As doctors continue their efforts to bring Michael Schumacher out of his coma, he is even more dependent now upon the high performance medical team around him than he ever was at Ferrari, Benetton, Jordan and Mercedes.
What Makes for a High Performance Team?
If you have ever seen the overhead shots of a F1 pit stop, you will see nearly twenty people perform a highly orchestrated ballet of sorts. Often the ballet lasts no more than just 3 – 4 seconds during which time the team changes all four tyres, makes adjustments to the car wings and any number of other adjustments all designed to improve performance by often no more than a fraction of a second. The team is focused on one goal: getting their driver back out onto the track and to go faster.
The medical team around Schumacher has a similar focus and has one clear goal – to save a life. Yes, the goal is constantly being reviewed, medications and treatments adjusted, but just as with the formula 1 team, every team member is focused, skilled and practiced. Michael’s condition is monitored constantly and dozens of minor adjustments made continuously.
Success today, is more about the team and team performance than it is about individual performance. This means that managers and organisations need to know, understand and master team working. They need to know how to assemble, build and maintain teams; how to service and support them; how to identify and maximise on individual and collective strengths and how to extract that one tenth of a second improvement in performance.
Best Practices of a High Performance Team:
Top Tip 1: Define and Create Interdependencies
Make sure that you define and structure the roles of your team members. Everyone needs to know his or her role. Success happens when all of the players are playing their roles effectively and they understand the interdependencies.
Top Tip 2: Establish Goals
Teams and team members need to focus on and understand their individual and shared goals and outcomes. Commitment to their goals is essential for success. Team goals should allow both the team and individual members to achieve both personal and team goals.
Top Tip 3: Determine How Teams Will Make Decisions
Whether you as the manager makes the decision, or it is a democratic or consensus process, the team needs to understand how decisions will be made so talk about how and who makes the decisions.
Top Tip 4: Provide Clear and Constant Feedback
Teams need to know how they are doing. To stay motivated, fresh, to feel valued and recognised, teams need feedback. If the team is to take ownership for making the many small, continuous corrective actions necessary to address problems, tweak performance to achieve an extra 0.1 per cent improvement. Make sure you establish a great feedback system.
Top Tip 5: Keep Team Membership Stable.
It takes a lot of time for team members to learn to work together at an optimum level, and so try to keep your team together. Constantly, swapping and changing the team is disruptive and counter productive.
Top Tip 6: Allow Team Members to Challenge the Status Quo
If you want continuous performance improvements, it is important, no critical, that team members feel secure and confident in being able to challenge, question and analyse processes. Teams need to be open to considering and constructively criticising existing practices and not afraid of making suggestions or taking calculated risks.
Top Tip 7: Learn How to Identify, Develop and Attract Talent
Invest time in attracting the best you can afford. Invest as much time and resources in training and coaching. If you think attracting the best talent and investing in the team is expensive, try working out the cost of not doing it – this can be terminal!
Top Tip 8: Balance the Needs of the Task, the Team and Individuals
Never lose sight of goals and objectives, but never place them above the needs of the team. Likewise, never prioritise the needs of an individual over the needs of the team or visa versa. Balance is the watchword!
Top Tip 9: Create a Learning and Success Culture
Formula 1 teams service and maintain the car and the equipment they need. If they stopped, then it would not work when they need it. So, invest in a learning and success culture. Mistakes are opportunities to learn not opportunities for reprimands and disciplinarians. If you want a team that embraces and excels at continuous improvement and where members are motivated to be a high-performing team, then invest.
Top Tip 10: Focus on the Collective Mission
Why do some teams and organisations succeed where others fail? They are mission-driven. High-performance teams see beyond their individual work schedules and objectives: each team member feels they are working for a higher purpose or mission.
Whilst few of us lead or manage a team that operates at the extreme margins of a formulae 1 team or a team of medics, the principles are there for all to see. I learned an invaluable lesson from Les Wilson an old, cantankerous member of the first team I ever managed which has stayed with me ever since. He said, “You cannot buy quality teams ready-made from Harrods – they come in flat packs that you get from MFI!”.
Sadly, neither Les nor the furniture flat pack specialists MFI are with us any more (I guess the nearest thing we have to MFI now is IKEA), but he was right. You need to work hard to assemble your teams; you need to make sure you have all of parts, that you invest time to assemble them carefully and then treat them with care, otherwise they will fall apart just like my MFI flat pack wardrobe did!