Developing High-Functioning Teams

How Can You Develop an Effective High-Functioning Team?

What does it take to create a high-functioning team? Our work with over 500 teams suggests that moving from dysfuntional to functional continues to be the number one priority for leaders and team members. As the nature of work continues to change rapidly, organizations are challenged to:create an effective high-functioning team
  • Encourage collaborative and cross-functional effectiveness
  • Tackle increasingly complex situations
  • Create clarity of direction and roles
  • Engage every individual on the team in a meaningful way and challenge their comfort zones
  • Develop cultures of shared information and support, environments that are both positive and productive

Clearwater offers: The Smart Team Formula for High-Functioning Teams

This dynamic and focused program underscores the organic nature of every team - it is an unfolding process of discovery, communication and commitment. There are 6 key elements integral to building the foundation of a successful team to A.C.T. (Alignment, Commitment and Trust) effectively with ongoing business challenges and changes.


Step 1 - Profile the Team (Pr)

Workplace groups that are a collection of individuals are NOT a team. We define teams as having a common purpose, measurable goals and a shared approach. In addition, when a team evolves beyond merely productive to a true high-functioning team, there is a commitment to each others' personal growth. Identify the type of team you have:

  • Leadership - senior teams that guide the path of the whole organization or a particular department
  • Functional - typically a permanent team with a functional focus (i.e. marketing, operations, technology, etc.) led by a manager
  • Cross-Functional - permanent or temporary, comprised of individuals representing multiple functions or departments charged with achieving a particular goal
  • Project or Self-Directed - permanent or temporary, a collaborative venture of individuals representing a specific skill set required on a project
  • Other - virtual or geographically concentrated, is the team domestic, international or a combination, is it a new team or does it have a new leader or new members?

Step 2 - Create Team Focus (CF)

A clear purpose and defined roles are essential for productive teams. When vision and focus light the way, team alignment and flawless execution are possible. Some of the processes and skills needed are the ability to facilitate onboarding new members, articulating team norms, writing the team charter or purpose, and identifying burning issues. Another key to alignment is assesing the engagement level of each individual. If team members are completely engaged, it shows in their commitment to their role in a way that builds alignment with the purpose and sustains momentum. In addition, each team's goal needs to align with the organization's strategic initiatives or goals. Do yours?

Step 3 - Maximize Relations & Agreements (RA)

In most industries, more work needs to be completed with fewer employees, so effective interaction is essential. Ultimately the success of a product or compay depends upon the ability of each team to coordinate, collaborate, facilitate and relate to other teams. To ensure everybody is working together, make a commitment to establish clear agreements that encourage identifiable behaviors promoting trust in these relationships. Some examples:

  • When in doubt go to the source to avoid gossip, assumptions
  • Listen with an open mind
  • Actively participate to encourage all voices are heard
  • Eliminate blaming and judging others in order to create a safe environment
  • Frequently acknowledge and encourage others' efforts

Step 4 - Communicate Clearly and Frequently (CC)

Clearwater_team_formula_002Who needs to know what? Communicating clearly means understanding your audience and taking the responsible action of assessing whether the message is understood. Practice the art and science of giving each other feedback. There exists an unfortunate tendency among leaders to leave team issues untreated, hoping they will be solved without intervention. Therein lies a recipe for team dysfunction. Great teams and team leaders process and apply the following skills:

  • Active Listening
  • Sharing Feedback
  • Positive Acknowledgement and Recognition
  • Coaching Skills
  • Ability to Approach Different Team Members Appropriately

Step 5 - Execute Flawlessly (EF)

Building on clearly defined roles and clear boundaries allows for interaction and execution to become easier. Start by mapping the process that leads from current state to future state. Identify the steps that need to occur as well as who can best contribute to each step and how the work integrates. Another component of Flawless Execution is designing and managing meetings. Are the right players in the room? Who needs to know the outcomes? Is the team actively engaged in discussion? An indicator of team dysfunction is a boring team meeting. When people appear unmotivated in a meeting, you can be pretty confident they are not collectively engaged.

Step 6 - Lead Courageously (LC)

Smart team leaders are moving away from the old "command and control" model of leadership to establishing a format of shared leadership by engaging each team member in a way that brings his/her particular leadership qualities to the forefront. As the team leader, ask yourself, "How is this team a reflection of my leadership?" As simple as this sounds, answering that question and determining if all team members support him/her establishes the important role of the team leader. This is the person who inspires, articulates the vision, creates bridges to other teams to coordinate work, facilitates communication, develops team members, creates safety and role models the competencies and agreements the team is committed to embracing. 

The real power of a high-functioning team lies not only in the peer-to-peer accountability and the collective collaborative muscle that is created throughout the process, but also in the sustainability of the work with the team. The team becomes a self-managed system that is sustainable in and of itself creating the development of: ALIGNMENT, COMMITMENT AND TRUST which results in the capability to act as an effective, high-performing team.

Contact Clearwater Consulting Group at 404-634-4332 to discuss our targeted approach to building a high-functioning team.