The Leader’s Role in Creating and Maintaining a Peak Performing Team Culture – Part 1

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Part 1

Creating a positive, upbeat and high performing environment is key to team and organisational success. Whether it is in sport or in business, a high performing team work very hard for each other, they are professional, they speak to each other and they display a high level of integrity. The energy they give out is immense and they very often have a smile on their face.

Leaders have a huge role to play in establishing this type of high performing culture.

Taking a group of people who may all be talented and moulding them into a team is not difficult but equally it is not going to happen on its own. The team needs a number of key ‘ingredients’ added to it and those ingredients need to be added at the right time. Too much too soon and it won’t work.

Teams go through a natural life cycle depending on how familiar the team members are with each other. This has been famously described by Bruce Tuckman in his description of the stages of group development. The crucial stage is what Tuckman referred to as Storming. This is the stage when natural behaviour is often demonstrated which can lead to greater team awareness and in some cases conflict.

Nobody wants conflict in a team but people do need to know how fellow team members are going to behave especially when under pressure. So it is a natural stage to go through as a team and providing it is managed is completely healthy. People get to know each other much better and with a little leadership a culture of open and honest communication can be encouraged.

Tips to developing a Peak Performing Team Culture:

  1. Encourage Storming. If you are leading a new team and you want to accelerate the life cycle process then conduct some team building and put them under pressure. The team building can be offsite but doesn’t need to be, simply take team members out of their comfort zones. This can be done as easily mentally as physically so there is not necessarily a need to head to Wales and climb up the Brecon Beacons. However, if you want to do that go for it!
  2. Team Awareness. Once the group has gone through Storming and has moved into, what Tuckman called, Norming, it may be a good opportunity to do some psychometric analysis such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or Insights. This will help individuals identify their natural style and may help explain some of the behaviour they have just displayed during the Storming phase. It is also an excellent way of encouraging team members to talk about their strengths and areas of development. As a leader this is a particularly useful exercise because it can tell you a lot about the structure and dynamic of your team. It also again encourages open and honest communication and team members can start to work out strategies of how they are going to work together.

All of this activity sounds pretty serious and the fun element must not be forgotten so don’t forget to introduce a social element to any team building intervention. But remember a team that has been through adversity and come out the other side is often stronger.

So if all has gone to plan your team are now at the Norming stage. They have a much greater understanding of each other. They have started to build relationships. You have a very good idea of where the strengths lie and indeed where you may have some gaps.

Finally a culture of open and honest communication has started to develop. Well done! But by this point your work as a leader has only just begun.

Your team may now be starting to work together but they need more ingredients to get them to the peak performing stage and these will be the focus of Part 2.