I’ve had a lot of conversations with different team members in a lot of different organisations over the last few years about team performance. On the surface everything looks hunky dory – they are achieving objectives, hitting targets and seem to be performing well. But the reality, once I dig under the surface and start asking questions, is one which just makes me sad, and walking away from the conversation feeling desperately sorry for them.

They’re miserable! Or nervous, or depressed or frustrated or upset. Which is horrible! No-one comes to work for that. As a coach, I ask all the right questions and help them see how they can help themselves, help get their team to work more effectively as a team, or challenge their team members’ behaviour, or challenge their line manager.

As a manager however, this makes me want to take their leaders and shake them! Many of these teams, and they exist at all levels of organisations, are firmly in the forming or storming stage of Tuckman’s model of Group Development and are desperately in need of structure, focus, good feedback and a bit of direction. If they had that it would probably be an easy fix, but they aren’t getting it. Hence they are stifled, frustrated, in conflict at times, a little bit out of control, mistakes are happening too often, and communication is poor.

Ultimately, they are not performing to their potential.

So let’s look at what you can do as a leader to engage your team in high performance behaviours. It isn’t down to your team members to fix this, you need to take the first step!

1. Common Purpose: Establish a what your team stands for, the reason why they exist, and their purpose in the organisation. Makes sure everyone in the team buys into it.

2. Clear Outcomes and Goals: Establish clear objectives for the team, for 3,6,12 months and further. And make sure these are outcome based, not a list to tasks! Make sure everyone is aware of these!

3. Team Roles: Establish the role each person plays in the team, their strengths, areas of responsibility, and what you will call on them to do. Make sure everyone knows what part each person plays.

4. Team Behaviours: How are you going to play as a team? By this I mean for example:

a. We will be at meetings on time and prepared

b. We will not cancel one to one’s due to poor time management

c. We will respect each other, and not bitch behind each other’s back

They can be whatever works for your team, but you need to agree them together and stick to them.

5. Regular Communication: As a team and one to one. Whether this is weekly, fortnightly, monthly – agree it, set the expectation and stick to it. Even if it’s only a 10 minute get together – be consistent, and share information openly with each other

6. Be accountable: individually you need to be accountable for what you agree to do, and play your part in the team. There is no point agreeing as a group, then winging about it later. Step up and be there!

7. Hold each other to account: this final point boils down to trust. If you are to truly be a high performing team, you need to trust each other, be honest with each other, and call each other out when one of you doesn’t deliver, fails to be accountable or shows poor team behaviour.

Delivering true high performance in a team is really hard work. If I look back over 20 years of being in and leading teams, I think I have been part of a high performing team twice, and each time for only c 18 months. Of the teams I’ve lead – not all of them have achieved it, as it requires everyone to step up and commit.

Most of all it requires point 7 to happen. If you aren’t willing to address the conflict openly with each other, without taking offence, harbouring grudges and sulking – you’re not there yet. Revisit all the points above, and recommit to each other and be really honest.

But above all, keep at it. When you are there, you’ll know it!