Over the past few years, teams have become critically important to the success of business and sport. With that importance we’re seeing an increased focus on the understanding and development of teams and the individuals within them. In some ways, sport is way ahead in understanding the practices of high performance but their approach can be overly technical and somewhat stilted. In both corporate and sport there are myths that limit cut through and ultimately performance that needs to be challenged in order to develop high performing teams.

Myth 1 – Everyone in the team is equal

Within most teams there are key individuals that unless they’re firing, the team will not be successful, and rightly, within those teams there is inequality as far as performance and importance is concerned. Yes, I can hear the wind rushing between the teeth of traditionalists who proclaim that everyone is equal and everyone is a leader. In high performing teams this just isn’t the case. There is no doubt that each team member has a role to play and if it’s not done to a high standard will impact the result. However, there are some members whose results create an exponential impact. These individuals are the ones that need to be on top of their game for the team to do really well. They tend to be impactful, have the biggest opportunity or influence and are the ones that need to be monitored to ensure they’re performing at their peak.

High Performance Question – Do you know who the key players are in your team and are you referencing them in your approach?

Myth 2 – The team is the sum of its parts

Very often I see leaders, team members and consultants thinking “All we have to do is understand each of the team members and have them understand each other and we’re done”. There is definitely a time to focus on individuals however, looking only from that perspective causes us to miss the emerging dynamic of the total group – the team. Understanding the individual members is the start, but, are you looking at the team as a single entity, not as a group of individuals? The team as an entity has its own traits, preferences, strengths, weakness, attractors and aversions which can’t possibly be seen when looking at the individual level. Something happens to the Christmas cheer when Uncle Jack arrives tipsy (yet again), it changes the whole dynamic of the event and the same occurs in a high performing team. Stop looking at individuals and take the position that the team is a functioning entity, what do you see now?

High Performance Questions – Do you know how your team behaves as an entity or are you still looking at the individual level? What are the team’s traits, drivers and derailers?

Myth 3 – Teams are set and forget

“Get it right and then she’ll be right”! It’s not a set and forget system. Team dynamics is just that – dynamic not a constant state. We seem to have the idea that once we’ve cracked the nut and identified the processes, roles, rewards and traits, ‘ta dah’ it’s done. This approach couldn’t be further from the truth. Teams are fluid and change depending on; individual perceptions, people joining or leaving and the results. All these have an impact on the state of the team and the dynamic shifts. A subtle change in conditions or performance can change the beliefs, especially with key members and this impacts inclusiveness, actions and results. Close attention needs to be paid to dynamics and engagement of the entity as things constantly shift and change. One team off site with people falling off ladders into each other’s arms will do little to galvanise a group long term to produce high performance results. In reality creating a high performing team is more like the art of bonsai rather than growing a hedge.

High Performance Questions – Are you on top of the influences and drivers that change direction and focus of your team? Is your knowledge and connection intimate with the team?

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