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3 Keys Every Leader Needs to Build High-Performance Teams

3 Keys Every Leader Needs to Build High-Performance Teams

High-performance teams leverage the skills of everyone in your organization toward a common goal, achieving more together than people can on their own.

There are three keys to great teams:

  • A healthy executive team models collaboration and working together for the mission of the organization and sets the tone for other teams.
  • A foundation of trust enables team members to assume the best as they work within and across teams.
  • A productive approach to conflict leverages diverse ideas and provides space for creative problem-solving.

Modeling: A Healthy Executive Team

How do the senior leaders in your organization view their participation in the executive team? Are they lobbying for more budget for their own team, highlighting the importance of their own projects, and minimizing the input of other teams? Or do they see their collaboration on the executive team as a celebration of the overall mission of the organization? A healthy senior team demonstrates that each part of the organization is essential in the overall achievement of goals.

The tone that the senior leader sets for the organization will cascade throughout the staff, for good or for bad. Will it be a senior team that is committed to organization-wide goals, collaboration to achieve results, and modeling great teamwork for other teams? Instead of focusing on their own personal success, will they be supporting team achievements and the overall mission of the organization? This spirit of partnership is a hallmark of a Flourishing WorkplaceTM, where the good of the whole is more important than a sub-team, or self-interest.

Sports team analogies provide an easy-to-see example of a team working well together and trusting each member to do their best for the team. If you’ve sat in the bleachers and watched a skilled volleyball team, you know they don’t rely on one star player. A winning team uses the skills of each player, working together. With each rotation, the team agrees on how the setter, hitter, and blockers will work together for each point. When a player is substituted into the rotation, the team will often have a quick huddle to re-set how they can work together for the next point. A great volleyball team recognizes that the members must work together, and not rely on the abilities of one player. The same is true of a great leadership team.

Trust as the Foundation for Great Teamwork

In flourishing organizations that I consult with, there are many real-life examples of how great teamwork is based on a foundation of trust in inspirational leadership.

Apartment Life has invested in an atmosphere of high trust. This has been fostered and now bears fruit, producing an environment where people are open to working together across departments on their headquarters and regional leadership teams. Trust enhances cross-team collaboration. It becomes the glue that builds cohesion.

At Pathway Church in Wichita, the leaders are building a cohesive whole, in a church with multiple campuses. After a transition from a highly-effective and beloved Executive Pastor, the leadership team committed to drawing the campuses together to support the mission and vision of the whole church. Based on a culture of trust and openness, they have seen the benefit of teamwork across the whole network to further their impact on God’s kingdom.

In flourishing workplaces, top leaders and middle managers invest in relationships to build trust in their teams. Time spent getting to know each other on a personal level builds sincere care for each other. Sincere care builds connections that make people less comfortable lingering in conflict, and more comfortable in working together toward common goals. This relational connection provides a foundation of trust, as people experience care from their leaders and see the character qualities of leaders in action. A high level of trust is essential for flourishing teamwork.

Healthy Conflict Resolution Skills

Great teamwork doesn’t mean the absence of conflict. It isn’t realistic to expect that there will be no disagreements on a healthy team. In fact, the absence of disagreement might be a signal that people don’t trust that the team is a safe place to share diverse ideas.

Conflict resolution is a skill that can be learned and included in regular discussions in team meetings. ACR Supply Company, an HVAC and refrigeration wholesaler in North Carolina, has built 16 hours of conflict-resolution training into its development program for every employee.

Troy Meachum, the president of ACR Supply, describes how the senior leadership team leverages conflict, “We were able to have some very passionate conversations because nobody questioned other people’s motives. Everybody knew we were pursuing the truth, and we wanted to get to the bottom of whatever the issue was so that we could get the best resolution for whatever the problem was.” (Road to Flourishing, by Al Lopus, p. 37.)

Next Steps in Building Great Teams

  • Invest in the long-term health of your senior leadership team. Building a healthy team takes intention and time. Make sure your leadership team meetings are focused on collaboration toward common goals. If there is a spirit of competition rather than collaboration, invest time in relationship building and strategic focus. Senior leaders may feel like they are “too busy” for this emphasis; resist the temptation to gloss over the need to build stronger senior team cohesion. In the long run, this investment will pay off in a Flourishing WorkplaceTM. And skimping on team health can derail the achievement of your mission. Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a classic book that continues to be relevant. The Team Assessment in the appendix is a gold mine—and it’s probably already sitting on your bookshelf.
  • Evaluate the current status of teamwork in your organization. An Employee Engagement Survey with Best Christian Workplaces will provide an assessment of the current level of trust and health of teamwork in your organization. Without data, you will be guessing how your staff feels about teamwork and collaboration. Sagging trust in leaders may not be evident until it hits a crisis point. High-quality data offers a solid basis for an action plan to help trust and teamwork transform your mission accomplishment.
  • Equip team leaders throughout your organization to lead healthy teams. Provide training resources and coaching to help team leaders at all levels of your organization. Learning to leverage the potential of healthy conflict can increase the creativity and productivity of teams. Rather than fearing conflict, Fantastic Teams understand the value of different perspectives and respectfully engage all team members. Equip all team leaders with Best Christian Workplaces’ resource – “Disagree with Purpose: Fostering Healthy Conflict.”

Your investments in a healthy senior leadership team, a foundation of trust, and conflict-resolution skills will set the stage for high-performance teams and facilitate the achievement of your mission. In addition, during a season of unexpected challenges (which happen regularly), great teams pull together, rather than splintering into divided camps. Start reaping the benefits of great teams by intentional investment.



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