How Teams become High Performing

You’ve hired a brilliant team of enthusiastic, driven people with different skillsets and backgrounds. But how can you make sure they will thrive at your company ?

I recently attended a talk by Miryka Rule, Principal Delivery Manager at JUSTEAT, on the Secret Sauce of High Performing Teams, and these were her key learning points :

Provide psychological safety

You need to make everyone in the team feels like they can ask stupid questions and talk about their concerns, and encourage these conversations in the work place. Stopping questions stops innovation, so make sure your team know they have a voice, and that they can and should use it. People need to feel heard, safe and supported to do their best work.

“Psychological safety is the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes”

Practice unconditional positive regard

This is the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does. You don’t need to be best friends with everyone you work with, and in fact you probably won’t be — but if you treat them with unconditional positive regard, give them respect and listen to them, this will create a positive and nurturing environment where everyone can feel free to be themselves.

Communicate carefully

Messages can be misintrepeted so easily, particularly if you are not communicating face to face.

Miryka told us about a situation where she was working towards a tight deadline when a colleague wrote a lengthy email asking her to do something for her. Miryka quickly completed the task, sent a one word email saying Done, and went back to her work. She later received feedback through her manager that colleagues thought she could be blunt and a bit rude.

It’s important to get to know the people you work with, so that you can recognise when someone is simply busy, not stressed or angry. Think Context, Culture and Consistency.

Look for clues in the communication of others, and flex your own style to match the other person.

Watch out for context switching

Members in a team want to help each other. Answering a question or doing a quick sanity check of an email might not seem too intrusive of your time, but what happens when you become everyone’s “go-to” person ?

Too much context switching kills productivity.

It is not possible to perform two mentally challenging tasks at the same time. Therefore, when we multitask, what we really do is constantly switch from one task to another. This is called context switching.

It takes us 12 minutes to get fully focussed on a task, so if you are interupted just twice in an hour, this could potentially add 24 minutes on to your already busy day. Context switching can result in lower quality work and irritated employees when they can’t finish work on time.

Schedule time in your day for helping team members; Miryka has an hour set aside in the morning for emails and helping people, and the same again in the hour after lunch. The rest of the day is for focussed work, whether individual or in a team, and she prefers people to email her during this time if they need her help with something so that she does not lose focus on the main task at hand.

You can also try enforcing airplane mode days when the team has an important deadline to meet — turn off emails, skype, slack etc and do not allow any outside interuptions. (Important note: make sure you tell other people in advance if you are doing this, and why!)

You need to respect everyone’s time at work, including your own.

Make more mistakes

Better teams make more mistakes, not fewer, and they think of these mistakes as a learning problem, not an execution problem.

You can’t innovate unless you try something new. And you can’t try something new without being open to making mistakes along the way.

Having this mindset is key in a high performing team.

Thank you for a brilliant and thought-provoking presentation, Miryka, and to Women of Silicon Roundabout 2019 for providing the platform!

Thanks for reading! Please share comments of any other tips you have for creating environments for high performing teams to thrive!