DiBona & Associates
DiBona & Associates

How to Build a Top Ten Percent Team

01.07.22 03:00 AM By Noel DiBona

When you think about the best teams you've ever been a part of, what makes them different?

Chances are that the teammates of these high-functioning teams had a strong bond of trust and accountability. They were efficient and resilient. They adapted to changes and worked smarter, not harder.

These teams were so effective because the leader knew how to play to teammates' strengths and understood how to motivate them.

#1 - How to play to the strengths of the people you have
Most leaders make the mistake of trying to fit people into predetermined roles. They prescribe how the work must be done. The team begins experiencing problems when these mismatched teammates miss their goals. Would you put someone in a project management role if they didn't care to be organized and follow detailed schedules?

As leaders, we want a solid understanding of what drives our teammates so we can communicate better with them and leverage their strengths.

Some people crave order and process, while others will seek opportunities to work with others.

Some people are open to change, while others are fearful of change.

Some people are persistent and determined, while others will break down in the face of criticism.

There are multitudes of differences between people, and as the manager, it is your job to figure out how to best use the strengths of your team.

Think about your current team. Do you have too many of the same type of people on your team? Do you have any teammates that are mismatched with their roles? 

High-functioning teams have a balance of different personality traits. When teams are balanced and self-aware, the team will anticipate issues and will stretch to get the work done while other groups would fail. These teams adapt and evolve as necessary.

The first step in building a Top Ten Percent Team is to assess the drives and needs of you and your teammates. 

This assessment measures individuals' natural Dominance, Extraversion, Patience, and Formality and relates it to how you believe you need to interact in the workplace. The review will identify strengths and potential caution areas by looking at those key factors and giving you self-coaching tips.

#2 - Aligning your teammates toward common goals
Since cohesive teams have a strong bond of trust, they assume good intent. They also understand that for their team to grow, they must sometimes disagree. That means high-functioning teams talk about problems, commit to a resolution, and hold each other accountable.

Spend time encouraging your team members:
      • Talk about their work and ensure they understand how it relates to team and company goals.
      • Don't overlook how their work might be dependent on others, or vice-versa.
      • Evaluate where their caution areas (blind spots) lie relevant to their specific.
Your purpose is to get your teammates to think collectively to promote teamwork and engagement. You want them to be highly engaged because you are committed to reinforcing the team values and objectives. They see it in practice, not just as lip service. Everyone on the team is on the same page, practicing what they preach.

#3- Keeping your teammates accountable to team goals
High-functioning teams don't just strive for accountability. These teams actually achieve accountability because of the high level of trust. If teammates trust each other, they'll engage in healthy disagreement. A trusting team understands that it must commit to moving forward.

Here are some examples of how high-functioning teams come to a collective resolution, then follow through:
      • Action items from team meetings.
      • Status checks on time-sensitive projects.
      • Informal group updates, periodically or as needed.
When teams have a trusting team culture, healthy disagreements are not seen as encroachments or violations of trust. Everyone understands they're held to the same standard. They're held accountable for their commitments. Cohesion is about clear goals and consistency of the team's purpose.

They should have no issue saying so if there are blockers or holdups. No one will assume it's because they're lazy or selfish on highly-functioning teams. The team will continually get better at anticipating these snags and problems, then shift to address them.

A few closing words
When teams are amidst change and stress, the Top Ten Percent Teams figure out how to do more with who they have. Top Ten Percent Leaders revisit roles as needed, based on the work to be done. Everyone understands that if the goals have changed, the work must also change. Leaders should evaluate whether or not their teammates are still suited for these jobs.

By periodically reviewing your team and strategy, you will discover the best avenues to improve productivity for your team, even as the targets move.