Teamwork Featured

7:00pm EDT January 31, 2007

Have you ever wondered why some teams outperform others? They attain better business results by cooperating and coordinating in ways that normal teams do not. They consciously try to do more and do it better. There is nothing magical about it.

“The importance of building high-performance teams continues to grow,” says Bob Preziosi, a professor of management in the Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University. “One study stated that four out of five employees report working as a team member at some time during the day. Competitive pressures and the drive for greater efficiency mean teams must perform at higher levels. Thus, high-performance teams — not just teams — become a key to success.”

Top executives make sure that team training is ongoing by providing regular feedback and encouragement and by celebrating teams that produce results.

Smart Business talked to Preziosi about establishing and maintaining high-performance teams.

What actions distinguish high-performance teams from others?

  • Interactive goals. Everyone on the team offers suggestions about what the goals should be. The team responds quickly when a new situation requires it to change goals.

  • Resource optimizing. People pitch in to help others when a backlog occurs. They all know how to do more with less. They get the most out of every resource — people, technology, finances and physical plants.

  • Conflict management. Conflict is accepted. The source is identified, and people deal with it. Team members know their own conflict management style.

  • Interactive leadership. The leadership role in team activities is handled through expertise, not by position on the organizational chart. People share common values.

  • Activity control. Everyone understands the total task, as well as the results that are expected. Everyone has a sense of what every other person must do and how all activities are sequentially linked.

  • Feedback mechanisms. All team members are skilled at constructive criticism, encouragement and positive reinforcement. They also tell people outside the team how well the team is doing.

  • Decision-style flexibility. Team members believe that every decision-making situation is different. They know that there are different styles to use based upon the levels of urgency and commitment required.

  • Mutual assistance. This is the most important action. It is also the easiest to accomplish. Team members are willing to shift their activity to help anyone else on the team at any time get something done. Everyone wants to see everyone succeed.

  • Experimentation. All team members are comfortable with trying new things. They are willing to use their creativity skills for the betterment of team outcomes.

  • Team accountability. The team knows what its accountabilities are and the members hold themselves to the standards. They are fully informed of all aspects of their performance without relying on outside information. They are equally proud of individual and total team accomplishments.

  • Performance influence. This refers to the belief that all team members are respectful of everyone’s skill, while at the same time it is acceptable to provide suggestions for feedback. This is done regardless of formal stature or role in the team or organization. Everyone is willing to improve their performance.

Why do high-performance teams work so well?

Constant and consistent actions such as these lead to greater job satisfaction for people who work together to make their team results well beyond what is expected. They continuously outproduce other teams because of the excitement that these actions generate. Why would anyone want it any other way?

Is there such a thing as teamwork for team-work’s sake?

Teamwork is never a substitute for individual contributions. Many tasks only require the efforts of one person.

We don’t engage in team activity just because we believe in the concept of collaborative action. We work in a team when the task requires multiple contributors, each of whom brings something unique to the business results being sought.

BOB PREZIOSI is a professor of management in the Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at NSU. He has been delivering leadership training and education for more than 30 years. Reach him at preziosi@huizenga.nova.edu or through the school’s Web site, www.huizenga.nova.edu.