Imagine this – you arrive to work on Monday morning and find that your team has won the right to handle the company’s most important client. As a result the team will be expanded to deal with the extra workload.

There is already a huge list of well qualified and high quality applicants for the expansion – your team has the ‘pick of the litter’ because everyone in the company knows your team develops their people to their highest potential.

Mondays are a great day of the week for your high performing team. Members arrive refreshed from the week-end and look forward to meeting up for another challenging but rewarding week. There is a palpable sense of clarity and focus on the team objectives. Balanced with a playful approach to learning something new everyday and towards overcoming the evitable set backs and challenges. By the end of the week you know that team will be a little wiser, a little stronger and the sense of community a little deeper than before.

Then the alarm clock goes off. And you awake to your real world. And it is Monday morning and you have had such a lovely dream you were sad to leave it. Ahead of you is the commute, the pile of ‘stuff’ that will greet you when you get to work. The silent, trudging along, colleagues trying to conceal their quiet desperation about another Monday morning and a week ahead of sporadic at best, team-work.

There will be the evitable ‘crises during the week leaving you feeling physically and emotionally spent by the weeks end (or even earlier). A good portion of your week-end is spent ‘recovering’ form the effects of the week. Rinse and repeat.

What distinguishes these two scenarios? Simple – collaborative team work.

If building a collaborative team was easy everyone would belong to one. That’s the bad news. The good news is that with the right tools people can do to develop their team from the ‘inside out’. Articles on ways to improve teamwork point to the fact that a great team never consists of an assembly of unmotivated and dysfunctional individuals.

‘High Performing Team’ (HPT) rule number one: HPTs are made up of well-developed individuals.

Conclusion: to grow great teams – grow great people

Training that grows people and teams in tandem is the secret of most successful organizations. You are frying two fish in the one pan. Beyond growing the individual the team requires a reason to exist and know its prime function. High perfuming teams are self-aware.
‘High Performing Team’ (HPT) rule number two: HPTs are very aware of what their team ‘does’. The role it plays in the overall success of the business or organization.

Conclusion: to get the best out of your team provide them with a challenging but achievable objective and never let them forget their role in the overall success of the enterprise.

A literature review on employee motivation provides some insights about how employees become motivated and part of a cohesive team.

1. They like to be treated as human beings – not parts of a big machine
2. They want to know that their work is appreciated
3. They like to know how their contribution fits into serving ‘greater good’ of the company
4. They want to have input into how their work is done
5. They want a sense of community – one to which they belong that they provide support for and in turn provides support them, when they need it.

How difficult is it to provide these things in the workplace? Well it doesn’t have to be ‘rocket surgery’. There is a seven point system that paves the way toward that high performing team you visited in your dream at the beginning of this article. It is presented in a series of questions:

A) What are the shared assumptions your team is using to generate the ‘team-effect’ they presently have?
B) What does your team think is possible?
C) What would it take for you and your colleagues to develop a deeper trust of each other?
D) Is leadership concentrated in a small number of the team?
E) What would it take to have that leadership spread throughout the entire team?
F) What changes in the culture of your workplace would have to take place for your team to be able to function more like a network and less like a hierarchy?

These are not easy questions and creating a high performance team is not always an easy process but it must start somewhere. These questions can act as a catalyst to conversations within your team that can have far-reaching implications.

Articles on ways to improve teamwork frequently imply that personal development has no place in the workplace. This is a delusion – you cannot develop an employee in sustainable way professionally, without helping them to grow personally.

A literature review on employee motivation often displays approaches toward employees as troops being sent into battle, rather than people who have personal as well as professional aspirations. A more rounded view of employees enables us to grow high performance teams that are connected and effective at many levels.