What’s Your High Performance Team Experience?
By Art Petty
I love to talk with people that have led or been part of a high performance team (HPT). Their enthusiasm is palpable. These individuals have been to the promised land of corporate collaboration and achievement for a brief period in time and they are interested in going back.
I imagine that the experience of working on a HPT is a lot like winning a major sports championship. Since I’ve been part of several HPTs, the imagine part is the major sports championship. I would like to win the Super Bowl, but it’s probably not in the cards. I’ll have to settle with coaching teams and professionals to win the Super Bowl of project and business execution.
I talk with professionals a great deal about the topic of creating and leading HPTs, and invariably a part of the discussion includes defining just what this is. Instead of offering my own sanitized, politically correct version of a HPT, I facilitate a group definition. The exercise usually starts slow and builds. I’ll paraphrase from recent flip chart notes.
A High Performance Team:
- Meets or exceeds objectives.
- A group that other people want to be a part of.
- Focused on the end goal-passionate about the work.
- “We couldn’t wait to get to work.” and “Hated when the project ended.”
- Group of people that thrive on meeting and beating challenges.
- Group on a mission that is bigger than individual jobs.
- Group that knows how to turn the unknowns into actions. (A learning team)
- Operates with distinct set of values and a focus on personal accountability.
- Knows how to fight and play together while focusing on objectives.
- Celebrates victories and turns setbacks into new challenges
At this point, the discussion took off around the many characteristics behind these statements…mission, culture, context, accomplishment, values, personal identification and behavior and I quit capturing notes. The gross majority agrees that participating on a HPT that has some or all of the above characteristics is highly desirable.
I inadvertently triggered an interesting flurry of tweets on this topic on Twitter yesterday, when I indicated that my formal and informal poll of professionals at all levels and in all different functions and industries shows that only 30% or so of professionals believe that they have been part of anything that resembles the HPT defined above.
For those research purists, I’ll doubt you see my results showing up in an HBR article anytime soon, but the combination of “show of hands” and formal survey responses coupled with many hours of group discussions about this topic leaves me comfortable that the percentage is closer to accurate than not. Of the 30% that do believe that they’ve been on a HPT, the majority indicates that they have not had this experience more than twice.
The disturbing outcome of this discussion is always around the “why not?” for the other seventy percent. The answers of course ultimately point back to issues of leadership and the over-riding leadership and performance culture. Simply stated, the firm’s leaders have not created the environment needed for high performance teams to develop.
We learn from both our successes and our failures. For now, I am most interested in hearing about your own professional experience as part of a High Performance Team. According to my numbers, so are approximately 70% of the rest of your peers.
If you’ve been part of a HPT, please jump in and add to the flip chart list above. Help answer some or all of the following:
- What was your HPT experience like?
- What conditions were in place in your organization that allowed this team to develop?
- Have you been able to replicate this experience more than once?
- What does leadership do right to enable high performance?
- And any others that you care to mention.
Thanks for diving in and sharing your experiences. We all would like to win the Super Bowl at least once. Although twice or three times wouldn’t be bad either.
Art Petty is a 25+ year experienced marketing and sales executive in business intelligence software, retail automation, life-safety and building automation markets.
Over his many years of leading and building businesses into market leaders, Petty is most proud of the many great professionals that have graced his teams and have gone on to tremendous careers and accomplishments of their own.
Petty’s runs Strategy & Management Innovations, LLC, a management consulting firm serving Business to Business and Technology organizations. He also maintains a professional blog: Art Petty on Management.
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