A high performing team can be defined as “a group of people with specific roles and complementary talents and skills, aligned with and committed to a common purpose, who consistently show high levels of collaboration and innovation that produce superior results.” Coming up with the definition of a high performing team is relatively easy, it is the development of a team that meets this definition that is the hard part.

By taking what I have learnt from high performing professional sport and applying this to various corporate environments, I have found the following as fundamental to the development of a high performing team: 

1) Very clear, visible and shared objectives that are linked across all members of the team, including the manager. These objectives should be defined as either high performing measures or general measures. The general measures are the ‘ticket to the game’; basically a measure of doing the role, whereas the high performing measures are what defines success in that role. Examples could be: • General measure: consistently completing 80 per cent or more of training programme each week (sport), completing all invoices on time (business) • Performance measure: achieving podium performance in every race of the season (sport), growing customer base by x per cent within the financial year (business) It is important to share these objectives within the team. This ensures everyone is working toward, and supporting each other, in achieving a common goal. 

2) A documented development plan for each person in your team. Often development discussions are very abstract, usually starting with the question ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time’. Although this might be a good question to start some thinking, it isn’t going to help that person reach their goals unless they are aware of what skills they need and how to go about developing them. Using a ‘development triangle’ has been useful for the teams I work with. The base of the triangle is the current role and/or skillset with the top of the triangle being the long term goal. In the middle are the next step roles and/or skillsets required to reach that goal. This should be reviewed at least twice a year to ensure relevance and active development of skills required. Ask any top level athlete and they will know exactly what their objectives are, and the required skills needed to reach them. When these objectives are shared in the team and everyone supports the individual development of each team member, an environment is created that will ensure high performance.

Three years ago, while working full-time, Anna left the corporate world to pursue her dream of becoming a professional athlete, competing around the world in Ironman triathlons. Anna now writes about her experience as a professional athlete and how her learnings can be applied to drive high performance in both individuals and teams.

For further information visit: www.annarusselltriathlete.co.nz