Management and Leadership Series Posted by Nicola Maxwell

The 5A’s

We’ve had a lot of conversations with different leaders and team members across organisations over the years about team performance. On the surface everything looks hunky dory – the team is achieving objectives, hitting targets and seem to be performing well. But the reality, once we dig under the surface and start asking questions, isn’t always so great. We often find that team members are stressed, working long hours, not being recognised and would be more engaged in their work if certain conditions were met.

Teams don’t just happen by accident because you say people are in a team; they need to be created and honed, and to do that you need to follow some key steps to ensure your teams are delivering and performing to their full potential. Delivering true high performance in a team does not necessarily mean working harder and it certainly doesn’t mean working longer hours.

Our 5A model of High Performance identifies 5 clear areas that you can address to position your team to achieve high performance:


1. Aim: Be clear about where your team is going and have goals at all levels by:

a. Establishing your team purpose – be clear why your team exists. What value do they add? Make sure everyone in the team buys into the team purpose.
b. Setting clear objectives for the team – for 3, 6, 12 months and beyond. Ensure these are outcome-based objectives that tell people why they’re doing what they’re doing and how they’ll know when they’ve achieved it.
c. Make sure everyone is aware of the role they play in helping the organisation meet its objectives.


2. Ability: Ensure your team has the talents, capability, processes and resources to achieve the Aim by making team roles clear.

a. Focus on what’s strong not what’s wrong. Play to individual’s strengths. Set challenging goals that play to strengths.
b. Define the role each person plays in the team, playing to their strengths, giving them areas of responsibility and autonomy, and being clear what you will call on them to do.
c. Make sure everyone knows what part they will play to achieve team success and make them aware of each others strengths.


3. Attitude: Does your team have the motivation, mindset and resilience to get the job done?

As one team member said to me on a recent training programme, “I’m not lazy, I just can’t be bothered!” Putting in place the following will instil a more positive attitude:

a. Communicate regularly: as a team and one to one. Whether this is weekly, fortnightly, monthly – agree it, set the expectation and stick to it. Even if it’s only a 10 minute get together – be consistent, and share information openly with each other.
b. Hold people accountable: individually team members need to be accountable for what they agree to do. There is no point agreeing as a group then grumbling about it later. Step up and be there!
c. Give praise and recognition: share positive feedback when a job is well done. High performing teams have a ratio of 3:1 positive to negative communications. This is proven to build their resilience in times of difficulty. They recover more quickly from setbacks and see solutions to problems more readily.


4. Approach: Create team behaviours and values and agree how are you going to play as a team.

For example:
a. We will be at meetings on time and prepared
b. We will not cancel one to one’s due to poor time management
c. We will respect each other, and not bitch behind each other’s back

It’s whatever works for your team, but you need to agree them together and stick to them. If you are to truly be a high performing team, you need to trust each other, be honest and call each other out when one of you doesn’t deliver, fails to be accountable or demonstrates poor team behaviour.
As a leader, you also need to walk your talk. Don’t expect your team to be something you’re not!


5. Adaptability: This is about being agile and responding to change.

Be prepared to challenge each other, to continuously improve and adapt to the shifting sands of your industry. To do this you need to be honest with each other about what isn’t working and why.

So, revisit how you work as a team, recommit to each other and be really honest about how you think you are performing. Above all, keep at it.


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