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The Key to Building Top-Performing Teams

Recap how to build top-performing teams—through the lens of a key link.

In the previous post, we talked about team identity and cohesion and how they not only lead to top performance but to a host of other positive attitudes and behaviors (e.g., engagement, innovation and commitment) that result in an even greater competitive advantage. In the final post of this series, we’ll recap how to build top-performing teams through the lens of a key link—hope—and talk about how to instill team pride.

Before we begin, let’s set the context. As we said in the previous post, social interactions have emotional effects on people which in turn influence attitudes and behaviors. When team interactions are consistently effective, positive emotions become associated with membership and lead to positive attitudes toward the team and positive behaviors in support of the team’s goals.

But let’s be honest. There are no perfect teams.

When team interactions or decision-making processes lead to unpleasant experiences, negative emotions emerge such as frustration, hurt, anger, resentment or resignation. Often, team members keep their feelings to themselves, where they fester. Or worse, they share their experiences with others and negative emotions start to spread.

And when the interactions that led to the negative emotions persist, attitudes sour and behavior changes in ways that don’t serve the team well. You know the story. People start to put their needs first. They’re too busy to help. They do the bare minimum. They say yes when they mean no, then don’t support decisions. Energy is lost. Morale suffers and others start picking up on it—so it spreads. Now there’s an even bigger issue to address.

Think about the teams you’re currently on. They likely do some things well and there are likely members who bring a lot to the team. On the other hand, if your teams are like most, there are likely areas where they’re less developed. Or worse, there may be areas where negative emotions, attitudes and behaviors exist. For example,

  • Are people reluctant to help one another?
  • Are they disengaged?
  • Are people sometimes disrespectful?
  • Do they distrust others’ intentions or actions?
  • Are people sometimes dishonest?
  • Do they ever withhold information?
  • Is morale an issue?
  • Will people likely leave when the economy improves?
  • Do people watch the clock, waiting to leave?
  • Are there factions with separate goals and aims?
  • Are some people arrogant?
  • Do ideas get shot down?
  • Are people looking out for themselves?
  • Is there tension between team members?
  • Do some people think the worst of others?
  • Is there a lack of team focus?
  • Is team performance lower than it should be?

If any of the above resonates with you, or if your team suffers from other attitude, behavior, or performance issues, then there are likely negative emotions in your team. And if negative emotions have been there for a while, they’ve likely led to the negative attitudes and behaviors associated with your team’s issues.

The good news is, negative attitudes and behaviors can be turned around with a key link—hope. Because hope is a positive emotion with the power to turn negative emotions around. And when you turn negative emotions into positive ones, positive attitudes and behaviors follow.

In the previous post, we talked about team identity (i.e., sense of team unity). A strong team identity leads to team pride, and team pride leads to cooperation, job satisfaction, loyalty, and commitment. Pride matters, and you can build it—by instilling hope, turning negative emotions into positive ones, and generating the team identity and cohesion that follow.

How do you instill hope? It all starts with awareness, being humble, and being authentic. Because people respect honesty and sincerity, and teams need to see things as they really are in order to know where to further develop.

With proper guidance and direction, trust increases when new behaviors play out over time and situations start to change for the better. In this way, hope—the feeling that what is wanted can be had—is realized. And when people begin to see and believe that things can be better, negative emotions begin to subside, hope and other positive emotions increase, attitudes start to change for the better, and so does behavior. As things continue to improve, positive emotions, attitudes and behaviors get stronger and stronger.

So the key to building top-performing teams is hope that’s founded in sincere efforts to improve situations. When interactions become more effective and are sustained over time, trust is strengthened and the benefits that come from it are realized.

If you’re serious about creating a culture of trust that leads to top performance, start with a foundation of fundamental principles about how to be and how to treat others. Include everyone in the process. Ensure everyone has a meaningful voice. Respectfully strive to understand all perspectives. Help people see things clearly. Find a way to support everyone’s views. Bring issues to closure.

Your team can become one that everyone can be proud to be a member of. Take the initiative and be a role model. We can guide you. Our Executive coaching and consulting services can help you build a culture of trust that will give you a competitive advantage. For more information, contact us.

Action item:

  • What negative emotions, attitudes and/or behaviors are showing up in your teams and organization?
  • Can you imagine infusing hope—the feeling that what is wanted can be had—into your teams and organization? What would that consist of?
  • What would it look and feel like if people were truly proud to be a part of your teams and organization?