It’s no secret that one of the biggest workplace trends over recent decades is the marked rise of teamwork. According to a Harvard Business Review study published in 2016, the average employee spends 50 percent more time in collaborative work than two decades ago, and 80 percent of all of their time on the job in collaborative efforts. Deloitte has even defined the organization of the future as “a network of teams” whose operating model is designed to drive greater collaboration and internal agility. Clearly, team success is more important than ever.
This shift means that we also need to reconsider how we think about measuring and improving work performance. As teams replace individuals as the core operating units of performance across organizations of all kinds, it’s worth asking how we can ensure we have the right infrastructure and tracking models in place to assess collaborative performance and drive team success.
The good news is that yes, you can measure team success, and it’s not as hard as you might think. Throughout my own career as a founder, manager, consultant and executive, I’ve worked with hundreds of teams in myriad capacities, industries and functions. Those experiences have made it clear to me that the success of teams – their ability to perform at a high level consistently over time – essentially boils down to five key attributes.
Team success relies on resiliency
Together, these five attributes add up to resiliency, the holy grail of success in today’s workplace. If your team is strong in all five of these areas, it’s firing on all cylinders:
- Teams that score high on direction have a clarity of purpose that is shared among all of its members. They are all moving in the same direction as a collective unit. They come across as purposeful, priority-minded and collaborative. For a quick pulse on your team’s direction, ask each member to jot down what they see as the team’s shared purpose. Sharing and discussing these responses can help your team sharpen its focus on its mission and get on the same page about what team success looks like.
- Highly connected teams know that they can do more together than they can on their own. They trust one another, have psychological safety and are open to productive conflict. To determine the health of connection on your team, take a closer look at interpersonal behavior. If some team members seem reticent to ask for help, uncomfortable speaking their minds or engaged in passive-aggressive behavior, your team may need help handling conflict productively.
- Aligned teams share a common understanding of the needs of their internal and external stakeholders, and of the larger organization’s strategy. In addition, they are able to adapt to meet changing needs without drama. It’s hard to be aligned with the teams beyond your own team if you never ask them for feedback. If you aren’t doing so already, ask other teams in your organization how your team can better support them. This is a great chance to get an outside perspective on your team’s performance.
- Teams that shine in the attitude department have team members who bring an optimistic, “can do” attitude to work. Similarly, they don’t let obstacles or setbacks derail them. One way to assess the strength of your team’s attitude is to look at how they approach risk. Is there a sense on your team that you can all brainstorm freely, experiment with ideas, and test strategies that may fail? If not, you as a leader can take steps to encourage a more risk-tolerant culture, including signaling your attitude about risk through very intentional language.
- High-performing teams get things done. As a result, they deliver, meeting and exceeding their goals and objectives. But performance also goes beyond the numbers, to process. Are your team meetings productive? Can the group discuss issues and make related decisions quickly? Are the talents and expertise of all of its members in play? These are some of the issues that prevent high-performing teams from continuing to perform quarter after quarter.
To improve, focus
What’s the advantage of assessing a specific list of attributes? It’s the ability to come away with a clear goal. By honing in on one or more of these five aspects, you can focus your energy on the efforts that will strengthen that area. Then, you can reassess periodically (through pulse surveys or other vehicles) if your team is making progress. Just making the target clear to your team will improve the chance they will take the actions that lead to progress and sustained long-term team success.