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The qualities of a successful team and the importance of performance management

I have always been a firm believer that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but in an organisation, this premise requires for leadership, collaboration and a common purpose.  Due to it not being unreasonable to conjecture that teamwork is a key factor underpinning a company’s overall performance, we thought it would be relevant to consolidate some existing research on the topic and add our own. You will find that teamwork and performance are in most cases inextricably intertwined and it is therefore important not to underestimate the significance of internal unity since performance can suffer at the expense of poor teamwork.

But why is teamwork so critical and what are the key qualities behind it? For one, high-performing teams can build affinity, brand appeal and long-term value, all fundamental in today’s competitive landscape as companies work hard to differentiate themselves from their competition.  A supportive team can be critical to morale and the wellbeing of an employee in the workplace –having your employees as natural brand ambassadors is a strong way of showcasing your company.

So does the size of an organisation and the size of a team matter?

The answer is yes to both. On average, teams in smaller organisations outperform mid-sized and larger organizations. Over half of respondents from smaller organizations consider their team as achieving its potential, and this decreases to 35% of senior executives from mid-sized organizations and 39% in large organizations. Consolidating these findings with the answers across my organisation, we could speculate that some elemental teamwork attributes in the workplace - shared vision & rewards, clear structure and leadership can be more difficult to achieve in a larger organisation, impacting on the overall performance. Whilst structure and hierarchies are necessary in most cases, it is as important to avoid unnecessary hierarchy and take into account that in some cases, flatter structures work better.

What do people believe are the key qualities of a successful team?

I asked some of my colleagues at Freshminds what they consider as important qualities in their teams, you can see the results below:

It is not a surprise to confirm that collaboration and communication are leading the table. Successful communication is a trait that the highest performing teams leverage on to outperform average teams. Communication and interpersonal skills are vital for any organisation and it is important to act on these before they become an issue. Everyone seems to acknowledge communication as a key attribute, but how else can you improve your team’s performance?

6 ways to improve team performance

  • Shared goals: When competing in digital environments, the changing nature of work requires organisations to redefine Performance management (PM) to be more flexible, data-driven and development oriented, focusing not only on the individuals but on the skills and teams. As the interrelation between people and processes is becoming intrinsic to getting work done, team performance is overtaking individual performance as the ‘salient unit of analysis’. Having team targets and shared rewards can foster in-team collaboration; collective spirit and can ease the pressure as well. Building a team with strong members who share the company’s values and are dedicated to a common purpose is vital.
  • Understand your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. You can then assign them roles and responsibilities that play to their strengths and make sure that within a team you have a range of strengths.
  • Bring the right people on board. Employers can focus too much on specific skills that an employee might have instead of the potential they have to develop new ones. A company looking to grow needs to have people that can reinvent their skills on a continuous basis: “You can’t hire someone because they have a particular skill. You have to hire someone because they have the capacity to continue to learn.
  • Recognition and motivation: Employees are more likely to feel committed in their job if they can feel they are adding value to the organisation and essentially feel that they are part of it. Recognition, open door management and clear reporting lines can lead to a more engaged workforce. Simpler reporting lines in small organisations can translate into better communication and therefore enhanced accountability, boosting performance. Motivated employees are more likely to positively affect their colleagues and ultimately their overall performance.
  • Feedback.  While PM has historically performed two functions: appraisal and professional development, the asymmetrical attention these two elements receive can make PM fail. The end of the year assessment needs not only to rate and appraise performance but also serve as an opportunity to emphasize performance improvement. Performance management needs to empower teams to get the right feedback, at the right time, but it is also vital to take action on the feedback with a proper support structure in place to help the team perform better and positively impact their organization’s goals. Employees want to know how they are doing and how they can develop themselves better without having to rely on a single rating on their performance at the end of the year.
  • Flexibility and trust: While flexible working can create tensions between employers and employees that stem from the fear of not finding the correct balance, it also allows employers to attract and most importantly, retain the best talent. Flexibility requires collaboration, accountability and trust to be in place, so it’s vital to review these elements before implementing a flexible structure. 

While the elements of a successful team can vary from the organisation and across different industries, overlooking the importance of improving team performance seems to be a recurrent issue. Defining the top priorities is the first step to redefine performance management and ensure these translate into hiring the right people.

Jon White

Marina Maxwell

Client Consultant

If you want to find out more or how Freshminds can help your business then get in touch with Marina at marina.maxwell@freshminds.co.uk