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Building your team for success, it’s all about the P’s!

It is very rare (in fact I would say non-existent) that a group of people who are randomly thrown together will instantly begin operating as a high performing team. 

I have both built and worked in numerous high performing teams over my 25+ years of experience of leadership and it has become very clear to me that there are several factors that need to be in place for a group of people to become a truly high performing team. It doesn’t just happen – it takes work.

So first of all, let’s establish what a team is.

Here is one definition from the business directory:

'" group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project.

Team members (1) operate with a high degree of interdependence, (2) share authority and responsibility for self-management, (3) is accountable for the collective performance, and (4) work toward a common goal and shared rewards(s). A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members."

I really like that definition but there are a lot of factors there! So where to start…

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1.      Establish the PURPOSE of the team

It is all well and good putting lots of thought and effort into recruiting amazing people who are highly skilled etc., but why are you doing that? What is the point? The first thing is to establishing your raison d'être. Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself before you even think about anything else:

·        Why is this team being set up – what outcome are you/the business looking for?

·        What difference do you/the team want to make?

·        Is the purpose desirable and feasible? Is the purpose needed in the business?

·        Do you believe in it?

2.      What PEOPLE do you need in the team to achieve the purpose? 

Teams only succeed through people. Getting the right people in place and bought into the purpose before any kind of delivery takes place is essential. You may have some of the right people in the organisation already but you may also need to recruit others in. Don’t simply look for skills – think about who you want and need in the team at a human level. To paraphrase a saying first coined by First Direct back in the early 90’s ‘Recruit for attitude, train for skill’. After all, you and all the other team members need to get on with them and not just on a surface level. They may be the best widget twiddler/accountant/engineer (add your own here) ever but if their personality and behaviours don’t fit with the team then there will be problems down the line. Some useful questions to ask regarding people:

·        How will the team need to be set up in order to best deliver and live the purpose? What does that structure look like?

·        What are the roles and responsibilities? What do you need each person to be accountable for?

·        What does each person need in order to be operating at their best? (Not just physical things like laptops/tablets, desks etc., but also consider the wider psychological things that people need – time and support for families, hobbies development opportunities etc.)

·        What skills, traits, attributes do we already have that we may just need to juggle around? 

3.      How will the team measure its PERFORMANCE?

Before you start to build the team it is important to consider what the key performance measures will be in line with the overarching purpose. This should tie in with the individual roles and responsibilities that hold people accountable. Performance measures should be a mix of qualitative and quantitative data.

Here are some useful questions when looking at the performance requirements of the team:

·        How will you know you are successful?

·        What are the key success factors?

·        How will you communicate and celebrate success?

·        How will you deal with not achieving key performance requirements? Have you considered all external contributing factors that could impact your ability as a team to deliver?

·        What other performance measures are important to us aside from the numbers? (What about happiness, fun and morale? Can they be measured?) 

4.      Establish a set of PRINCIPLES for the team

This should absolutely tie in with the purpose of the team and should act as a guiding light for how you want the team to be. You may wish to call these a set of values or a team charter but whatever it is called it is so vitally important to get this right before the team gets swamped in its every day delivery because when the proverbial hits the fan and the pressure is on people will generally switch to their default setting which is why getting the right people is essential (see point 4).  Guiding principles will help keep the team on track and utilise the collective strengths (defaults) when the harder challenges are presented. 

Ask these questions:

·        What do we stand for?

·        What are our key values that we will not bend on?

·        What is important to us?

·        Am I/are we considering individual values and aiming to merge them with the team’s values/principles? 

5.     Create robust and agile PROCESSES

Don’t forget that processes do not work on their own; you need people (see point 2). A brilliant process with the wrong people will not be effective and great people with bad processes will fall down quite quickly (basically they will leave). 

It is also important that as a leader you understand that any process needs to be flexible enough to deal with the reality of life – things change, customer needs can vary and sometimes you just get a fast ball that can potentially throw you off track. Plan processes well – make them robust but ready to flex and be agile enough to adapt to different situations. 

Really give some thought to the following questions when it comes to considering processes that this team will use:

·        How will we get together regularly as a team?

·        What different types of meetings will we employ?

·        What is our decision making process?

·        What is our reporting mechanism?

·        How will we store, access and communicate information?

·        How much leeway is there on each process and procedure? How much autonomy will each individual have to flex the processes and work in an agile way?

·        How will we execute and evaluate? 

6.      What will create PRIDE in the team?

Having a purpose that team members buy into will in itself create a level of pride but going above and beyond this has a massive impact on team morale, efficiency and effectiveness. All high performing teams have a very high level of pride within both individual team members and the team as a collective. In order to create pride within the team consider these questions:

·        What is your team brand? This ties in with purpose (doesn’t it all?)

·        How would you like to be described by others outside of the team?

·        What do you want to be famous for? 

I have found that this simple 6 P’s template helps me to keep on track in a logical sequence when building a high performing team.

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All the best,

About the author

Dave Dayman

Dave Dayman

I'm passionate about leadership. I believe that thinking is not only the most powerful tool that we own but is also the one thing we have total control over. Sometimes we just need a little help to change the way we in which we choose to think!