Success builds teams

Some say crisis brings people together like nothing else can, I tend to disagree. I believe success bonds people better than any crisis (real or simulated) that the team goes through. It is often said – put a winning team together with the right mix of people and sit back to watch the results just happen! Yes, great teams definitely seem to be more successful. However, is the relationship as simple and causal as it seems? Or could it be the other way around, that success breeds team spirit and better bonding? Strange as the idea might seem, our experience with multiple teams across segments seems to suggest that the relationship between team bonding and team performance might not be as straight forward as it seems at first sight.

If anything, team bonding and team performance seem to have a cyclical relationship. Team bonding might be a necessary but not sufficient condition to ensure team success and team success seems to add energy back to help the team bond better together.

If this a virtuous cycle, what is the common thread, which teams can use as a guiding beacon through tough times? Various works by experts on the matter seem to suggest that developing a culture focused on performance is imperative to team success. In their authoritative work Wisdom of Teams, Katzenbach and Smith argue for developing a culture where performance is considered above all else in a team setting. How do you set about developing a performance culture within your team?

Two aspects seem to tower above all else in this regard. The norms and examples set by the team leader play a vital role in establishing a team culture based on performance. Remaining positive in the toughest times, while guiding the team towards a strong success-based vision is one of the traits that strong team leaders exhibit. The other is clear communication across all tiers. Right from the team leader to HR to the marketing department, the messaging around a performance driven culture should be consistently delivered to the team members until it becomes second nature. This helps the team handle the pace and challenges of an ever changing business environment. The communication also should clearly lay out the impact of performance on the organization and the employees themselves.  Think about the companies which have re-invented themselves after a major crises, almost all of them seem to have had clear communication around what a successful future would look like for the company and for the employees.

On a side note, there could be lesson in this for consultants who design team building exercises or simulations as well. Simulations, which ensure the team can win after going through challenges clearly are a better analogy to a team’s real work scenario than exercises which leave the participants feeling “Why did we do what we just did”?

However, is a performance based culture that easy to implement? The answer is NO, but with dedicated effort and time, it is certainly possible.  To quote Margaret Mead, – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has…”

Do share your thoughts on the subject as well.

Cheers,

Rakesh

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by Sreeja on June 7, 2011 - 8:16 am

    Rakesh,
    Very interesting blog! I never thought about it this way. Its kinda true, a winning team is more likely to put aside differences because they are on a high roll. However, this same habit of putting aside differences instead of sorting them out can create conflicts once the high of the success wears out and/or make it seem like they are working things at a superficial level – what do you think?

    • #2 by Rakesh Balachandran on June 7, 2011 - 8:23 am

      Hi Sreeja,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, there is always the risk of that happening. In our experience, successful teams are more open towards dealing with conflict and there is a certain degree of what can be called as “productive conflict”. One simple benchmark we use to measure is to find out how comfortable team members are to share their weaknesses with each other. Successful teams seem to be able to deal with conflict more efficiently by handling it in a fair, transparent manner compared to unsuccessful teams, where conflict simmers beneath the surface and ultimately might even lead to disbanding of a team. However, if unproductive conflict arises due to irreparable personal differences, this might cause even a successful team to collapse in the long run if not addressed.

      Cheers,
      Rakesh

  2. #3 by sree on June 7, 2011 - 8:32 am

    Rakesh,

    So, can we say that a team that has the right performance focus, is composed of great people and deals with conflict effectively can be successful? Or is it that being successful somehow makes people better at dealing with conflicts?

    • #4 by Rakesh Balachandran on June 7, 2011 - 9:35 am

      Hi,

      The first one seems more accurate in this context to me. The teams with the right performance focus seem to handle conflict as a healthy part of getting the best out of everyone in the team. Of course as with any other generalization, there could be exceptions! 🙂

      Cheers,
      Rakesh

  1. Daily Leadership Thought #118 – 8 Characteristics Of A Winning Team « Ed Robinson's Blog

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