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15Five's Guide To Creating High Performing Teams

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Managing a team has never been more complex. Knowledge-based workers are challenging status-quo leadership at every turn. How will you keep your A-players, ensure their happiness and call forth their best week after week?
15Five's Guide To Creating High Performing Teams contains helpful management tips on everything from building better relationships with employees to supercharging meetings and performance reviews.

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15Five's Guide To Creating High Performing Teams

  1. 1. GUIDE TO CREATING HIGH PERFORMING TEAMS 15Five’s
  2. 2. INTRODUCTION Managing a team has never been more complex. Knowledge-based workers are challenging status-quo leadership at every turn. Many of them work from home or are distributed across time-zones, and sometimes across continents. Even at companies where everyone works under one roof, the unique demands of the modern workforce are evolving. Millennials (who will comprise nearly half of the workforce in the next few years) seek purpose and meaning in their work. They want the right mix of challenge and autonomy and crave strong relationships with their managers and co-workers. Many managers mistakenly believe that employees are just like any other company resource -- they must be maintained, catalogued, and put to use in a way that proves their worth or they are quickly replaced. Like any resource, they believe that employees have fixed abilities and a fixed value. But your people are much more than that. They have complex emotional, physical, and mental systems that must be understood and nurtured in order to perform at their potential today, and to be able to grow into even greater potential tomorrow. Once you do that, you actually have the ability to transform each employee into the effective, creative contributor you want them to be. Here’s to you the people manager who has the greatest influence on the success of your team. This guide contains helpful management tips on everything from building better relationships with employees to supercharging meetings and performance reviews. I hope that you find the insights contained herein useful as you continue to support your people to do great work and live great lives. Sincerely, Founder & CEO, 15Five Your employees are people. David Hasell I have put together this guide to answer those critical questions, but everything you do as a manager depends on this one basic premise: That may seem obvious, but just ask yourself how you interact with employees. How do you treat them? Do you genuinely care about them? Are you helping them to live a more meaningful existence? How will you keep your A-players, ensure their happiness and call forth their best week after week?
  3. 3. CHAPTER 1 THE POWER OF INQUIRY
  4. 4. Scientific evidence over the last decade in the field of Neuroplasticity shows that the brain (and the entire human being) is not fixed, as previously thought, when we reach adulthood. People can be rewired, by creating new neural pathways and weakening old ones. Changes in behavior, environment, intellectual stimulation, physical activity, and emotional stability all play a role in enhancing people’s abilities at work. Give your employees an opportunity to celebrate and even brag a little about all the positive stuff that’s happened recently. You will also discover what they consider to be a triumph relative to the goals of the team and organization. When people identify where they are stuck and then bring someone else’s attention to the challenge at hand, they’re in a position to receive the coaching and guidance that helps them think about an issue in a fresh new way. Often just writing about where they’re stuck begins the process of getting clear on how to resolve it themselves. People want to grow; it’s in our very nature. But the mindset that people are fixed assets, tools, and resources is one of the biggest barriers to that growth. The best way to shift out of this mindset and elevate the performance of your team is to communicate with them regularly. Start initiating key conversations by asking these 2 questions on a regular basis: The best managers facilitate these shifts with repeated and directed attention towards the growth that they want to see in employees. What’s going well in your role? What are you proud of? What challenges are you facing? Where are you stuck? 1 2
  5. 5. People problems are the biggest barriers to the growth of any company, but the real problem is that your team is likely performing way below their potential. By talking to your people regularly and asking them questions, you capitalize on the opportunity to trigger their incredible innate capacity for learning and growth. Asking questions inspires self-reflection and encourages action. This is a central pillar of the 15Five product. Inquiry allows managers to acknowledge successes and offer support to help people learn, grow, and eventually become their greatest selves. (And as an added bonus, you will likely create genuine loyalty with your people, which translates into long-term trusted relationships and very low turnover.) Remember that when your team performs well, you perform well. And it all starts with communication. Questions are the sparks that ignite the imagination, and light the way towards desired results. He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever. ~Chinese proverb
