What Makes A High Performing Team?

How do you build and nurture high performing teams?

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Recently I realised that my management brand is being built whilst I’m busy planning how I want to be a better manager. In other words, it’s the small daily interactions of how I show up in the world that count, not the long term plans yet to be actioned.

Big gestures show your leadership style, sure, but where people really form an opinion of the type of leader you are is how you greet them in the morning, how you handle stress, how you help them when they are stressed, how you organise yourself and the team in the small ways. How you back them when it counts, or if you back them at all.

I realised I am working in the opposite way to how I have been generally managed in the past and the management styles I have seen around me. If building high performing teams is seen as a strength of mine then what is that I do?

Getting back to basics

  1. Present, informative leadership

Heads of departments or general managers will be exposed to lots of high level information, often well above the relevancy and pay grade of most general team members. When managers share the information down the line it helps to build a common vision and brings all levels along for the collective ride. It also helps contextualise what being busy really means. It helps each person prioritise according to the organisation’s higher goals or hot topics of the day and helps build meaning.

2. Flexibility (true flexibility)

Flexible working arrangements are often talked about but rarely effectively executed by management. It requires someone to let go of the need to control every aspect of how they feel the work environment should run. It requires shifting to an outputs frame of working rather than presentism and hourly bum-in-seat time. Showing decency and respect to team members will render more tangible outputs then say, denying annual leave requests and privately rescinding public approvals for people to work from home. All this does is build a culture of hierarchy, need for control and lack of trust.

Respect and trust breeds loyalty and which produces higher output, care and pride for one’s own work.

3. Developing through empowerment

Development is an eye roll producing topic for most managers and even employees – but it is really important and it doesn’t have to be a tick box exercise, it can be genuine and effective with little effort.

Hacks for a procurement development plan, review in detail the follow areas:

  • Technical experience related to their job
  • Cross agency and cross team learning
  • Focus on commercial and supplier management (or other specific area in the sector)
  • Formal training, courses or workshops
  • In-house learning
  • The procurement lifecycle for gaps in their knowledge
  • Build their strengths
  • Look at procurement trends, what can they research or learn and become the team expert in

But here’s the thing, you actually have to complete the tasks and have the meetings! If these two things are executed it will evolve naturally, it can be this simple.

4. Building people’s strengths

The concept of playing to your strengths is not a new one but because of the human tendency to want to be good in all areas of our work, it’s pervasive and needs to be called out frequently.

5. Hiring a blended team

Part of making a high performing team is understanding the types of roles, personalities and levels of technical expertise that you will need for long term success. What isn’t required or even possible, is having all of the types of roles, personalities and levels of expertise. This is a utopia view that is probably rarely going to happen. Instead try to balance out the management style first e.g. a creative, fire type needs more structured staff to offset this nature. Then expand from there matching the roles in the team with what they will need to be successful, pair them off.

You’re dreaming mate

I can already hear my hairdresser in my ear saying… “this is all very well but it relies on people not taking the p*ss and having a good team to begin with. It relies on people wanting to do good work in the first place and not just focusing on getting out of the office fast enough to make Friday happy hour (on a Tuesday).”

Yes it does.

I have only worked in one place in 10 years that had such a degree of toxicity that none of these tactics would have worked. Maybe it’s because I do my homework first before applying for jobs and I research culture, leadership styles and team dynamics. But I would like to think that in the profession of procurement, most people are highly intelligent, capable people that just need a bit of trust and support to flourish and meet their highest potential.

My final tip: tell your team and your staff they are doing a good job – you’d be amazed at how this makes people feel.