Anyone who's ever been a member of an excellent team at work will attest to how energizing it can be. Team members provide support and encouragement to give you the drive to reach goals that you thought were beyond your grasp. You have your fellow teammates’ back, and they have yours. There's a great sense of belonging and excitement that makes every workday fun.
On the other hand, being part of a dysfunctional team can make going to work a nightmare. There can be friction, competition, and animosity. In some instances, a team member’s success can even be sabotaged if another teammate believes it could benefit him or her.
It's easy to understand how those dysfunctional teams can be very detrimental to an organization while the dream teams of high performers will lead to greater success. But how do you develop a team of high performers? As you might expect, it stems from the leadership.
Here are three critical strategies that a team leader can put in place to develop a team of high performers and improve employee engagement.
1. Vision and Goals
Members must have very clear understanding of what the goals are and what the vision for the team is. Those goals and vision must be shared by all of the teammates so that they can all strive to reach the same objective. Without clearly defined goals, teams can feel adrift and directionless.
Team leaders should continually communicate the vision and direction for the team to help ensure members remain focused. Distractions are readily found around each corner, but by keeping people informed and up-to-date on the team's progress, they will be more likely to remain on track.
Leaders of high-performing teams should set stretch goals that are difficult yet attainable. By challenging the team to accomplish something extraordinary, you are encouraging team members to push beyond their own limitations and achieve a greater sense of satisfaction when they are successful.
Goals must be specific; ambiguity breeds mediocrity. If you aim for just "better," you'll never get excellent. A specific goal is also not open to interpretation; either it’s achieved or it isn't. That way, you avoid potential conflict about the degree of success your team has had.
2. Open and Frequent Communication
We've already covered the importance of frequently communicating the vision and direction for the team. But a good manager of high-performing employees should also have the ability to have positive conversations with the team.
The team leader mustn't be afraid to have difficult conversations. Problems won’t ever go away if you avoid talking about the hard stuff, and when things are left unsaid, teams are at greater risk of becoming dysfunctional.
Be genuine and honest in your communication. There's no better way to forge a bond with others then by revealing your true self, even if that means exposing some of your vulnerabilities. Employees tend to respond better to leaders who are real and aren’t concerned about protecting their image.
Let others speak and listen. When you let others express themselves first, you're letting them know that their thoughts and opinions matter and that they are equal when it comes to conversation. Active listening is a critical trait that leaders wanting to develop a team of high performers must possess. You have to allow others to speak without interruption or a strong reaction to what they're saying. It's a basic sign of respect and courtesy. Furthermore, this kind of behavior should be encouraged within the team by quickly stopping any team member who interrupts others.
3. Be Trustworthy, Positive and Confident
Trust is built by creating relationships, demonstrating expertise or knowledge, and by being consistent. Since people tend to trust the people they like, developing a positive relationship with team members builds trust. People also tend to trust individuals who have the knowledge and expertise to help them solve problems. However, there's no greater threat to trust within a team than not following through on commitments. That's why being consistent with your word is critical. If you've lost trust, earn it back.
Being positive is also very important. The leader should have fun and encourage laughter within the team, but never at the expense of others. A misdirected attempt at poking fun at someone can often backfire and create resentment. A positive attitude can also serve to inspire the team and build enthusiasm. Of course, positivity should never preclude a leader from resolving conflict or addressing underperforming members.
With a focus on providing clarity of vision and goals, communicating frequently and well, and having a positive disposition, leaders will have the ability to develop a team of high performers with excellent employee engagement.