How to create a strong team performance

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How to create a strong team performance

Put a team together, assign tasks - and it rains results! Managers often wish it were that simple. They think: It must be enough to tell everyone what to do and off they go. But for a team to really perform at its best and achieve above-average results, a lot of preparatory work is necessary. Find out what you should consider and how you can plan here.

You probably know Bruce Tuckman (1938-2016). Almost no one can get past the US psychologist when it comes to team performance. Tuckman's model of team development is a bit older, but it's still the benchmark. In 1965 he developed the first four phases, and in 1977 he added the fifth:

  1. The Forming-phase. This is where the people in the team meet for the first time. There is often uncertainty, people don't talk to each other yet. Everyone looks to the boss to tell them what's happening. In fact, good leaders provide orientation here and create the opportunity for everyone to get to know each other.
  2. The Storming-phase. Here the roles are formed and the first conflicts arise. Everyone now takes a closer look at their tasks and evaluates them. There can also be role conflicts. Here the leadership is massively needed to mediate between the conflicting parties.
  3. The Norming-phase. Here the structure gradually emerges and the group forms as a team: What is the common goal? How can it be achieved? Who contributes what exactly? And how do the team members communicate with each other? The leader makes sure that everyone follows the rules of the game.
  4. The Performing-phase. Here the team delivers results - the quality of which also depends on how well the team is set up. The manager leaves the team largely to itself and makes sure that the team actually pursues its goals and does not allow itself to be distracted.
  5. The Adjourning-Phase: Here the team dissolves.

The role of the manager is crucial

Although the model dates back to the sixties and seventies, it still largely works today. It is also by no means the case that anarchy reigns in the storming phase and the louder team members suppress the quieter ones. Because, of course, the manager ultimately determines what happens. The self-determination spirit of the seventies does not prevail here - it is still about the Company goals.

And this brings us to an important point: even in cooperative and participatory companies, it is the bosses who ultimately decide who they hire for what or bring into the team. So the responsibilities are definitely fixed, the group dynamics cannot simply overturn such definitions. Sure, there are bad decisions that a group can correct - for example, if a team member's good ideas are otherwise lost. But good leaders prevent power games from dominating events.

It's not about majority voting

Team decisions are usually not majority decisions either - unlike in a school class, for example. Even if the management leaves maximum freedom to the employees, in the end it is the leadership that decides where things go. Because even a majority in the team does not necessarily decide the right thing in terms of the company's goals. Depending on the mood or how dominant the spokespeople are, a majority can also prove counterproductive.

This leads to a crucial piece of advice: Except in a social experiment at university, the team should not decide who has which function. Instead, a good manager should assume that he or she had good reasons for putting the team together exactly as it is. So good managers don't allow, for example, a product manager to hijack the designer's tasks in order to push through his own ideas. Or that someone spreads bad vibes.

Setting the right framework

Good leadership in team development can be described very well with the model of a framework. The manager sets the framework - i.e. the team's goals, the responsibilities, the communication channels. This framework is fixed, no one is allowed to overturn it. But what the team members do within the framework, i.e. how they make their decisions and carry out their tasks, is up to them. The boss makes sure that the framework remains intact, for example that no one breaks the rules.

Another good comparison is with a football team. The positions are clear, the strategy too - only how the players decide in concrete game situations is up to them. A coach does not usually dictate whether a player should receive a ball with his left or right foot. He only expects the player to act in accordance with the strategy and the goal. Their techniques are mastered by the team members. The framework is set up by the coach: How does the team divide its energies? How do the players work together?

Micro and macro view

It can also be learned from football that the individual team members should, if possible, not only look at the immediate area around them, but also keep an eye on what is happening as a whole. This also applies in the company: Everyone in the team is a master of their craft. The designers can design, the copywriters can write, the programmers can program. So they all have to be really good at what they do. In addition, they see the overall process and also appreciate the craft of the others.

The manager also has to ensure that everyone maintains an overview of the entire project and can act in a correspondingly sensible manner. She repeatedly directs the attention of everyone in the team to the "big picture", the macro view. At the same time, everyone has enough time and opportunity to be precise in their area of expertise and to deliver good work - for this they need the micro view.

Resilience for the team

And another important factor plays a role: for teams to perform at their best, they should be resilient, i.e. psychologically stable even in crises. Leadership is a protective shield, writes the Steinbeis Research Center Management Analytics. Particularly in times of crisis, many employees worry about their future, but in fact management "continues to work according to a 'pattern'". In times of crisis, it is more important to be willing to innovate, Motivation and also customer orientation. One of the central statements of the researchers: The better the leadership, the lower the impact of a crisis.

And it is precisely when it comes to topics such as crises that it becomes exciting - because this is where managers often reach their limits. How can they influence their employees when it is not about demonstrating the "boss"? Some managers then wish they also had coaching skills. Because a coach very often awakens in people the desire to proactively tackle a crisis and to keep the team's performance at a top level by dealing with them in an appreciative manner at eye level and by asking the right questions.

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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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