During my talks to successful organizations and companies, I’m often asked what the best recipe is for developing a high-performance team. Routinely, my mind reverts to one of the outstanding units I served in during my career and that ‘drill’ helps me provide an answer based on real-life experiences and not just a dog-eared recipe book. And more often than not, I consider the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base in northern California since that is the ‘main base’ for all U-2 Dragonlady operations all around the world.
After considering the great men and women who still serve at Beale, my answer usually starts off with the importance of truly motivated, self-starting, reliable people, but that part of the mix often falls short if not combined with other key ingredients like a well-thought-out strategy and a highly refined culture to make the whole thing blend well under any circumstance. Let’s take a brief look at each of these ingredients for a high-performance team.
Strategy – Strategy defines your long-range goals and how you plan to achieve them. In other words, your strategy gives the team a clearly delineated path forward toward achieving your organization's long-term objectives. A useful strategy for any high-performance team always sets the direction and conditions for success so your high-quality people can make good things happen no matter what the operating environment is like. Simple gameplans - or reasonable next steps – are day-to-day efforts and operating procedures, often keeping the team oriented toward a common direction during the days and weeks ahead. Strategy, on the other hand, sets the long-term vision for success and profitability given the judgement and experience you have as the team’s senior leader.
Culture – Culture eats strategy for breakfast is a famous quote from legendary management consultant and writer Peter Drucker. An ‘empowering’ culture in any organization is the best way to succeed at whatever you’re trying to do. One of the key elements of an empowered organization should be developing adaptive leaders who trust each other, especially when peers or subordinates need to make difficult decisions under challenging circumstances. This mindset should also include encouragement to take responsibility for the results of your decisions, and to routinely emphasize loyalty, trust, and integrity from every member of the team.
People – As I stated earlier, this is the most important constant in your company’s success equation since the best organizations always seek competence in who they hire including specialized skills for whatever the team needs to do each day. Confident leaders also know they should inspire trust in their subordinates when the going gets tough. People at all levels of a high-performance team share common goals, practice open communications, set clear expectations, and ensure there is a strong sense of accountability across all divisions of the team.
If you’re the leader of an established team and want to put it into the ‘best-in-the-business’ category, check your ingredients carefully to ensure you have the right mix of a smart strategy, a consistent culture, and the most qualified people around. If you run this review properly, you’ll achieve more success and will truly enjoy the experience!
My colleagues in Two Blue Aces now have a second book in publication titled, “Leadership at 100 Feet.” This book carries on with a similar theme from our first book titled, “Leadership from 30,000 Feet”, where we emphasize the important attributes of great leaders … The 5 Cs!