Part 3 of 3 – Culture: Building a Strong and Cohesive Team
Firstly, sorry for the delay with the newsletter and the continuation of this Building a High-Performing Team series. After 3+ years of dodging Covid, I finally got it via my youngest. My mind wasn’t up to writing, way too foggy. But I’m back at it and at least somewhat lucid. I hope you enjoy and put these ideas to use.
This is part 3 of 3 of an article that got too long to reasonably expect anyone to take it all and apply it. That’s why it’s been broken down into 3 digestible parts. Let me know if you need help implementing, since ideas without implementation are worth naught.
In part 1 we discussed 3 keys to attracting the right talent for your team. They include defining your ideal candidate, hiring for core values alignment and the right attitude, and rigorous talent selection strategies.
In part 2 we discussed keeping your top talent engaged and committed. Key points are fostering a positive work environment, effectively managing your team, and nurturing your high-performers.
And in this, part 3, we will dive into why a positive culture is key to building a strong and cohesive team.
When the players win, the team wins. When the team wins, the coach wins. This may seem patently obvious written here in black and white, but people seldom put it into practice. As the leader, or how I view you, as the coach of your team, it is your responsibility to ensure that every player reaches their full potential and contributes to the success of the team.
A culture is really just a set of rules, customs, and expectations. When you base these rules on a set of agreed upon values, you increase the potential for alignment, engagement, and a team that truly works together.
Remember, knowing without doing is worth almost nothing. So, do. Put your takeaways into practice and make it part of your routine. This will be key to building a high-performing team.
Cultivating a Values-Driven and Purpose-Driven Culture
Establishing Your Core Values, Purpose, and Destination
Creating a strong and cohesive team begins with establishing your organization’s Core Values, Higher Purpose, and your ultimate destination in the form of your BHAG.
Your Core Values explicitly state what behaviors and actions are important to you and your team. And they lay out how you will interact with each other and with the outside world.
Your Higher Purpose is why your team exists. Not to make a profit; that’s any business. But Higher Purpose declares why your organization exists in the world. What problem are you solving? How are you working to make the world a better place? What change are you here to effect?
And your BHAG, your Big Hairy Audacious Goal*, is where your business is ultimately going.
These guiding principles serve as the foundation for your company culture. They shape the way team members interact, make decisions, and work towards common goals.
Ensuring Alignment of Individual and Organizational Goals
When setting goals, make sure they align, near-term to long-term, individual to team. Again, this is obvious when written down but is rarely put into practice. Among companies that take the time to set individual and near-term goals, up to 80% of the time they neglect to ensure that they are aligned to the long-term. So, people are working on near-term goals that do not move them toward the longer-term goals. They congratulate themselves on achieving these goals when in fact they’ve been taking detours.
It is your responsibility to ensure that the individual and near-term goals feed into and advance the longer-term goals of the organization.
This alignment fosters a sense of shared purpose and commitment. It will drive team members to collaborate effectively and contribute to the company’s overall success.
Creating a High-Performance Culture
Encouraging Collaboration and Teamwork
Building a high-performing team relies on creating a high-performance culture. And a a high-performance culture thrives on collaboration and teamwork. And, again, while obvious, not enough is done in most organizations to foster and advance collaboration and teamwork.
Our time in school presents a major obstacle to creating high-performing cultures. At school, we are all taught that having the right answer, working alone, and not sharing or collaborating, are keys to our success. This is drilled into us for years, even decades. And then we emerge out into the world of work where the rules are not only different but are the exact opposite. Collaboration is not only valued, but critical to team success.
It is up to you to recognize this challenge and create opportunities for team members to work together, not only on projects but in their day-to-day jobs. You want them to brainstorm ideas and share knowledge. It is critical that you recognize people for successful collaborations and to hold them up as examples. And it is critical that you create repeatable processes to infuse this recognition and incentive to collaborate into the fabric of your organization.
This collaborative environment, once you’ve nurtured it, fostered it, and fed it fuels innovation. And it also strengthens interpersonal relationships within your team, contributing to the cohesion and retention of your best players.
Embracing Diversity and Inclusion
The standard way of promoting diversity and inclusion within your organization is by actively seeking employees from different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences, or launching recruitment (marketing) campaigns telling potential candidates that you want them to apply.
But diverse candidates are not looking for this. They are not looking to serve your diversity needs. They are looking for a culture that values their contributions and input, where it is safe to be themselves and feel included in the team.