  6. 6. CHAPTER 2 BUILDING LOYAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH TRUST
  7. 7. Relationships are vital to the success of any company. In fact the word company originally meant companion or friendship, not business. Without your skilled and intelligent people, your company is little more than a good idea. According to the 2012 Society for Human Resource Management Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report, 2 of the 5 most critical factors that contributed to employee satisfaction were communication between employees and senior management, and the relationship between employees and their direct supervisors. Employees want to communicate and have relationships that go beyond the occasional water-cooler conversation about the game that weekend. But managers often fear that employees will then treat them as friends instead of remaining accountable for producing quality work. Employees feel that if they let their managers in, whatever they share might put them at risk. “We live in an age of extraordinary transparency, which is reason enough to always be true to your core - your mission will be revealed, your motivations will show by your behaviors.” How important are these relationships? One element of trust is the understanding that transparency will benefit rather than undermine the working relationship. With trust firmly in place, employees can feel freedom to share aspects of their lives that are hindering or supporting their performance. Without knowing the reason for disengagement, managers are rendered powerless. But in trusting relationships all the details naturally rise to the surface. That is why workplace relationships must be founded on trust and transparency. ~Meghan M. Biro, TalentCulture
  8. 8. Trust is a natural human instinct, yet we tend to over-complicate it when we try to apply it to the business world. Here are two simple ways to inform employees so that they feel secure in their jobs and perform at their highest levels: Likewise, managers can be vulnerable with employees in a way that helps their success. For example, a 15Five employee shared that he felt like his skills were lacking. When I shared my similar struggles early in my career, he felt empowered to grow. Today he is a vital part of our core team. Instead of taking advantage of our relationship, he does his best work from a place of genuine loyalty and commitment. Encourage open communication to infuse transparency into all aspects and all levels of the business. Invite people to communicate about their triumphs and struggles at work and even about their personal lives. This can feel rather daunting for employees, who can perceive a higher emotional risk... Request Feedback.1 ...but in time that risk will pay off. Don’t walk away when employees share problems and challenges. This includes constructive criticism about you. Let employees know you appreciate the feedback and solidify the relationship by stepping-in with support and mentorship. At it’s best, work can be a place where people are supported in stepping into their greatness, and businesses that adopt this frame of mind are far more successful than they would be otherwise. I recommend scheduling an open conversation with each of your employees to discuss how you as a manager are truly invested in learning about and improving their experience, and supporting them in being the best they can be. This might seem obvious but communicating this explicitly lets employees know your intentions for collecting candid information and providing support in all of their professional and personal endeavors. Show that you are taking an active stand for your team’s growth, development and satisfaction. Always Respond.2
  9. 9. CHAPTER 3 SHIFTING FROM MANAGER TO COACH
  10. 10. manager - [man-i-jer] n. (1) a person who has control or direction of an institution, business, etc., or of a part, division, or phase of it. (2) a person who controls and manipulates resources and expenditures, as of a household. Wow, that sounds scary. Who wants to be controlled or manipulated? Not your employees. The best way to run an organization is not to view the employees in service to the company, but to view the company in service to its employees. Today’s highest-performing teams and companies realize they need to serve all stakeholders equally, not just shareholders, which includes their employees. Given the right structure and environment, people have an incredible innate capacity for learning and growth. But with barely enough time to get your own tasks completed, you may be tempted to just let challenged employees figure things out for themselves. Employees wither in overly-stressful and unsupportive environments. Their performance will most certainly suffer and they will likely eventually seek employment elsewhere. Unless you have experience as a mentor or coach, you may be intimidated to step into that role. It’s actually not as hard as you think. In the introduction to Harvard Business Review’s Guide to Coaching Employees, leadership coach Ed Batista discusses that a leader’s impact is not in telling people what to do but in empowering and motivating them. Batista believes that the simplest place to start is by asking questions. A manager can best serve by adopting the role of coach or mentor. Use the following practice to “help them fulfill their immediate responsibilities more effectively and advance their development as professionals over time.”
