"How do I know if we have the right people on our team?"
It's a question my clients frequently ask me, and for good reasons. When a team reaches high-performance, they are unstoppable. That's where the magic happens so to speak, but let me be clear, I don't think there is such a thing as the right team.
In fact, in the book Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Lief Babin discuss an experiment that was made with two military teams where they swapped the winning team's leader with the losing team's leader. The results were mind-blowing. The consistently losing team, suddenly, under new leadership, started winning. The difference was, the winning team leader took ownership of everything that happened versus blame his team or the circumstances. The team composition had little to do with the outcomes, but rather everything to do effective leadership.
That said, in some cases yes, you may legitimately not have someone that's a fit or up to par for the job, but generally speaking, becoming a high-performance team is something you need to work at.
For high-performance to be manifested, trust, talent and alignment need to be present. Unfortunately, that's not something that typically comes organically in business. We help our clients with this very issue but it's not the luck of the draw, it is by design.
Assuming you are working on generating the key elements mentioned above, here are some guiding principles that will serve you well as you endeavor to create a high-performing team:
Create a psychologically safe environment.
As Dr. Amy Edmondson found in her book The Fearless Organization, and something we discussed in depth on my podcast -- Unmessable -- the biggest difference between high-performing teams and mediocre ones is a culture of psychological safety.
You may already have the right people on your team, but if they don't feel safe, they might not be speaking up as much. This can be the result of personality conflicts, but it's also a symptom of a poorly-developed workplace culture.
Voiceless teams are created by how they're treated when they assert themselves. If they're spoken down to, their ideas dismissed, or they're questioned in a righteous way, it diminishes their incentive to proactively stick their necks out.
And you really need team members who are willing to speak up and take risks. An office full of management-pleasing "yes" people may stroke your ego, but it won't lead to unimaginable growth.
Assemble the right mix of personalities.
Some employers rely on personality tests, with the most well-known being the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). After answering a series of questions, participants are provided a four-letter code that identifies their dominant personality traits.
When the most pronounced traits of each member of your team have been identified, Myers-Briggs offer suggestions on the likelihood of their compatibility.
This is a good place to start if you want to analyze the mix of personalities you're cobbling together. The only issue in using this tool is that people are not static objects, and more realistically evolve over time. So this isn't the best long-term instrument to leverage but can provide interesting initial insights.
Hire top talent.
The most straightforward way to approach team-building is to hire people who have the skills your team lacks. But to create the best teams, you want the top talent--not someone with just average competencies in the area you need.
So how do you determine who's the best versus mildly competent?
Here's a hint. Look at what they have produced, not how many years they have been doing it. Then, while you can run a bunch of role-based aptitude evaluations, you want to make sure the talent is equally matched with the cultural fit of your organization.
Ensure that personal motivations align with those within the organization.
It's great to have a superstar on your team, but are they more focused on promoting themselves than your organization? Do they spend more time broadcasting their individual accomplishments rather than working within your team? They may temporarily boost your numbers, but they likely won't stay long. And your team probably won't want them to stay either.
The key point to remember is in order to get the best out of people, they need to see a compelling future with the company, and for that to happen, their personal motives must be aligned with the organization.
Alignment, you would think, is straightforward to achieve, but that's not the case. I can't tell you how many times we have worked with clients who suddenly recognized the misalignment within their team when we create a vision for their business future.
When you have an empowered team and are able to have difficult, but constructive discussions, the outcome tends to be way better, not to mention the journey.