Research shows that the greater the diversity the greater the creativity, innovation, and adaptability of an organization, big or small. And this ultimately makes the business more resilient and successful.
What I’ve witnessed first-hand is that for those leaders who are serious about implementing the things discussed in this 3-part series thus far, a more diverse group of people, of top players, are attracted to their organizations. Recruiting according to your purpose and values, encouraging open communication, providing growth and development opportunities, and treating people fairly all contribute to a dynamic team environment. Setting clear expectations, using defined performance metrics, and offering regular feedback and support also play crucial roles. Together, these practices attract a diverse range of people who are united by a common cause.
And they will tell other people. A-players know other A-players. And they want the same things. Instead of categorizing people by the things we see, we get to include people because of what they believe and what drives them, resulting in a more cohesive team who gets things done.
A High-Performance Culture is a Learning Culture
The world is changing at an ever-increasing rate and this rate of change shows no signs of abating. Our learning must keep up.
Infuse learning into your culture. Sharing articles, ideas, research, book summaries, conferences, videos, courses, and discussion to bring in new ideas and keep moving forward can be operationalized in your organization.
Improving Player Performance
Another remnant left over from our schooling is to evaluate your players’ performance to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. We are taught to have people work on their weaknesses, just as was done to us in school. And while there are times when this is necessary, it’s important to look upon this approach with a wary eye.
Working to improve something we aren’t good at often results in mediocrity, at best. My personal example is that my handwriting is really, really bad. It always has been. It is so bad that I reverted to printing in seventh grade, as soon as I could get away with it. It is so bad that my mother, a former English teacher, was still sending me handwriting workbooks when I was 19, in college, and living in China. No matter what I did, my handwriting was never going to be beautiful. At best I could hope for legibility. But this is how we are conditioned.
Instead, consider focusing on the strengths of each individual. When we work on what we are already really good at we open up the possibility of greatness. Excellence, by its very definition, is a form of deviance. To be excellent we must deviate from the mean. Taking something that is already strong and making it stronger can yield amazing results.
It is critical that you make sure that the players you put in each position are able and eager to succeed in that position. It is your responsibility to support them and give them what they need to be the best player they can be in that position.
Consider using tools like StrengthsFinder 2.0 to map out the top 5 strengths of each of your players. Share those strengths with the entire team. This makes it easy to reach out to the right person for help, going back to that collaboration thing discussed earlier.
Implementing Best Practices and Learning from Leaders
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Too often leaders approach a challenge as if this is the first time this challenge has ever been encountered, by anyone, anywhere. Odds are it isn’t.
There are predictable stages, obstacles, and bottlenecks in any organization’s growth. There are great books and resources, videos and courses, experts and coaches available to you like never before.
Reach out. Talk with these people. Share your challenges. You don’t have to go it alone. Indeed, in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world, going it alone is the quickest path to failure.
Adopt and adapt the strategies to recruit, hire and build a championship team, build a high-performance culture, create clarity around where you are going and why you exist, and to overcome the numerous challenges that will continuously present themselves. Afterall, that’s the only constant in business, that there will be a new challenge today. The only question is how big or small today’s challenge will be.
By fostering a culture of learning and growth, you will empower your team to excel and propel your business towards long-term success.
In summary, building a high-performing team is instrumental in driving your business towards success. By focusing on strategic recruitment, retention, and fostering a strong company culture, you can attract and maintain top talent that is committed to your organization’s mission and values. Remember the importance of defining your ideal candidate, hiring for attitude, implementing effective employee management techniques, and nurturing high-performers. Additionally, prioritize building a culture of collaboration, continuous improvement, and learning.
A high-performing team serves as the backbone of any thriving organization. It has the power to drive innovation, enhance productivity, and improve your bottom line. Investing in your team’s development and success will not only contribute to a positive work environment but also propel your business forward in a competitive, and ever changing, landscape.
As a leader, it is crucial that you recognize the value of cultivating a high-performing team. Take action by implementing the insights and practical applications outlined in this 3-part series to develop a dedicated, skilled, and cohesive team that will support your organization’s growth and success. Your commitment to fostering a dynamic and supportive work environment will ultimately lead to a prosperous future for your business.
Since ideas without implementation are worth essentially nothing, take a moment and write down 3 things you will do in the next 2 weeks to implement these ideas in your business.
* Big Hairy Audacious Goal or BHAG was first coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. HarperBusiness.