  11. 11. Effective growth requires some stress, but not too much. Eustress, or positive stress, is what creates growth (think about lifting enough weight at the gym so that your muscles are sore, and they are able to grow back stronger). On the other hand distress, or negative stress, can push people into failure. Just imagine trying to lift so much weight that you quickly throw your back out, and now it takes you weeks or months to heal. For your people to grow, they have to be both allowed and encouraged to move beyond their comfort zone. Whenever we move beyond our comfort zone (but not too far beyond) we may experience being challenged, enjoy some positive stress, and of course may make some mistakes. It’s through this process that we’re able to learn and grow, and allows us to be better tomorrow than we are today. Give people leeway to make mistakes.1 Don’t give someone so much autonomy beyond their capabilities that they are going to make really big mistakes that will negatively impact the team or the company. If the task is way outside the employee’s comfort zone but they are excited about contributing, have an honest conversation. Tell the employee, “this is a really big deal & I want you involved, but I am concerned about you having full autonomy. Let’s work together and let me have your back.” Ask the team questions every week so that the right conversations regularly take place, employees can self-reflect on their accomplishments, and managers can support them in achieving their true potential. Pretty soon you will have a staff that is equipped to handle new tasks and responsibilities with confidence. They can train others as they step into more advanced roles and help up-level your entire organization. Take calculated risks.2 Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion. ~Simon Sinek
  12. 12. CHAPTER 4 CREATING ACCOUNTABILITY FOR EVERYONE ON THE TEAM
  13. 13. The more a job resembles a game – with variety, appropriate and flexible challenges, clear goals and immediate feedback — the more enjoyable it will be regardless of the worker’s level of development. ~Mihaly Csikszentmihaly from his bestselling book Flow I often hear people-focused management described as “soft-skills”. But most leaders will report that people issues are one of their top barriers to growth, performance, and ultimately success. They don’t realize that their current staff are operating well below their potential. That doesn’t sound very soft to me. In fact, one of the most important people-focused management skills is far from soft -- holding people accountable. Discuss all of the rules and expectations at the outset. When people know what is expected of them and what their priorities are, they can work steadily towards achieving goals. This has to be done very explicitly. Each week, every employee should share what they accomplished over the preceding 7 days and catalogue their goals for their upcoming week. Managers essentially create a contract with employees that they will then strive to live up to. Set employees up for success.1 The benefit for them is that they get to see steady progress being made and feel good about the work they performed.
  14. 14. Establishing clear goals is like getting an alignment for your car. You pull out onto the street and your car drives beautifully. But just like at work, the road is not always smooth. Before too long your team will hit potholes and they will continually need input from their manager to stay on course. The 15Five Team lives the value of “hold and be held accountable”: When the organization values personal responsibility and integrity, people work with focus and autonomy. But accountability only works if everyone agrees to it and holds others to their own commitments. When employees don’t know what is expected of them, or what success looks like, they will fail. Poor managers fire those people and get upset about the time and resources that were wasted. Good managers empowers employee to be their best and hold them to the highest standards. Provide immediate feedback. Enroll everyone at the organization. 2 3 When you have a big mission and vision, anything less than excellence is not acceptable. Nothing works without personal integrity and responsibility and a culture of accountability. We not only commit to hold each other accountable to our word, commitments, objectives, and duties, but we also commit to being held accountable by our peers when we fail to deliver on what we have committed to.
