The secret to creating high-performing teams The secret to creating high-performing teams

The secret to creating high-performing teams
31 Oct 2015

The term 'high-performing team’ (HPT) is frequently being used in business HR today and its meaning remains a bit of a mystery to most. Does it just mean everyone works harder, or more output for the same pay packet?

In essence yes, you will increase your output, but not necessarily in the same way and being part of a real high-performing team, whether as a leader or member can be very rewarding. The main issue, as far as I can tell, is that businesses want the increased output but struggle with the change in culture this requires.

Ensure your senior leaders are behind your initiative and are visible and vocal in your team’s successes. It’s very important that your team feel appreciated by the business, as well as by you.

Payroll is not known to be a function that celebrates when things go well. We focus on when things don’t. This is a skill you will need to learn in order to raise your departments profile within your organisation and externally (nominations for awards can be a great way of showing your team how good you think they are, as can offering to speak and share your journey for others to learn from you).

The concepts of HPTs

The good news is there is plenty of information on the internet about the why and how, so you don’t have to spend a great deal of money in order to introduce this into your function.

There is one website completely dedicated to it, highperformanceteams.org, which is really good at explaining everything in layman’s terms. The very first and most important point is that a mission or charter should be created to highlight your mission or purpose. You have to give the team a focus, a meaning and end goal (although strictly speaking there is no ‘end’ as the vision should be one that is followed always).

Write this charter out and print posters of it around your offices as a constant reminder to all, including yourself. Before you put this charter up, have a meeting and talk to your team members about it. Ensure they are fully aware of what it is and why it is on the wall.

I can tell you from experience that just putting it up isn’t enough. I made this mistake once and decided to carry out one-to-ones of my direct reports and theirs to see how the message had bedded in. Some hadn’t even noticed the numerous posters. Others had, but weren’t really sure what it was for. No wonder they weren’t following my vision!

Luckily the one-to-ones allowed me to explain what the goal was in pass on my passion. However, it had delayed the changes I wanted just because I hadn’t had a meeting at the start of the journey. An expensive mistake in terms of hours lost and delaying the start of the journey.

The ‘norms’

The website also talks about ‘norms’. Norms are rules and guides for team decision-making and behaviour. If you don’t guide your teams on what the norms are, they will create their own - and who can blame them?

Every team needs a set of norms to follow, otherwise they aimlessly work like robots and cannot cope when a crisis happens. Leaders emerge amongst the team who may not give the positive focus you want and before you know it everyone is at rock bottom, feeling unsupported and dissatisfied. Productivity will go down.

This is the total opposite of what high performing teams is all about. A HPT needs strong leadership and by strong I don’t mean aggressive or bullying tactics or behaviour, I mean someone who is able to not only communicate a vision, but get their team completely behind it and feel passionate about it.

That leader also needs to believe in team decisions. Teams’ abilities to problem solve are far greater than one manager. Even the negative employees play their part and you need them to be aware of the pitfalls and believe me they will spot them. Negative behaviour should never be encouraged, but some people think on a more negative basis and this can be as invaluable as the positive thinkers.

A good balance is essential. As teams develop into HPTs they become self-directed and will approach you with a challenge and a potential solution, rather than just a problem. This in turn empowers your team and how rewarding is it to work somewhere where you feel empowered to improve your work on a regular basis, rather than just does as you are told.

Introducing change

Tread carefully in the initial stages as you may be confronted with scepticism and refusal. Your team are used to being told what to do. There is an old fashioned concept that you are not paid to think, just do. Change is scary and some will have a crisis of confidence.

They will thing that they cannot possible think of a better way. Some will be downright obstinate. They work for a grade of pay, thinking is surely outside the range of that, isn’t it your job? Aren’t you just passing the responsibility down to them? When it goes wrong they will get the blame and you will look squeaky clean.

