Google did a multi-year study of the highest-performing teams at their company, hoping to understand what makes them so efficient. The results told them a simple answer: community. The highest-performing teams were ones where individuals felt comfortable being themselves. The more a team feels like a supportive community, the higher its productivity is. Often, the most high-performing teams feel like a family, and that makes an incredible difference in their results.
1. Learn what everyone’s doing. We are continually amazed how many people in an organization have no idea what their peers are working on. For example, a CEO trying to stay ahead of the competition brought us in to help his top team become more innovative. After much analysis, their answer was simple: the team wasn’t a connected community. Yes, they liked each other and laughed together. They were successful in their own functions, yet they didn’t know what the others were working on. Once the team started having weekly meetings to communicate functional priorities, their innovation, improvements, and profitability started growing again.
2. Get to know each other. “Teambuilding” events, like going to a go-kart rally or a local sports event, can be fun — but they aren’t enough. To get to peak performance, team members need to be vulnerable with each other, to open up and share personal thoughts and ideas. This builds trust and enables the difficult conversations that are needed to improve as a team. Get to know each other by sharing personal stories, such as the biggest mistake you made at work, and what you learned from it; who was your greatest mentor, and what they taught you; the biggest challenge you had growing up, and how you overcame it. A few minutes in conversations like these will go a long way towards creating a community.
3. Create common aspirations. Successful teams have one thing in common: they are always looking for ways to improve. In fact, teams that get the most benefit from coaching are often already successful, yet still looking to get better. Work with your team to pick one area for improvement. Most people, when asked, can list many areas to improve — communication, attitude, conflict, work-life balance, and many others. If you can pick just one and focus your team on improving that item for a few months, your team is united as one for a common aspiration.