Building & Managing High Performing Teams

Date:   Wednesday , June 15, 2016

Headquartered in California, Keysight is a global leader in manufacturing test and measurement software & equipment that accelerate the deployment of new technologies in the wireless communications, aerospace and defense and semiconductor domains.

Every organization is constantly seeking new ways to ensure that their employees are more productive and their business is more profitable. In spite of creating rigorous strategic plans, many companies don\'t even come close to delivering the required outcomes. Who should be blamed for this? Employees; Management; Leadership; or the Organization? One needs to realize that the organization\'s culture, i.e. the way the employees behave and do things in a given scenario differentiates one organization from other. Every organization needs to reflect on whether they have been able to build or promote a high performance culture or teams within the organization. Many organizations fumble when they have to answer this question, and there are quite a few, who conveniently believe that they have a great culture because of their legacy despite the fact that they haven\'t invested enough to build high performance culture and teams.

Organizations must remember that the team development and effectiveness is in the context of organizations\' shared vision, mission, business goals and values. Leadership and management capability must be built across levels so that the team attributes, skills and attitudes can be aligned towards delivering the expected business results and achieving the shared vision.

Hire Smart & Foster Cohesive Teams

The hiring managers and leaders need to select individuals who fit the organization values and are smart i.e. individuals who know what they want to accomplish, are aware of and proactive. The leaders must always aim to build cohesive teams which are balanced and complement each other. By doing so, they ensure that their teams perform well even in adverse situations.

Stimulate an Entrepreneurship Spirit

Unknowingly, many leaders come in the harm\'s way. Rather than encouraging their teams to find new way of doing the same things differently, they prefer to be in a comfort zone and follow the established practice(s). In this process, they not only inhibit innovation and growth but also limit their teams to do more. Authority, control with fondness to do reviews and provide less support is another mistake leaders do which hampers the performance of their teams. In this millennials era where \'being agile\' is the new normal, \'tread the unknown\' is considered visionary - leaders need to stimulate an entrepreneurship spirit within their teams. This is the mindset that fosters innovation, future readiness and continuous improvement - which are the traits of a high performing team. For the entrepreneurship culture to grow and succeed, organizations must develop a risk appetite and embrace failures that come in the way.

Connect the Dots

In my day-to-day conversation with employees in corridors and cafeteria queues, they proudly talk about the projects they are doing and the loads of work attached to it. But the question that remains unanswered is connectivity of the work they do to the bigger picture - the organization\'s purpose, vision and goals. As a leader of the team, one needs to be cognizant of the fact that not everyone in the team knows the strategy and understands it the way it is meant to be. One needs to constantly communicate the shared vision with the team and confirm the understanding so that everyone rallies together to deliver the expected results.

Sketch out a \'from-to\' chart that shows where we are now and where we are headed. Share it with your teams to make sure all are aligned. Then, prepare a list of projects aligned to the objectives with your team, select the key projects and map it to organization\'s goals. Draw lines between the two lists i.e. the key projects and the organization goals, and then connect the dots. If there are projects that don\'t align with organization\'s objectives, consider re-focusing them or killing them. This is the foundation of how you, as a leader of the team, could build highly motivated, passionate and energetic teams which delivers a high performance.

Infuse a Mentoring Culture

In one of my informal connect with employees, I got a great suggestion from a new employee. I made him a project lead, provided support so that he can run the project and educate others. The point that I want to emphasize is that it is important to create a mentoring culture within your teams. By encouraging new, experienced and less experienced employees to share knowledge, ideas and advice, we can bring something new to the table which is more effective and efficient. I strongly feel that the old-school top-down programs in which mentors and proteges are assigned to each other don\'t work as well as relationships that come about organically. We should help mentors and proteges find each other on the basis of the task prerequisites and individual\'s capabilities, knowledge & experience, rather than being governed by hierarchy/ designation/role/reporting relationships. By doing this we can create a healthy collaborative learning platform where one person can contribute to another\'s project or goal. This helps in incubating high performing teams.

Spot High Performers

Organization must identify high performers at an early stage, groom them, and take care of them by constantly giving them challenging assignments. It is important that high performing individuals are given enough opportunities to channelize their capabilities, talent and energies. They consistently perform better than others and always try to outdo their own-self, their own set benchmarks. And, in a healthy work environment, these are the bunch of employees who inspire others and help in building high performing teams.

Here is a checklist to identify the high performers -
- Works hard, works smart.
- Takes the lead; does not wait for stuff to be handed down.
- Likes to take decisions.
- Wants to be differentiated.
- Wants variety in the job.
- Wants to be connected to \'senior leaders\'.
- Likes to work for influential managers.

The Magic Potion for High Performing Teams

To ensure that high performance culture and teams keep burgeoning in the organization, it is imperative that leaders and team managers constantly keep communicating with their teams and invest time in developing the entire team and not just focus on the high performing individuals. The team which stays, strives and succeeds together is always ready to go the extra mile. In addition, the leaders and managers should also repetitively work towards inspiring people by helping them find their purpose in the work they do; a purpose which satisfies their personal aspirations and use this as means to achieve the business results. This purpose thus becomes the driver for people to come to work and perform with best of their abilities.