The Three Keys to Building a High Performance Team

by Eric Beck - Date: 2006-12-21 - Word Count: 1013 Share This!

We trained hard...but every time we formed up teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn that we meet any new situation by reorganizing. And a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization. - Petronius Arbiter, 210 BC

Although the frontier in business excellence begins with personal disciplines, and the systems that support them, it must eventually move to the issues of how to get things done in concert with others. It is in the hands of another that your "way" is put to the ultimate test.

You've probably been down the road of teams and team issues before in your line of work. If not professionally, my guess is that at sometime you were on a softball team, football team, chess team, or debate team. Some type of team has probably been in everyone's experience. Leadership, communication, managing expectations, and plan execution are all aspects of high performance teams on which you'll find a plethora of articles, books, and seminars.

As in all things, though, Jesus is our primary example.

But Jesus answered them, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Him equal with God. Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel" (John 5:17-20).

For those who want to run their business (and lives) God's way, these verses are critical.

Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit are the epitome of a high performance team. Better than any Super Bowl team, any Fortune 500 management team, any World Series team, any Navy SEAL team, or any other configuration one can imagine, only in the Trinity do we get to see and relate to the ways in which God prescribes a team should function.

If you're ready to develop teams God's way, here are three basics that can help:

1. Clearly stated, measurable objectives

The first place to look if things aren't going so well with your team is at its purpose. Ask the individuals on the team in question to write down their answers to the following question: What is the purpose of our team? Without discussion, go around the room and have them read their answers. Often the team's mission changes and modifies while in progress and without everyone being informed. Adaptability is key to surviving the changes that always come. However, most teams don't deal well with change because they never started off with a mutual understanding of where the "end zone" was and how they'd know if they got there. Objectives have to be clear, written and measurable and regularly reviewed by all involved.

2. Clear team roles

In an age of management systems that put high emphasis on equality, it may be easy to overlook the fact that not all hierarchy is bad. In fact, historically, properly placed levels of expertise and responsibility have allowed for some of the greatest periods of progress and efficiency. Teams are simply small businesses. They need clarity about who's in charge, how to resolve conflict and to whom to look when assumptions prove inaccurate. As Dennis Peacocke says about the need for leadership and authority, "Anything without a head is dead. And anything with more than one head is a freak!" In the Trinity, it is clear that the Father is in charge. Note that each position of the Trinity is mutually exclusive while being simultaneously totally integrated. Here is our model! Because of fear, we tend to default to one of the extremes. One extreme is when we throw off "titles" and expect everyone to just intuitively do everything...hiding behind organizational indefinites. The sports analogy for this would be a phenomenon in little league soccer called "swarm ball." Swarm ball is when no matter where your position is, you just can't resist the urge to gravitate to the ball. It may be humorous for the eight year olds, but for us, it's just sin. The other extreme is when we hasten to the letter of the job-description law selfishly touting phrases like, "that's not my responsibility." Both are obviously disastrous. Can you see this is just the story of the prodigal son and his slavish brother all over again? Solid team roles include clear, actionable tasks as well as cultivated heart attitudes that keep "sons" from acting like "slaves."

3. Commissioning

Ad hoc teams can be a great source of spontaneous energy and effort. But when push comes to shove and shove lasts a long time (see current economic environment), most employees tend to default to what they are going to be held accountable for. It is more important than ever to officially recognize who's responsible for what. Those with responsibility need to be commissioned to the work at hand. The same goes for teams. It clears the way for them to focus, act with authority and manage their responsibilities with excellence. Without commissioning a team, they become prime candidates for conflict and redundancy. If you are in charge, then it is your job to commission. If you are not in charge it is your job to serve your company by politely refusing to "dive in" without being commissioned. If God took time from his continuous business to commission, so should we. Matthew 17:5 states: "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'"

Find out where your teams are. Need a place to start? Start with the basics. Start with Clear Objectives, Clear Roles, and Commissioning and you'll be on your way to building godly systems that serve working relationships.

Related Tags: business, teams, effective, group, efficient

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