Building An Outclass Team

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Don't you want increased productivity, improved customer service, more flexible systems, employee empowerment? Can you do it alone? Of course, you need an outclass team to complete this mission.  We all have seen high-performing teams. We appreciate them, admire them, and get inspiration from them. But we really don't know the secret behind. After having worked with teams of various backgrounds and styles team possibilities has identified SEVEN key secrets of outclass team.

Focus on the big picture:
We have seen outclass teams totally dedicated to the purpose and values of the organization. Team members understand how their work fits into corporate objectives and they agree that their team's goals are achievable and aligned with corporate mission and values. This commitment provides team the foundation for synergy.

Members of the team are ready to put aside personal needs for the benefit of the work team or the company. All team members can not only see the picture but this agreement on the big picture provides a backdrop against which all team decisions can be viewed. It doesn't mean that outclass teams don't face any conflicts. However, when conflict arises, the team uses alignment with the big picture (comprising organizational purpose, vision and values) important criteria for acceptable solutions. 

2. Caring communication
Outclass teams constantly strive to reach their full potential. The members of the team feel comfortable in saying what they think, they ask for help, share new or unpopular ideas, and risk making mistakes. These teams create an atmosphere where team members show concern, trust one another, and focus on solutions, not problems. We have noticed that they teams create an environment where communication is friendly, open, and positive.

Friendly communications are more likely when individuals know and respect one another. Team members show caring by asking about each other's lives outside of work, respecting individual differences, joking, and generally making all feel welcome. Open communication is equally important to a team's success. To assess work performance, members must provide honest feedback, accept constructive criticism, and address issues head-on. To do so requires a trust level supported by direct, honest communication. 

When members communicate with each other positively it impacts the energy of the work team. When members talk about what they like, need, or want, it is quite different from wailing about what annoys or frustrates them. The former energizes; the latter demoralizes. 

3. Sense of connection
An outclass team constantly find creative ways to meaningfully connect with larger work organization, to team members, and to other work teams. 

When a work team is connected to the organization, members discuss team performance in relationship to corporate priorities, customer feedback, and quality measures. They consider team needs in light of what's good for the whole organization and what will best serve joint objectives. We suggest companies encourage such connection by keeping communication lines open. Management priorities, successes, and headaches should flow one way; team needs, successes, and questions should flow in the other direction. 

When a work team has developed strong connections among its own members, peer support manifests itself in many ways. Colleagues volunteer to help without being asked, cover for each other in a pinch, congratulate each other publicly, share resources, offer suggestions for improvement, and find ways to celebrate together. For developing and maintaining such connections we recommend companies to allow time before and after meetings for brief socialization, schedule team lunches, create occasional team projects outside of work, circulate member profiles, take training together, and provide feedback to one another on development. 

We have seen that teams that connect well with other work groups think of those groups as "internal customers". It is observed that not only they treat requests from these colleagues with the same respect shown to external customers, they also ask for feedback on how they can better serve them. They engage in win/win negotiating to resolve differences, and they share resources such as training materials, videos, books, equipment, or even improvement ideas.

In order to establish powerful connections with other groups, outclass teams might consider: scheduling monthly cross-departmental meetings, inviting representatives to their own team meeting, and combining efforts on a corporate or community project. 

4. Staying together in tough moments
Individual champions are less required in business today. Outclass teams have members who help others achieve success for the team. Team success depends upon the degree of interdependence recognized within the team. In an outclass team, members can count on each. Members trust that when a colleague agrees to return a telephone call, read a report, talk to a customer, attend a meeting, or change a behavior, the job will be done. There will be follow-through. Team members are keenly aware that as part of a team, everything that they do --or don't do---impacts someone else. 
Not only members can rely on each other but they also ensure to do things right the first time.  In outclass team accuracy is considered as a reflection of personal pride, also demonstrates a commitment to uphold the standards of the team, thus generating team pride. 

Team support bring and flourishes innovation in outclass team. Individuals feel supported by colleagues. Generally in teams people hesitate from taking the lead in a new order of things. But not so in an outclass team because such risk is greatly reduced in a cooperative environment where members forgive mistakes, respect individual differences, and shift their thinking from a point of view to a viewing point. 

Turning team priorities into personal priorities is the hallmark of a winning team.  Because of the mutual support and cooperation, they respect the time of others by, arriving for meetings on time, sharing information promptly, clustering questions for people, communicating concisely, and asking "Is this a good time?" before initiating interactions.

In an outclass team people understand that they can't have their way all of the time, and - to add value - they must develop a generous spirit. Being on a work team is a bit like being part of a family. In our programs we help teams value the individual; develop team trust; communicate openly; manage differences; share successes; and welcome new members.

5. Handling disagreement positively
The problem is not that differences exist, but in how they are managed. It is inevitable that teams of bright, diverse thinkers will experience conflict from time to time. If people believe that conflict never occurs in "good" groups, they may sweep conflict under the carpet. Of course, no carpet is large enough to cover misperception, ill feelings, old hurts, and misunderstandings for very long. Soon the differences reappear. They take on the form of tension, hidden agendas, and stubborn positions.

When we teach teams to manage conflict effectively, the team feels empowered to maintain trust and tap the collective power of the team. Work teams manage conflict better when members learn to shift their paradigms (mindsets) about conflict in general, about other parties involved, and about their own ability to manage conflict.

Dr. Suzanne Willis Zoglio, Ph.D. shares three techniques to help members shift blocking paradigms though reframing, shifting shoes, and affirmations. 

Reframing is looking at the glass half-full, instead of half-empty. Instead of thinking "If I address this issue, it'll slow down the meeting," consider this thought: "If we negotiate this difference, trust and creativity will all increase."

Shifting Shoes is a technique used to practice empathy by mentally "walking in the shoes" of another person. You answer questions such as "How would I feel if I were that person being criticized in front of the group?" "What would motivate me to say what that person just said?"

Affirmations are positive statements about something you want to be true. For example, instead of saying to yourself right before a negotiating session, " I know I'm going to blow up", force yourself to say, "I am calm, comfortable, and prepared." We teach team members to shift any negative mental tapes to more positive ones, and shift obstructing paradigms and manage conflict more effectively.

6. Everybody contributes:
An outclass team has members who are skilled and ready to take initiatives. Members have strong technical and interpersonal skills and are willing to learn.
To enhance balanced participation on a work team, we consider three factors that affect the level of individual contribution: inclusion, confidence, and empowerment. The more individuals feel like part of a team, the more they contribute; and, the more members contribute, the more they feel like part of the team. To enhance feelings of inclusion, we suggest that you keep work team members informed, ask for their input, and support an atmosphere of cohesion.

Confidence in self and team affects the amount of energy a team member invests in an endeavor. If it appears that the investment of hard work is likely to end in success employees are more likely to contribute. If, on the other hand, success seems unlikely, investment of energy will wane. The confidence of team members can be bolstered by providing feedback, coaching, assessment and professional development opportunities. It is also important to have team members evaluate how well they support the contribution of others.

7. No fear of change
Teams must not only respond to change, but actually initiate it. It is no longer a luxury to have work teams that can perform effectively within a turbulent environment. It is a necessity. High performing teams acknowledge any perceive danger in the change and then help members appreciate opportunities hidden in change.

An outclass team doesn't need security. It embraces unexpected challenges and situations. Team knows how to take and manage risks as they have necessary tools to innovate. Leaders in outclass teams also help reduce resistance to change by providing vision and information, and by modeling a positive attitude themselves.

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