By Joanna Howes, Leadership and Performance Coach and Founder and CEO of The Change Creators.
Creating a high performing team is all down to creating cohesion between the team and offering a safe space where each team member can bring their full, true self to the group. By understanding the team dynamic and different personality types, leaders can improve relationships, productivity and better serve the company.
It is important to have a leader who can meet targets, but if they are doing this in a way that creates fear in their team it will not be sustainable for the business. This will also drive a wedge within their team, potentially pushing brilliant talent out and silencing those who remain. However, on the other side of it, if you have a leader who is so focused on the well-being of their team and not driven by meeting the numbers, this is also going to fall short of delivering what the business needs.
It is clear then for a leader to be a high performer they must be able to bring both results and humility together to lead their team in a focused and compassionate way.
What to be aware of when assessing performance
It’s important to be aware of labelling people as high performers as it can become problematic, something which often loosely translates as team stars.
It can be divisive within a team; the ones who are achieving benchmarks of success vs those who aren’t there yet. Highlighting achievement within a team context can, of course, be a motivator to refocus and drive the team forward collectively but labelling this achievement with an accolade as dense as high performer can also do the opposite and be a complete demotivator.
I do not see enough leaders taking into account or understanding how each of their team members sees the world differently. I believe this is a huge leadership gap.
I have worked across many organisations and very often the high-performing team stars are the people that the leader is most comfortable working with who have a similar mindset, skill set or (too often) have the best banter in the pub.
This, in turn, creates a debilitating environment for the members of the team who do not share the same personality traits or experiences as the leader. Perhaps they are more reserved and do not celebrate their successes as vocally as other, more outwardly, confident team members. Ultimately, they don’t fit into the stereotypical leadership mould and therefore these emerging leaders are often overlooked.
We are all wired differently, from people who can start work with little instructions to people who need time to be taken through instructions and time to reflect before they make a decision. One is not better than the other, often the outcomes and results of these two different styles are the same.
The onus is therefore on understanding as a leader what each member of the team needs in order to be successful and high performing.
What is more, a big question mark in leadership at the moment is how to move beyond the subjectivity of the leader. Beginning with an honest and open conversation about what high-performance is for your organisation is a good first step for businesses to take if they haven’t already.
To lead courageously into the future and set yourself up for success I believe means having a clear vision of excellence that has been made relevant to each individual team member. Where behaviours and targets drive motivation, helping team members grow and become the best version of themselves.
About Joanna Howes
Joanna Howes is an award-winning international Leadership and Performance Coach. Combining 20 years of operational experience with her behavioural expertise and leadership coaching, Joanna has worked with leading companies like Getty Images and the BBC to increase performance and results. Joanna is also co-author of international selling book ‘The Law of Brand Attraction’ and has been featured in ABC, FOX and The London Daily Post.