Team Up for High Performance

By Deidre Paknad and Sameera Moinpour  ::  Leader Development

Our team is smart, fast, fun and diverse. That diversity makes for a better product and team. Rather than an echo chamber with a single perspective, we have diverse experiences – and our share of loud debates and laughs as a result. When team members have different cultural, generational, professional and regional experiences, everyone is a listener and learner because each member brings new perspective to products and problem solving.

In addition to diversity, great teams are intentional about driving clarity, alignment and conversation, — the keys to high performance. These are especially important across the age and experience spectrum, where people don’t operate at the same level but each must operate at their own highest level. To help everyone operate at their best, young team members and senior managers can benefit from these five tips:

For young team members from senior managers:

1. We know you’re learning on the job. As senior managers, we need to be especially good coaches and you should be fearless learners. When we offer a course correction, don’t even think about an apology — just add another insight to your knowledge base. The most voracious learners are the most successful people.

2. Find 5 templates for the task. When you get thrown in the deep end and are asked to do something you’ve never done before, go find five examples before you start. The Internet is as good for this as it was for homework in college! Pick variations you think are very good, then calibrate with your manager on which model to follow. (Even people with decades of experience look for reference examples!)

3. Framework first. As you begin work on a project, start with a framework or outline to organize your thinking. Your results will come faster and be far more cogent. Asking your manager to help you with that framework is a great idea – it’s a perfect way to get aligned and learn how they view the problem and solution.

4. There’s only one team and it works for the customer. Instead of viewing development, marketing, and sales as different or “other” teams or viewing management as a group apart from employees, remember there is only one real team. Everyone on it should work to their highest ability level in service of the customer. If it were your company, what would you do to provide customers with a higher value, higher quality product?

5. Start with the end in mind. As you take on responsibilities, rather than focusing on completing tasks, focus on the impact of the task or assignment. What business results or performance metrics was the assignment intended to improve? By how much? Did your actions improve it? If not, you’re not at end of job – tune your approach to produce the real results and only then check the box done.

For senior managers from young team members:

1. Help us be great. Act as a mentor, and guide us in taking the right steps to succeed in more difficult tasks. We are each at different places in our career and by setting time aside to mentor us with frequent 1on1s we can be more productive, happy and successful.

2. Put yourself in our shoes. Don’t forget that many of us are recent college graduates, and this might be our first or second job in the field. We do our best in soaking every ounce of knowledge up like a sponge. But no matter how hard we try, we can’t catch up with your experience and we can’t read your mind. Take time to explain processes so we can align with your plan and achieve at our highest level.

3. Let our creative juices flow. Despite our limited experience, we are full of ideas! We are itching to share these ideas with you, so even if they sound terrible — which they may be — don’t dismiss them right away. Instead, of shooting ideas down with a fast “no,” suggest an alternative and encourage further exploration. Better yet, give our ideas consideration. In a fast-changing world, we are unconstrained by conventional wisdom and unbiased by past failures, so our ideas may well be innovation the team needs.

4. Provide frequent feedback. Positive and negative feedback make us feel validated and help us grow. It’s great to get recognition on something you complete, or get feedback on how to do something even better. Don’t be afraid to give it to us — we want it! The more feedback we get, the more we can adjust and develop and the faster we grow.

5. Create an enjoyable work environment. Make sure the office is somewhere we both want to be—after all, most of our time is spent there. Happy hours and other team bonding events make for fun long-lasting memories. Encourage the team to take breaks to think at our best and boost productivity. We don’t know your expectations so sometimes we need the assurance to know that it’s not only okay, but good to have lunch away from our desks and take a break.

Stretching and succeeding with a team of people is what makes work fun and success satisfying; victory tastes sweetest when it’s with others. Shared goals, real-time alignment, and open conversations on what success and high performance look like are what enable strong individuals to become an amazing team.

— The Velocity Gurus @ WorkBoard

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