the importance of developing their people and teams to achieve business success. Sadly, very few people I talk to about high performance have ever worked in a high performance team. However, those who have speak about it with joy and delight. I've been fortunate enough to lead a high-performance team (HPT) and it was a privilege and an addictive experience. I still look back on that time with joy. Since then, one of my primary motivations is to help other teams achieve this too. For further reading see my blog, “High Performing Teams – Fact or Fantasy?”
I often talk to people about the need to feel that their work has a purpose beyond the paycheck. That it somehow has to count and that their very best work makes a difference and that it makes the world better in some way. It is these aspects that drive me to teach others to find purpose and joy in their work.
I've always believed in the joy of work. When teams learn how grow into a high performance team, people find tremendous satisfaction in their work too. That has a positive knock-on effect in their home lives as well - their partners, families and friends all benefit. Fulfilled and satisfied individuals at work tell me they speak more to their partners and their children when they get home at night. Imagine for a moment:
"What if you enjoyed your work so much, that as soon as you wake up and your feet hit the floor you feel excited about the day ahead?
How would it feel if you went to work singing and at the end of the day came home again whistling?"
Sounds great, doesn't it? That's what I want to help people to achieve - that sense of satisfaction and even pleasure in their work.
Who is this book aimed at and how will it help them?
My book Developing High Performance Teams gets that ball rolling. It helps any leadership or management team dynamically to learn to build collaborative skills together. By learning and developing these skills and qualities, teams can grow into becoming high performing and resilient. Business success then follows.
The guide is designed to be used as a tool-kit for leaders, managers, consultants, trainers and facilitators to get the most out of working with newly formed teams or well-established teams, leadership teams, management teams or any sort of team for that matter.
So, this book helps leaders and managers of teams to develop effective teamwork skills. It will also help people to grow into who they are meant to be as individuals and to make a difference at work.
Team performance and enhancement is a very popular topic, with a lot of literature published on the subject. What is unique about The Authority Guide to Developing High Performance Teams?
Becoming a great high performance team needs to become a goal to which are you are truly dedicated. Planning to take time out is essential. Moreover, to get there you will need to:
- commit to developing together as a team
- be humble and vulnerable with one another – letting go of ego
- learn how to collaborate, cohere and boost your emotional intelligence
- work towards identifying and reaching your ‘big goals’.
Ultimately, having developed into a high performance team means that you can then get on and focus on running your business successfully without having to spend unproductive time working through people issues. Good leadership is about creating enterprises that flourish. However, it is certainly possible to create workplaces in which everybody connected with that enterprise thrives and in which everybody matters. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that it is these organisations that flourish the most. All this starts with great teamwork. So, that’s why you need this book.
Can you give some examples of some fantastic high performance teams and what is the one thing they all have in common?
Let's take a look at what the experts say! To kick off, a global learning and development director (and a friend of mine) prefers to develop functional teams. She defines these in managerial terms such as ability and skills, clear roles, duties and reporting lines, delivery against a clear strategy and good communication processes.
In this way, she affirms that for 20% effort she gets an 80% return - whereas reaching for high performance in her business may only be required for less than 20% of teams. So, she then turns to experts (like me for example) to fulfill high performance team development programmes when needed.
Leadership gurus and authors point us to learn softer skills to achieve high performance. Patrick Lencioni, for example, holds that teams mature by working through their dysfunctions first.
Richard Barrett uses a values-driven approach. He argues that teams need to move away from basic fear, survival, and ego driven needs towards growth values such as to find meaning, make a difference and have a purpose.
Daniel Goleman coined the phrase 'Emotional Intelligence' as an effective way for teams to learn how to perform at their best.
Bob Chapman, CEO and author, believes that leaders can create workplaces in which everybody connected with that enterprise thrives and that everybody matters.
On a practical note, in the past, I have been lucky enough to have lead what I (and others) deemed to be a high performance team. I still look back on that time with joy.
For us, our high-performance team just seemed to happen, and years later, we all have fond memories of that time. However, on reflection, there were external factors too that had an influence. For example, we had the right mix of people, ability, and managerial functions. Also at the time, we worked for a thriving, stable and well-resourced FTSE 100 company in an economy that flourished. Furthermore, we had all benefited from first class in-house soft skills programmes that matured us.
Today, in my development work with leaders, managers, and teams I have noticed that to build a great team is more than functional business processes, KPI's and metrics. While they are of course vital for business effectiveness, they are not the be-all-and-end-all for high performance. (Note that few of those are present in the above success factors). I believe that great teams transcend these things. Even if individual team members are highly skilled or talented, that does not mean they will make an effective team together. Those are different skills.
What would you say is the first step towards developing a high performance team?
To make a real difference, you have to work together to create an excellent high performance team.I argue that the success factors previously mentioned can be cloned and taught to any functional team.
It’s not about some extrinsic magic formula that you apply from the outside in, however. Nor is it about a team full of the cleverest people. You cannot become a high-performance team that way. It does mean you must have the right purpose, people, skills, input, direction, management processes and environment. Moreover, however, it is about people growth from the inside out. That means personal development around soft skills and emotional intelligence. However, ability and experience need to exist too (that's a given).
The good news is it is possible to learn these types of intrinsic soft skills.
Don’t be mistaken; this is not a namby-pamby or fluffy process, however. Not at all! To develop people and teams from the inside out requires a willingness to mature and grow as individuals and as a team. That takes courage, time and some effort to nurture these.
To become a high-performance team needs dedication and willingness to take time out to develop. Moreover, to get there, you will need to:
- Commit to growth as a team
- Being humble and vulnerable with one another - let go of ego
- Learn how to collaborate, cohere and boost your emotional intelligence
- Work towards big goals.
The other benefit of high-performance teamwork means that you can then get on and run a successful business. Furthermore, you will not have to waste so much time on countless people issues.
What’s your most effective tool when it comes to developing high performance teams and, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I've worked with teams at all levels for well over a decade now, and this model depicts how I help develop leaders and managers (or any functional team) to become a high performance team:
First, it begins with the essential teamwork skills to learn how to build trust, harness conflict and to collaborate. When teams develop these skills, they start to contribute together to make an effective impact.
Second, as already mentioned, you will need to grow as individuals and as a team too. Feedback skills to call out each other are powerful change agents. In this way team members let go of potentially limiting behaviours and become accountable to each other. A positive frame of reference, a resourceful mindset and purposeful language are also crucial for high performance.
Third, agreed on team values, healthy habits, and behaviours create team spirit. A Team Charter will commit teams to these aspects and reminds them how to collaborate effectively. Also, teams that plan together in creative ways provides purpose and direction to the business and is a critical leadership task. Besides, big goals keep teams motivated.
Thanks Andrew - very enlightening! For more info, you can find Andrew blogging here.