By Katrina Harpell

What are the features of a high performing team? Successful teams are built on a foundation of trust. They have clarity around expectations of the team and each other. They consistently work on improving their processes. And, of course, they have created a sense of fun and camaraderie.

Successful teams don’t happen by chance. They are planned and created by exceptional leaders who support and guide the team along the way to growth. As such, when a new leader is brought in, it’s important to ensure the team remains successful. In fact, bringing in a new leader can be the perfect opportunity to either course-correct an under-performing team, or reinforce and ensure the continued success of an already high performing team.

One tactic to take when a new leader has been brought in is to formally acknowledge the desire to create a positive culture that thrives on success, and to plan for that success. This process can begin via a two-day workshop wherein a neutral, skilled facilitator works with the new leader and the entire team to create an Acceleration plan. This plan comes complete with relevant exercises to encourage open communication and allow the team to share and leverage their strengths. Though our application of the process is unique and reflects the distinctive skills and experience of our facilitators, the components of the workshop are fairly straightforward.

1. Star attributes: What should we know about each member of the team?

At the beginning of the process, it is important to learn about each member of the team. What are their unique skills and attributes? What sets them apart from their colleagues? What personality traits make them shine? Who would you turn to when you need someone who is caring, encouraging, forceful, or keen?

One of the techniques our facilitators use is an exercise we call ‘Star Attributes.’ First, each person on the team takes some time to quietly identify their own key attributes. Then, everyone is asked to move from worksheet to worksheet writing down the unique attributes that they appreciate about each of their colleagues. The focus at this point is to list positive attributes, or to identify the positive side of less than ideal attributes. For instance, someone who might be called stubborn (negative) is actually committed to their goals (positive). At the end of the session, each person has worksheet full of external accolades and attributes to be proud of. Sometimes, people even learn new things about themselves, new reasons to understand the positive features they bring to the team. Each person can then review the worksheets and compare them to their own information to see how they match up.

2. Change perceptions: What attributes do successful and effective teams have?

In the second stage of the process, the intent is to understand how teams currently function and how employees want them to function. Once again, a skilled facilitator leads the team through a discussion of what makes a good team, including identifying teams in the public life that they admire. Can they identify the attributes of those highly successful teams? For example, some people name the Obamas as knowing how to build and sustain highly successful teams. Other people have named the Toronto Blue Jays (back in the 90s!) when they won the championship twice. In addition, what are the watch-outs that eventually lead to poor performing teams? Once all of the attributes have been identified, the team then takes some time to ‘vote’ on the attributes they admire the most and want to see reflected in their own team.

3. Build resiliency: What is your vision for a winning team?

In this third stage, the goal is to understand individual people and how they like to lead and be led, how they like to give and receive feedback. One of the exercises our facilitators use at this stage involves separating the team from the leader. The new leader answers these types of questions with a focus on their style, goals, and values. The team also answers these questions with a focus on their expectations, feedback, and working style. At the end, the facilitator brings everyone together and works to find similarities, build consensus on mismatched goals, and bring the team closer together.

4. Assimilate the new leader: How do we move forward as a successful team?

With all the personal discussions out of the way, the fourth stage has the team work through the Bog Points – those tough, mismatched goals that need to be worked through before success can be achieved. The facilitator is tasked with a tough job at this point as the discussion needs to be honest but they also need to ensure that the discussion brings everything into the open in a safe and judgement-free space. Of course, after a solid two days of carefully guided communications, the facilitator has built a foundation of trust and transparency that the team can build on.

Following these four stages with the introduction of a new leader will help to ensure that high performing teams remain successful. And, in some cases, it will help a new leader course-correct an under-performing team. If you’re interested in accelerating your team, please get in touch with us! We’d love to help you continue on the road to success!