It is very important as a good manager that you do not blame your staff. You have to ratify and stand by decisions and your teams. Ensure you are always fully aware of changes and they are explained to you before they go ahead. This is not an excuse to take your foot off the pedal, rather it is an opportunity to have your teams pushing your foot down and help steer, so the lorry picks up speed and stays in the right direction. Ultimately it is still your foot.

Seeing the results

Don’t be alarmed if things seem a little chaotic at first. According to the website, most of the effective work will be done in the last 25 per cent of the time allotted. It may seem chaotic to those outside your function too. Make sure you keep them appraised so they don’t think the department has gone into meltdown, otherwise they will lose confidence in the team (not good for a payroll function) and you.

Remember that team members will learn as they go. Don’t expect them to be experts a making group decisions from the start. You need to guide them, without giving them the answers. This is a real challenge sometimes as time is a luxury in payroll and giving the answers can be quicker, although it will stunt your team’s development.

Community of interest

A good point mentioned is also to include stakeholders outside of your team - the ‘community of interest’. You need to ensure they are communicated with and consulted where potential decisions will impact them.

If you use HPT alongside Continuous Improvement or Lean, this will help ensure you always consider the end-to-end process and decisions will be based on the bigger picture, not just what works for payroll. This can alienate your stakeholders and increase resistance to any changes you or your team want to make.

Ensure your communications are clear, positive and lay out any potential returns, such as decreased error rates, increased customer satisfaction or time to focus on value add areas to help the business.

Lastly, do remember that this will be a new area of focus for your employees and take time away from operational tasks. Let your team know you are ready to support them through this.

See if there is budget available for extra resource and if not, put a business case together to get some. It doesn’t have to be external, you may be able to borrow a resource from the business that wants to try out the joys of payroll. Their understanding of the business can be as valuable as knowledge of payroll.

To summarise, the concept of HPTs is to have a vision, or purpose, group decision-making, team collaboration and empowering your employees to make decisions to achieve the purpose of the team. Innovation will surely follow and the team will be tighter, more successful and more engaged.

By Jeanette Hibbert

The term 'high-performing team’ (HPT) is frequently being used in business HR today and its meaning remains a bit of a mystery to most. Does it just mean everyone works harder, or more output for the same pay packet?

In essence yes, you will increase your output, but not necessarily in the same way and being part of a real high-performing team, whether as a leader or member can be very rewarding. The main issue, as far as I can tell, is that businesses want the increased output but struggle with the change in culture this requires.

Ensure your senior leaders are behind your initiative and are visible and vocal in your team’s successes. It’s very important that your team feel appreciated by the business, as well as by you.

Payroll is not known to be a function that celebrates when things go well. We focus on when things don’t. This is a skill you will need to learn in order to raise your departments profile within your organisation and externally (nominations for awards can be a great way of showing your team how good you think they are, as can offering to speak and share your journey for others to learn from you).

The concepts of HPTs

The good news is there is plenty of information on the internet about the why and how, so you don’t have to spend a great deal of money in order to introduce this into your function.

There is one website completely dedicated to it, highperformanceteams.org, which is really good at explaining everything in layman’s terms. The very first and most important point is that a mission or charter should be created to highlight your mission or purpose. You have to give the team a focus, a meaning and end goal (although strictly speaking there is no ‘end’ as the vision should be one that is followed always).

Write this charter out and print posters of it around your offices as a constant reminder to all, including yourself. Before you put this charter up, have a meeting and talk to your team members about it. Ensure they are fully aware of what it is and why it is on the wall.

I can tell you from experience that just putting it up isn’t enough. I made this mistake once and decided to carry out one-to-ones of my direct reports and theirs to see how the message had bedded in. Some hadn’t even noticed the numerous posters. Others had, but weren’t really sure what it was for. No wonder they weren’t following my vision!

Luckily the one-to-ones allowed me to explain what the goal was in pass on my passion. However, it had delayed the changes I wanted just because I hadn’t had a meeting at the start of the journey. An expensive mistake in terms of hours lost and delaying the start of the journey.

