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The Evolution of High Performance Teams – What’s Next?

High-performing teams have been the aspirational gold standard for teams for the past 15 years.  Who could argue with the importance of creating a clear vision and mission for a team?  Who could debate the necessity for clarifying roles and responsibilities, creating good work processes, demanding accountability, and pushing hard for clear communication between team members?  This is important work and we’ve invested significant energy and training dollars behind the development of such teams.

The problem that we face is that the world has changed significantly and radically over the past several years.  Leadership Teams are facing greater volatility, uncertainty, ambiguity, and complexity than ever before.  Change is happening faster. In fact, I would argue that the nature of change itself has somehow changed.  And thus, the nature of the game for Senior Teams has changed dramatically.

Holding to a Higher Standard

Leadership Teams are held to a higher standard.  They must be able to deal simultaneously with the “now” – every promise they have made to stakeholders, stockholders, and to each other including making their numbers and driving operation excellence.  And they also have to deal with the “new” – the over-the-horizon changes and strategic challenges that they can anticipate but cannot always see clearly.  And they have to be very clear about the “next” – their critical few organizational priorities.

High-Performance Teams, while important, were not designed for this.  So what represents the evolution of a Leadership Team?  How do we design and drive Leadership Teams who can raise the bar of performance and really succeed in this “new normal environment”

What’s Different about Top Teams

Over the past five years I have studied great teams – from those who are driving large, complex multi-nationals, to very smart people tasked with complex research, to teams of physicians and nurses working with very sick children.  There are some things they do that are very conscious and very different. We have called them Top Teams – the next evolution of high-performance teams.

There are some things Top Teams do which are very different:

  • They clearly define what they are FOR – believing in the power of a collective future;
  • They believe that One Size Does Not Fit All – and thus constantly work to define the team they need to be;
  • They believe in creating Trust over Peace – a powerful internal dynamic;
  • They believe in harnessing the Collective Intelligence of the group – demonstrating the power of real diversity;
  • They embrace and manage the paradox of working in the “Now and the New.”

The world has changed and thus high-performing teams, while still important, represent the ticket of admission to becoming a real Top Team.  Over the course of these blog posts, I’ll be describing the characteristics and formation of these Top Teams.  And I’ll describe the process of raising the bar from good teams to Top Teams.

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