Claire Laughlin of MRG, LLC joined MMANC for Webinar Wednesday on July 28. Through her presentation titled Leading a High Performing Team, Claire identified the attributes of great teams and the steps taken to construct those attributes in our own organizations. “Leadership is the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations,” is a quote Claire shared from The Leadership Challenge, by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. This resonated with me during the training and I was invigorated when by the end of the session, I could build a plan to accomplish that with my group.
The first attribute Claire introduced is a well-known one: purpose. What is the teams “why.” Not a new concept to anyone who’s spent any time in leadership training or watching TED talks. Claire explained that to lead, one needs followers and people will follow a purpose rather than a person. So, to find our purpose individually, participants completed and shared a statement filling in the blanks “To___(our contribution)so that(our impact)_.” For example, I wrote “To provide my team the motivation, support, and resources so that their high performance fulfills them and contributes to the success and positive regard of the organization.” These why statements are created by purpose-driven teams and are the motivation for all of their actions and interactions.
The second indispensable feature of high-performance teams is effective communication. Again, not a topic anyone in leadership hasn’t been steeped in already, but a challenge that many continually face. Communication is the source of trust and connection, which on their own are foundational to teamwork. Specifically, during the pandemic and working remotely, trust and connection must be carefully attended to as they are at a high risk of eroding. So, Claire provided three steps to establish team-oriented communication: insist on healthy team-oriented communication (WE not ME); build a set of communication standards and uphold them; then, model the way. Effective listening was also addressed as a critical component to communication. Good communication is critical to the next attribute of great teams.
Ownership and accountability, the third pillar of teamwork, are instilled through a coaching style of leadership. Claire shares that 18% of top executives say that holding others accountable is their greatest weakness. It is the hard conversations that we often avoid that can undermine all our other efforts at teambuilding. To counter this, we use a coaching style that involves asking questions and listening, setting goals and identifying the support and resources necessary to achieve those goals and finally, follow through. Doing this with consistency builds connection, clarity and consistency which drives excellent outcomes.
Process, here defined as the “set of habits that get us from here to there,” is the fourth attribute of collaborative teams. Through a quadrant graph with Process on one axis, low to high, and Results on the other, low to high, Claire explained how process and results intersect to make success easier and sustainable. If process is low but results are high, the success may not be sustainable or replicable while if process is low and results are also low, then the team may always operate in “crisis mode” and underperform. A team with high process scores but low results are bureaucratic and frustrating while a team with high process and high results are the high performing team. Claire made clear that “high process” did not mean a lot of direction and managing, but effective and consistent habits that lead to success, rather than burnout that occurs in the other quadrants. An example of process specifically around meetings was discussed since “meetings are the unit of team interaction.” Using meeting to focus habits on creating connection, clarity and consistency will have a huge impact on the team’s performance.
The fifth and final factor discussed was results. “What are we after?” Here, Claire explored the habit of goal-setting and discussed how working towards difficult goals actually rewires our brains to be more effective and keep us engaged. We also need a specific plan to achieve the goals, so we would ask our teams “what is one step we can take today towards this goal?” In addition, we would create an action plan with the goal stated followed by the deliverables with specific activities needed to accomplish each deliverable. A person and due date are listed for each activity and the action plan is now something the team can commit to and be accountable to. The light went on for me here when we get to this concrete step of setting goals in motion with action plans: the team set the goal aligned with their purpose, created trust within the team through effective communication that works through healthy conflict thus developing great processes or habits and holding one another accountable to them, thus creating an emotional attachment to the goals of the team and BOOM- people want to struggle to accomplish those goals. Leadership: hacked.
Thank you to Claire Laughlin for this great presentation.