The Manager’s 3-Part Guide to Building a Performance-Based Team

CTD Performance Team Work

The Manager’s 3-Part Guide to Building a Performance-Based Team

Whether you’re a new manager, a manager new to your organization, or a manager trying to get better employee performance results, building a performance-based team should be among your top priorities.

A performance-based team not only gets things done, but it also has objectives that are consistent with and support the organization’s vision and mission. In other words, when you build a performance-based team, it gets things done that your organization values. In turn, this increases your value to the organization.

Three parts of building a performance-based team are:

  1. Establish Team Vision
  2. Communicate Team Vision
  3. Consider Culture When Managing Performance

Let’s take a closer look at each component.

Part 1: Establish Team Vision

At the center of every high-performance team is a common purpose, a mission that rises above and beyond each of the team members. Don’t underestimate the challenge of stepping up to a “we-opic” vision (“What’s in it for ‘we’?”) from the common “me-opic” vision. Successfully achieving it requires skill and finesse.

In particular, as a team leader, you need to ensure your team’s purpose and priorities are clear, and that they support your organization’s strategic vision. What is your overall mission? What is your game plan? What is expected of each team member? How can each team member contribute most effectively? What constants will hold the team together? These are all important questions to answer. Stop and ask yourself if you’re putting the team first.

To establish your team’s “we-opic” vision, consider the following steps.

1. Become comfortable articulating your organization’s vision and strategic direction. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What is the organization’s strategic vision?
  • What does the strategic vision mean for me and my department?
  • What are the future opportunities?
  • What talents and resources will I need to accomplish my part?

2. Ask for whatever information you need to understand your organization’s strategy and direction.

3. Link your operational plans with your organization’s vision and strategic direction.

4. Plan for ongoing review and updates to ensure that your departmental plans support your organization’s strategic vision.

(If you’re unclear about your organization’s strategic vision, try reading the annual report, newsletters, and press releases; attending organizational meetings, such as town meetings; talking with your organization’s leaders; and reviewing annual objectives.)

Once you’ve established your team’s vision, develop a communication plan. For each team member, write down his or her key responsibilities, skills and abilities, and rewards for achieving performance goals.

This communications plan is highly important, as many employee performance problems result from the lack of understanding of performance expectations or the lack of clarity of those expectations. Without a clear target, it’s impossible for employees to know where and for what to aim, and difficult for you as a manager to properly evaluate employees or hold them accountable.

Now it’s time to implement your team vision.

Part 2: Communicate Team Vision

Your team’s purpose and vision not only need to be communicated to your team members, but also to the rest of your organization—particularly those functions with which your team will be working closely.

To communicate with your team, consider some of the following strategies:

  • Hold regular staff meetings. Plan an agenda, allowing for changes, and include a developmental activity on a regular basis.
  • Keep formal departmental documents (e.g., organizational charts, department objectives, management by objectives [MBOs]) up to date.
  • Hold breakfast or lunch meetings monthly or quarterly. Discuss items affecting the department and broader items happening in the organization, and encourage questions.
  • Display current department and organizational “news” items on a bulletin board or something similar.
  • Hold impromptu meetings as needed. When you learn urgent information, share it with those on your team who are affected.
  • Promptly return team members’ phone messages and emails.
  • Send handwritten notes to team members.

To communicate with other key groups, consider some of these strategies:

  • Identify key groups that your team needs to interact with.
  • Develop relationships with your peers in those groups.
  • Create opportunities to share pertinent information about your team’s activities and successes with those key groups. Opportunities might include your manager’s staff meetings, newsletters, lunches, and meetings that include members of these groups.

It’s also critical to communicate with your manager about what you’re team is doing. Suggestions:

  • Have regularly scheduled meetings with your manager.
  • Know how your manager prefers to receive information.
  • Ensure there are no surprises. Keep your manager informed of important issues affecting your team, and invite your manager periodically to attend your staff meetings.
  • Take advantage of information opportunities (e.g., lunches, travel, social events) to communicate with your manager.

Part 3: Consider Culture When Managing Performance

To effectively manage a performance-based team, you need to consider your organization’s culture. Without this context, you could make mistakes and take missteps when managing performance situations that lead to larger and potentially risky situations.

An organization’s culture has been defined as “the specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organization and that control the way they interact with each other and with stakeholders outside the organization.” The answers to the questions below can help uncover and articulate your organization’s culture, allowing to manage your employees’ performance in ways that are consistent with your organization’s values and norms. 

  1. How would you describe this organization? Answer as if you were describing a person (three words). When you talk about where you work, what do you tell people?
  2. What does your organization value? What is important? How do you know it’s important?
  3. What areas are dominant at your organization? Does marketing lead, or finance, or production? Why?
  4. What are the “unwritten rules” for getting along in this organization? What do we always do? Never do?
  5. How does the organization handle different situations (e.g., conflict, good news, bad news, deadlines, decision making)?
  6. Whom do you see as the primary customers of the organization? What happens when a key customer complains? 
  7. To what extent does your organization hold true to its expressed standards for dealing with customers, shareholders, stakeholders, and employees?

Your HR partner is typically a good resource for explaining your organization’s culture as well as how performance is managed within the culture. Successful managers join with their HR partners to gain an understanding of the culture and how to navigate within it.

A Rare Opportunity

Hiring a new employee is a rare opportunity to start with a blank slate. In our next post, we’ll take a look at how to effectively onboard new hires and incorporate them into your performance-based team.

Interested in learning more employee performance tips? Get your copy of “Solving Employee Performance Problems,” co-written by Connect the Dots’ Brenda Hampel and Erika Lamont.