How can you tell if your team is a high-performance team or one like any other? Are there signs that let you know your team is on the right track?
The QLab team has found a very personal view on this topic in recent months. We think we have recognized that a few very concrete factors determine whether a team can work together and deliver accordingly at a high level.
How do we create our teams?
The QLab puts together teams of five internationally selected students each. These come from all parts of the world, including India, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Germany, and many other countries. We ensure we have as many different disciplines on board as possible and don't fall prey to gender bias. Diversity is the key!
After our team members have spent an hour getting to know each other, our client gives them a task (the team's goal), which they must solve in just five weeks. This means that they don't really know each other, the topic or their working model up to this point.
So strangers begin an adventure that must ultimately produce an excellent result for QLab's customers. But how does this succeed? Is it the process, is it the topics, or is it just luck?
The composition of the team
We start with the selection of students. Without guarantees, we hope that the people we find will have the qualities to make our team successful.
We summarize here for you which characteristics you need for a successful sprint. We think that the following factors form the basis for high-performance teams.
- The willingness to share knowledge and cooperate
The fact that teams have to cooperate is a no-brainer. But all team members must be willing to work together. Often this creates the commitment of each individual person to contribute to the goal.
Each team receives a formulated work assignment and prepares itself accordingly. The quality and precision of this goal formulation are also decisive: the more precisely this task is developed, the faster the team gets to work.
- The willingness to leave the comfort zone
However, innovative solutions do not emerge if the system limits its scope. While the students already have a wide variety of backgrounds and, thus, expertise, they usually know next to nothing about the project topic and have to familiarize themselves with it from scratch.
They can only do this by asking experts. But even experts who are geniuses in their field and can explain the situation in the best possible way always know only part of the view of the problem. As a result, they can often only recognize the connections between their field and other domains to a limited extent.
For our team members, this means looking outward. Our students identify professors, CEOs, or specialists in particular perspectives during an initial Internet search. Then it's a matter of classifying these key people more precisely with the help of LinkedIn and getting them to agree to an interview.
Within conversations that often last only a few minutes, our students must find out what these complete strangers know. For many in the team, this requires a gigantic overcoming.
- The willingness to contribute as a person
It is amazing how much each team grows together. They constantly tell each other personal stories, explain where they come from, what moves them, and what they have experienced. This is how relationships are formed.
It's no secret that people learn in relationships, and that's precisely what happens in this trusting environment with each other that the teams create for themselves to the greatest extent possible, in which they get involved as people and open up to each other.
Leadership, not micro-management!
We do not leave the team alone. Meetings are moderated, there are models for procedures, and we make sure that we formulate tasks clearly and that communication in the group is structured.
There is also the occasional intervention. If we discover blockages or see that a person is becoming too dominant, we intervene. But this is far from micro-management and based on the principles Boris has already described in Self-Organized Needs Leadership discussed.
Experience self-efficacy quickly
This leadership style and the agile process model get team members doing and quickly show how effective they are. They realize they are working on real results, feel themselves as creators, and thus work even more focused.
Criticism of their work is then merely a data point that can be integrated because it does not criticize them as persons. The effectiveness itself is what counts, not the result. In this way, students experience themselves from the beginning and immediately experience a benefit from working in a team.
The need to learn from each other
The most interesting observation, however, is that team members need to learn from each other. They are open to each other's expertise, interested in their personalities, and curious to learn how they live, think, and act.
This requires a willingness to listen and to integrate what is heard. It is clear that they gain from mutual openness, and interpersonal otherness quickly loses its terror.
These few elements are what make up our high-performance teams. Much of this is already written in countless books. But the crucial thing is that you put it into practice with your teams.
It's simple: Invite a difficult task, take an agile process model, and support the team members to live the above elements. Then your team will quickly become a high performance team!
Boris Gloger, Co-Founder and CEO of QLab Think Tank GmbH