How Top Leaders Set Teams Up for Success

How Top Leaders Set Teams Up for Success
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Top Leaders Set Up Teams for Success
We know from our leadership simulation assessments that leaders come in all shapes and sizes and degrees of effectiveness. But top leaders generally excel in inspiring others to collectively achieve more together than they could as individuals.  To achieve a  shared vision of success, top leaders do four things more consistently than their lower performing counterparts:

  1. Understand the Current Situation
    Top leaders first thoroughly assess the current situation. They know from experience that they need to have a complete picture of the degree to which their team agrees on and clearly understands:

    — What the company is trying to accomplish and why
    — What the team is trying to accomplish and why
    — How success and failure will be measured at the individual and team level
    — The team’s scope and interdependencies
    — How each person’s job contributes to the work of the group
    — The biggest perceived barriers to success
  2. Create High Levels of Team Clarity
    Once the current situation is understood, top leaders set up teams for success by creating clear, believable, and implemental team strategies.  High performing teams use strategy retreat facilitation to strongly agree on what the group is trying to achieve together, what defines success, who is doing what, and the best path to get there.

    Teams that lack strategic clarity often struggle with conflict, politics at work, prioritization, and decision making.  Do not be fooled.  The root cause is probably strategic uncertainty, not personalities or style differences.

    We know from a survey by the Rotman School of Management that a whopping 43 percent of leader and managers cannot articulate their own strategy. And our own organizational alignment research found that strategic priorities become half as clear just one level outside of the executive team.  How can both leaders and followers perform at their peak without a clear, meaningful, and agreed-upon direction?

    Be crystal clear about what you’re trying to accomplish and check for understanding among ALL the members of your team.  You will know that you need to work on improving team clarity if people do not have a clear line of sight about how their work (and the work of others) contributes to the whole, ask a lot of clarifying questions before moving work forward, or feel like they are being pulled in different or competing directions.
  3. Ensure Team Health
    Work team health represents the team’s ability to function, change, and grow effectively.  Top leaders invest the time and energy to build and maintain a healthy team because it creates a positive environment in which to engage and retain top talent.  Team health includes themes such as trust, leadership, commitment, engagement, and resource allocation.

    Healthy teams more easily share information, coordinate different tasks, support each other, and collaborate across boundaries. 

    You will know you need to create more work team health if people are storming to get work done in isolation, working at cross-purposes, lacking trust, back-channeling, duplicating efforts, or having unproductive conflict.
  4. Establish Team Alignment
    Once your team’s strategy is agreed upon and your team is healthy enough to move forward collectively, your next step is to ensure that the way work gets done — the structures, processes, team norms, attitudes, behaviors and skills — are in alignment with where you are headed.

    The way work gets done has a direct correlation to ensuring that the team’s goals and accountabilities can be achieved in a way that makes sense.

    When employees don’t have clear picture of the expectations regarding how things get done on both their own team and across other teams, the lack of alignment undermines trust. Misalignment also can cause duplication of effort, delays, and a general breakdown of accountability.

    You will know you need to establish more team alignment if team members find it difficult, confusing, or disengaging to get work done.

The Bottom Line
To set your team up for success, the plan must be fully understood, accepted, and committed to not just by leader and managers, but also by those who must carry it out. How do your teams rate on clarity, health, and alignment?

To learn more about how to build high performing teams and how top leaders set teams up to succeed, download this Sample Team Charter Template for Leaders

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