The ‘norms’

The website also talks about ‘norms’. Norms are rules and guides for team decision-making and behaviour. If you don’t guide your teams on what the norms are, they will create their own - and who can blame them?

Every team needs a set of norms to follow, otherwise they aimlessly work like robots and cannot cope when a crisis happens. Leaders emerge amongst the team who may not give the positive focus you want and before you know it everyone is at rock bottom, feeling unsupported and dissatisfied. Productivity will go down.

This is the total opposite of what high performing teams is all about. A HPT needs strong leadership and by strong I don’t mean aggressive or bullying tactics or behaviour, I mean someone who is able to not only communicate a vision, but get their team completely behind it and feel passionate about it.

That leader also needs to believe in team decisions. Teams’ abilities to problem solve are far greater than one manager. Even the negative employees play their part and you need them to be aware of the pitfalls and believe me they will spot them. Negative behaviour should never be encouraged, but some people think on a more negative basis and this can be as invaluable as the positive thinkers.

A good balance is essential. As teams develop into HPTs they become self-directed and will approach you with a challenge and a potential solution, rather than just a problem. This in turn empowers your team and how rewarding is it to work somewhere where you feel empowered to improve your work on a regular basis, rather than just does as you are told.

Introducing change

Tread carefully in the initial stages as you may be confronted with scepticism and refusal. Your team are used to being told what to do. There is an old fashioned concept that you are not paid to think, just do. Change is scary and some will have a crisis of confidence.

They will thing that they cannot possible think of a better way. Some will be downright obstinate. They work for a grade of pay, thinking is surely outside the range of that, isn’t it your job? Aren’t you just passing the responsibility down to them? When it goes wrong they will get the blame and you will look squeaky clean.

It is very important as a good manager that you do not blame your staff. You have to ratify and stand by decisions and your teams. Ensure you are always fully aware of changes and they are explained to you before they go ahead. This is not an excuse to take your foot off the pedal, rather it is an opportunity to have your teams pushing your foot down and help steer, so the lorry picks up speed and stays in the right direction. Ultimately it is still your foot.

Seeing the results

Don’t be alarmed if things seem a little chaotic at first. According to the website, most of the effective work will be done in the last 25 per cent of the time allotted. It may seem chaotic to those outside your function too. Make sure you keep them appraised so they don’t think the department has gone into meltdown, otherwise they will lose confidence in the team (not good for a payroll function) and you.

Remember that team members will learn as they go. Don’t expect them to be experts a making group decisions from the start. You need to guide them, without giving them the answers. This is a real challenge sometimes as time is a luxury in payroll and giving the answers can be quicker, although it will stunt your team’s development.

Community of interest

A good point mentioned is also to include stakeholders outside of your team - the ‘community of interest’. You need to ensure they are communicated with and consulted where potential decisions will impact them.

If you use HPT alongside Continuous Improvement or Lean, this will help ensure you always consider the end-to-end process and decisions will be based on the bigger picture, not just what works for payroll. This can alienate your stakeholders and increase resistance to any changes you or your team want to make.

Ensure your communications are clear, positive and lay out any potential returns, such as decreased error rates, increased customer satisfaction or time to focus on value add areas to help the business.

Lastly, do remember that this will be a new area of focus for your employees and take time away from operational tasks. Let your team know you are ready to support them through this.

See if there is budget available for extra resource and if not, put a business case together to get some. It doesn’t have to be external, you may be able to borrow a resource from the business that wants to try out the joys of payroll. Their understanding of the business can be as valuable as knowledge of payroll.

To summarise, the concept of HPTs is to have a vision, or purpose, group decision-making, team collaboration and empowering your employees to make decisions to achieve the purpose of the team. Innovation will surely follow and the team will be tighter, more successful and more engaged.

By Jeanette Hibbert