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Why High Performance Teams Perform Well During Crises

When faced with a crisis, there are risks that need to be mitigated and opportunities that we can exploit. Whilst most teams spend adequate time and attention to managing risks, the stand out factor for high performance teams is that they also give attention to the opportunities for growth and in conducting post-crisis evaluations of how effectively things were handled. This leads to improvement in the way we lead through a crisis, any skill gaps within the team, and the creation of new systems, policies and procedures whose purpose is to provide guidance on how to deal with similar challenges that may occur in the future. This is not a blame game but rather a constructive practice that allows businesses to benefit from past experiences. The best teams are able to rise above a purely administrative exercise of identifying new processes and instead spend a good amount of attention on navigating the interpersonal elements that are most important for problem solving. 

This can be a result of the leadership style posing a challenge to the effectiveness of high performance teams performing at their best. High performance team programs focus on building trusting interpersonal relationships that support open communication. By embracing the unique, community environment that defines such teams, we will be more capable of meeting the external challenges that we face during times of crisis.

 

‘Take Charge’ Leadership 

In certain cases it can appear comforting to have leaders who possess a commanding presence. During times of crisis, having a solitary figure ‘take charge’ of the decision making process may appear to be a positive asset as a solution can be reached much more quickly. Where this approach to crisis management falters is in the lack of clear communication and cohesion.

Crisis resolution is rarely the result of a single executive’s orders being followed. It is instead often due to collaborative efforts and team performance. Not only does collaborative problem solving encourage active engagement from all team members, it significantly reduces the risk of knowledge gaps or biases affecting decisions. Well balanced high performance teams should contain those with a diverse range of skills and experience. Leaders who draw from the expertise of others during a crisis are ensuring that they can make decisions based on the most amount of relevant and available information. This will of course vary depending on the intensity of a crisis, because often leaders are required to make decisions based on the limited information that is available to them. High performance teams tend to trust each other at a higher level going into a crisis, and this creates more resilience and gives such groups the flexibility to navigate through complexity in the heat of a crisis. 

 

Workplace Politics

Crises create environments that often amplify existing stressors and divisions within even the most successful teams. While it is idealistic to assume that unification will occur under high pressure situations, some socio-political or even competitive splits may begin to prevail. Even when individuals have been placed in the same ‘team’, it does not mean that their personalities or priorities will be perfectly compatible. This can shift focus away from problem solving and towards interpersonal conflict.

That is not to say that those with differing ideas should not be placed on teams together; growth occurs when we are challenged in our ideals. Instead, high performing team members recognise that our voices are not the only voices, and during a  crisis ‘getting louder’ or ‘repeating’ our views over and over again is not always the best way to influence the situation. There are times to call things out and there are times to let others explain their thinking, and that balance is what makes high performing teams rich in diversity and high in confidence. High performance team programs aim to reduce these micro political issues by employing a 360-Degree feedback survey that helps to identify and resolve them before they become hindrances to productivity. Members of successful high performance teams develop the ability to manage group conversations more effectively. In other words, the crisis is often solved before the crisis occurs, because teams have been equipped with the mindset and understanding of each other to navigate through uncertainty. At The Leadership Sphere, we see that one off high performance team workshops will deliver a 3 x return on investment, however, when longer term programs run over 12 months through to a few years, there is a 10 x return on investment. Much research has been put into what creates the 10 x effect on return on investment and it is because teams learn about each other, not just skills and knowledge, but about emotional intelligence, resilience, preferences in response, communication styles, and the softer parts of what makes up a high performing team member. Of course, in such programs there are core skills that need to be developed, however, where The Leadership Sphere are different is that we work with core values first and what makes up a high performing team, and take time to understand this dynamic before pushing volume through high performance skill development.

 

Burn Out

The stress and adrenaline levels of high pressure situations can invigorate us to perform at our best, but eventually even those who often say they ‘work best under pressure’ will reach a breaking point. Though dedication to the task at hand is admirable, and can sometimes demand sacrifices, it should not come at the expense of mental fatigue that results in lower quality work. 

High performance teams are well equipped at making efficient use of their time. It is especially important during times of crisis that they do not hyper-focus on any singular task for an extended period. Intentional periods of reflection are built into the workday to maintain a sense of clarity on their purpose. 

One of the challenges that small and medium businesses face is that they are often running fast and growth is rapid, and that leaves very little time for this ‘time out’ activities and mentoring. There is a certain discipline and rigour that is required to make time for such activities, and interestingly you save time when you get back on the court! Large organisations on the other hand, are often stripped of human resources in the attempt to reduce cost and increase profitability, for many and varied reasons, and this in turn reduces the time that can be spent in such coaching and mentoring, evaluating situations, and development activities. Either scenario is our reality, and instead of worrying about what is happening, and the cards that we are handled, we instead need to consider smarter ways to get the most out of the time and resources that we have into high performance team building.

 

Why do High Performance Teams Succeed?

By their nature, high performance teams maintain their productivity in times of crisis because they prioritise a collaborative working environment. They have strong communication and feedback systems in place that allow them to work through issues both personally and professionally. Development programs work to establish the core values that build stronger relationships and drive the team to achieve success. That all sounds like common sense, but then why are only 20% of team high performing? That is a question to answer in another articles, so to will the fact that those 20% of teams who are high performing generally deliver 80% of the results, because the Pareto principle stands true when it comes to high performing teams too!


For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

Why High Performance Teams Perform Well During Crises