6 Ways to Lead High-Performing Teams Effectively

Leadership Capability: Leading High Performing Teams

This blog is part of a 16-part series focused on what capabilities make a strong leader. Sounding Board has identified 16 leadership capabilities that the strongest leaders possess. These were developed from research-backed leadership theories, leadership competencies used for evaluation from top business schools, and 25+ years of practical coaching application. 

Many people are called leaders. But not all of those leaders are effective at leading their people to success, particularly when it comes to high-performing teams. To do so requires reliable and consistent leadership. It takes time and resources, communication, a willingness to learn from mistakes, and it may even take some leadership development and coaching.

Managing a team well can be challenging, but it’s a skill worth honing. 

What is a high-performing team?

A high-performing team is often made up of extraordinarily qualified team members. The organization may rely on these individuals to generate solutions, each contributing their own expertise and skills to complement one another in collaboration, innovation, and productivity.

They constantly provide high-quality results, overcoming obstacles, and working through any internal conflicts effectively without impacting the quality of their work. They are the Holy Grail or the A-Team of organizational teams. 

Of course, these teams aren’t built overnight. It can take time. Further, behind every high-performing team is a skillful and efficient leader who knows how to lead these talented individuals and help to ensure the group’s success.

How to lead high-performing teams effectively

We’ve all seen high-power teams. We know the work ethic they demonstrate and the results that follow. But what do their leaders do differently to ensure their success? We believe it’s a combination of the following tactics:

1. Set standards for group performance, group problem-solving, and decision making.

Team leaders are required to set clear expectations and standards for a team to follow. There should be clear communication channels to share and process information appropriately to prevent miscommunication among team members. They should also set transparent priorities and project deadlines so that each member can prioritize effectively. This ensures proper time management and keeps everyone focused on achieving the same organizational goals.

2. Create an open environment to give and receive constructive feedback.

One way to ensure a team meets set standards is to consistently offer productive feedback. Giving feedback is a simple and obvious solution, one critical to improve a team’s performance. It allows team members to understand their successes, mistakes, and how to grow and improve moving forward. Yet it is often stymied by some degree of fear. Leaders have to overcome the very natural urge to avoid giving critical feedback, and then master how to constructively criticize, commend strengths, and avoid triggering team members’ threat response. Leaders who invite feedback as openly as they give it often create a more welcoming environment for team growth and productivity. As with many leadership skills, the ability to give high quality, actionable feedback can be developed over time, given appropriate leadership development and coaching.

3. Delegate responsibilities equitably, and play to people’s strengths.

When leaders create a rapport with their teams, it gives them all a chance to get to know each other better. It creates a window into each person’s needs and capabilities. This can help leaders assign roles that play to each person’s strengths and improve on their weak spots. Collectively, this helps to produce better organizational outcomes. 

When delegating responsibilities, it is important to ensure that work is divided equitably. Define each team member’s roles and responsibilities clearly to minimize confusion and conflict. This obvious facet is too often forgotten. Then clearly communicate roles to enable a smooth workflow within the team, and create an environment of accountability when it comes to time, resources, and deadlines.

4. Measure progress and performance by creating effective metrics.

It’s one thing to commit to effective leadership practices. But how will you know what works and what doesn’t? Measurement is key. Tracking team members’ performance is an invaluable asset when measuring their performance and response to leadership. Here are some of the various metrics available:

  • Attendance: Leaders can keep tabs on team members without micromanaging. Do they show up to work, whether virtual or in person? Are they on time? Do they leave early, or take an unusual number of sick days? Try to understand where they are coming from and how their attendance is or isn’t affecting their performance.
  • Efficiency: Efficiency is an essential measure of team members’ performance. It involves understanding how people manage their resources, meet their deadlines, and the overall quality of their work.
  • Initiative: A good leader ensures team engagement. Helping others take ownership is an important part of being a good leader and improving team performance. Leaders can assess employee initiative to see which team members are not afraid to ask for help and which members are willing to lend their team members a helping hand. Give kudos to show team players they are valued, and to demonstrate to others that this is a key asset they too should hone.
  • Quality: This is perhaps the most important metric to show a team’s productivity. All team members need to submit work that meets set standards. Both poor and high quality work should be acknowledged, albeit for different reasons, so that expectations are clear. But maintain a mindset that encourages improvement; no one is perfect.

5. Collaboratively resolve team differences and tensions.

Conflict and tension among team members can quickly deteriorate into drama, miscommunication, and lead to poor-quality work deliverables. It is natural for members of a high-performing team to have their differences when accomplishing their work. Leaders must know when to intervene and prevent differences from getting out of hand before they disrupt the team’s overall culture and performance. Further, to lead high-performing teams effectively, leaders should, on some level, be able to anticipate conflicts and be prepared to deal with them healthily and efficiently.

6. Create psychological safety in the workplace.

Psychological safety in the workplace refers to a work environment where team members feel comfortable airing their ideas openly, whether they’re good or bad. It is highly advisable that leaders pay great attention to their team members’ thoughts and opinions, and encourage them to pursue their ideas. Be their biggest champion, provide the necessary tools and motivation to encourage them to succeed. Push them towards victories, and involve them in decisions that affect them. This is how a great team leader creates an environment of trust and honesty.

Putting it all together

High-performing teams are led by people who aim to bring out the best in that team. It takes time to build the necessary experience and skill to be a high-performing team leader. At Sounding Board, we offer high quality leadership coaching services to improve your leadership skills so that you can create and manage high-performing teams.

Our coaches are experienced and certified to design leadership coaching programs that best suit your organization’s needs. Request a demo today, and take a major step towards enjoying the benefits that follow a high-performing team.

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