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Working as a high performing team

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A team is stronger than the sum of its parts if its members work towards the same goal, says Mark Richardson.

The public sector, especially nursing, is under constant pressure to perform at the highest level to meet hourly and daily targets. So it’s easy to see why individuals may start focusing on their own performance rather than that of the team. The edge, however, will be achieved by focusing on team performance.

Lane4’s research identifies five factors that distinguish functioning from high performance:

  • Team mind: Nurses on a ward need to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses so they can anticipate the actions of each member and react accordingly. Being clear about roles and boundaries also allows individuals to be accountable for their contributions. To what extent do your team members know how they work best together? How able are individuals to adapt their behaviours to different demands?
  • Team emotion: High levels of mutual trust, team engagement and the ability to resolve conflict are critical if high performance is to be achieved. In high-performing teams, individuals put the goals of the team ahead of their own and so must be able to trust their teammates. How do team members feel about each other and their team as a whole? This determines how they will behave and how effectively they will perform.
  • Team process: The ability to consistently produce the most effective outcome with the greatest efficiency is a common feature of high-performing teams. They can adapt quickly to rapid changes and unpredictable circumstances and still perform to a high level. They provide regular feedback and seek it from outside the team.
  • Team leadership: Leaders of high-performing teams will provide a compelling vision (clear direction so that the individual understands what is expected of them), appropriate challenge (setting high expectations of team members) and create an environment of support (allowing autonomy and a sense of belonging). Feedback, which is both motivational and developmental, is vital. To what extent do all members display leadership qualities?
  • Team psychological edge: A team’s psychological edge refers to the mental toughness of its members and their ability to utilise psychological momentum - in other words “being on a roll”. Psychological edge is particularly important to recover quickly from setbacks. This can be a make-or-break moment - the news could debilitate the team, or push it to work harder. How well does your team pick itself up after mistakes, or celebrate success?

Five steps to developing a high-performing team

  • Recognise your strengths and weaknesses. Working in a team means skill sets complement each other
  • Get to know each other. Developing trust makes dealing with conflict easier
  • Work on team processes (decision making, coordination, communication) to make them as smooth as possible
  • Consider shared leadership to allow whoever has the most relevant skills to lead the team in certain situations
  • Build on positive experiences - let them spur you and your team on

Mark Richardson is a senior consultant at Lane4. Working in partnership with clients, he delivers development programmes to teams and leaders as a key part of organisational engagement and performance strategies.

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