Four Critical Tactics in Building High-Performance Teams

By Kate Morgan, Founder and CEO of Boston Human Capital Partners and EO Boston member

By exploring the reasons people stay at companies, you’ll find a certain pattern. For instance, studies show that what keeps people in their roles is continued learning and the knowledge that they are integral to the organization. This is critical when we think of building high-performing teams. When it comes to managing people, it really is a balancing act; give them too much, they become overwhelmed and provide too little they feel trivialized.

How and who are you hiring?

The first thing you have to look at when building high-performance teams is the hiring practice. Companies that are willing to take risks on hires, by swapping out experience for really smart people who want to get stuff done, tend to do better than those organizations that wait for the exact experience match. By hiring someone who is less experienced, but has proven themselves as having a “high need to achieve,” you give that person the opportunity to continue growing their careers and positively improves your retention.  I’m also a big advocate that companies should hire for diversity; bringing together people who don’t have common backgrounds allows for a variety of perspectives that will give your organization greater depth.

Who is leading these teams?

High-performing teams need high-performing leaders: having strong leaders that are clear and concise in their message is imperative. They are direct with their intentions and act on them. They also know when to expose vulnerabilities appropriately to maintain their human side, but they don’t go to a point where they’re displaying insecurities. The difference is very subtle – saying, “I’m human,” is very different from saying, “I’m afraid of failure.” They are also able to create meaningful dialog that keep employees feeling integral to the operation. Since having a dialogue means communication flow from both sides, leaders have an opportunity to learn more about their employees and what is meaningful to them in their work.

Leaders who manage high-performing employees are also mindful of potential glass ceilings, and they look to open new opportunities to help keep employees engaged. High-performing leaders also know when to recognize efforts and when not to – overindulging an employee with compliments can devalue praise when they should really count.

What are your group goals achieving?

Another key area for high-performing teams is to not only set individual goals, but group goals for which the team can feel responsible for. Having a team goal helps provide a shared outcome that they feel not only good about on an individual basis, but as a unit.  Creating a mission-driven team is particularly critical in my organization.  If one person is great and the others are mediocre, no one wins.  I have a simple rule that everyone has to look like a rock star to our clients. We spend a lot of time behind the scenes making sure everyone is feeling rewarded when they’re working together for the higher-level purpose of the organization.

How do you manage weak links and high-performers?

With high-performing teams, a leader needs to be able to identify weak links and cut them loose quickly. Those employees who do not embrace an opportunity to prove themselves, or share the desire to see our company succeed, need to be dealt with immediately.  An organization is much like a car, if your engine isn’t firing on all cylinders, the overall performance is directly impacted.  You and the team can’t carry the burden as it draws on everyone.  I expose the weak links by stack ranking my employees.  We provide a monthly report that we share with the team so everyone is aware of where they stand. This has been an incredible and highly-effective tool. Because we have hired people with high-need-to-achieve personality traits, they want to know where they stand and steps they need to take to win.  Every year, I take our high performers on a club trip as a reward.  It’s not cheap, but they need to know that I recognize their efforts.

Kate Morgan is Founder and CEO of Boston Human Capital Partners, an innovative recruiting management consulting firm that specializes in rapid talent growth strategies for technology start-ups at all organizational levels. 

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