There is good news and bad news around team performance. The bad news: You can have the smartest, most talented individuals with high-achieving backgrounds on a team, and that team can still fail; superstar individuals grouped together do not on their own make a great team (whether in the NBA or on the NYSE).
But here’s the good news: great teamwork can be taught. Just as individual executives can be coached and trained and developed to tap their highest potential, teams can, too. Investing in teams – just like investing in individual executive development – can have a significant payoff for an organization, and is essentially required in today’s highly matrixed organizations.
Cultivating functional teams takes work. Most important, it requires in-person, real face time (not FaceTime®) among team members in order to set up the “rules of engagement” and set the team on the right course from the start. And, if the team is already underway and is beginning to struggle with some issues – such as alignment – this kind of face time may be required to course-correct and get the group back on track.
In our experience working with some of the world’s top companies and their teams (ranging from C-suite to upper manager-level), the single most valuable tool for creating high-performance teams today is the offsite. The offsite meeting – where team members can come together away from the distractions of the office – can result in a true transformation in team alignment, accountability, communication, and trust.
Offsites are needed most critically at key turning points:
During these transitions, teams can undertake a day-long offsite, allowing them to come together with the *team* as their goal. Facilitators can do the “due diligence” with individual team members beforehand, through phone calls and questionnaires, allowing the offsite session to be customized to the particular needs and styles of the team members, the team itself, and the company as a whole. Having a facilitator also allows the team leader to participate more fully as a *member* of the team and how he or she can contribute content/ideas, and not just “steer the ship.”
Moving toward alignment
The offsite develops clarity and alignment around the team’s mission, vision, and values – both in itself and as the team relates to the overall company mission and culture. If there is a new team leader or new team members, the offsite accelerates their onboarding, bypassing some of the speedbumps that happen in even basic initial team interactions and communications. And, most significantly, the team can use the offsite to develop its “team charter” – the operational framework the team will use to govern their interactions, how they will work together, and how to “leave” the team meetings with clear and concrete next steps and goals.
Ultimately, the offsite makes the entire team more effective right out of the gate. This focused day together establishes a baseline of trust and communication among all team members. Using these forums, companies can construct a series of high-functioning teams that magnify the impact of each team member, foster a powerful and accountable corporate culture, and create institutional models for success that go beyond a single individual’s contribution.
Why team development matters
1. The challenge of “specialist” superstars.
2. Style clashes under new leadership.
3. New member = new team.
4. Dispersed (and distracted) workforce.