  15. 15. CHAPTER 5 EMPLOYEE RECOGNITION LEADS TO BETTER RESULTS
  16. 16. Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort before their eyes. ~Behavioral Economist, Dan Ariely from his TED talk, What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work As organizations grow, hard work can go unnoticed. Some employees are good at making themselves look good, while others put in plenty of effort but don’t self-promote. Regardless of how they appear, every employee wants to be seen and appreciated for his or her efforts. Appreciation does not mean just recognizing someone. By definition, the word also indicates that you are adding value to them. Letting employees know that you are aware of their efforts drives them to achieve through intrinsic motivation, which is scientifically proven to provide more sustainable drive than an extrinsic motivator like a bonus. We are often our own worst critics, and many of us work each day with no objective way of knowing how we are doing. One might think that this is a good thing, since an employee who is worried about his or her performance will always strive to do better. But people who work in perpetual fear get stressed out and frustrated, which locks up the flow of creative ideas and lowers motivation. Regular recognition of a job well done unwinds this tension for the individual and boosts morale collectively. You can generate more revenue and increase productivity and efficiency across the board by simply complimenting specific examples of excellent work. Appreciate your employees for what they do.1
  17. 17. People are driven by extrinsic motivators like recognition and compensation, or the intrinsic achievement of mastery. Managers who openly acknowledge employees for who they are becoming empower them to do their best work and encourage them to step into expertise or leadership roles. All these share the common theme of positive transformation. When managers highlight the strengths of people at a company, those people are far more engaged, productive and creative. There are clear and measurable positive impacts to the bottom line. Yet the highest level of personal fulfillment is attained when people become something better. This is when the extrinsic and the intrinsic meet. That’s when your employees’ focused work has led to a position of mastery, and you’re telling your employee that, beyond having performed well on a task or having increased revenue, you see this transformation in him or her. The easiest way to recognize and motivate is to stop in the hall and say: Acknowledge people for who they are becoming.2 “It’s time to give yourself permission to be fully present at work. Why do I say ‘permission’? Because we need it. Many of us crave permission to be our whole selves, our real selves.” “I see who you were, respect who you are, and I am excited for who you are becoming.” ~Ted Coine
  18. 18. CHAPTER 6 MAKING THE MOST OF FACE TIME
  19. 19. There are essentially two types of performance-based meetings: all hands or team, and one-on-ones. This one is great for your employees who will discover new ways of concealing social media usage while you the manager attempt to gather relevant information. This is the most expensive of the two varieties since everyone is on the clock. The team meeting is simultaneously loved by your lackluster performers for its distractabilty and hated by your A-players for the same reason. Meetings and ideation are important, but here’s the problem. Brainstorming and planning sessions take time away from execution, AKA getting things done. A recent survey of over 38,000 employees in over 200 countries discovered that people spend 5.6 hours each week in meetings; 69 percent feel meetings aren’t productive (U.S.: 5.5 hours; 71 percent feel meetings aren’t productive). Instead of wasting precious meeting times updating differentstake-holdersabout cross-team productivity and challenges, how great would it be if people were already up to speed on important information? When valuable people are brought face to face, that is the time to focus on promises and decisions. Using software to collect and share status updates beforehand will streamline your meetings. When you regularly communicate with employees about their performance, productivity, and challenges, you don’t have to waste meeting time on status updates. Use the bulk of meeting time to debate, problem-solve, and take decisive action. Type 1: The all hands/team meeting.
  20. 20. There is often too much going on during a team meeting for managers to have in-depth conversations about each person’s role. And employees may be reluctant to discuss everything they are experiencing at work in that open environment. One-on-ones are the perfect opportunity to realign individual employees with team goals and also to build stronger relationships. Managers cannot set something in motion and then simply walk away. They need to get into a weekly communication rhythm -- have the right conversations and maintain employee focus on the most important objectives and issues. Managers are also more likely to uncover personal and professional challenges and coach employees towards solutions (see Chapters 2 and 3). When everyone arrives at the table fully informed, meetings don’t have to be the eye-rollers they are now. Use team meetings and one-on-ones to have important conversations and make decisions. Type 2: One-on-ones. Have you ever had an incredible meeting where your employee was clear on all initiatives and was even excited about it? What happened to that initial excitement a month later? Did the initiative come to life as beautifully as was planned? Then everyone can get back to their work with a clear understanding of goals and with the tools to achieve them. If you aren’t doing these and your team is still successful, please send me an email and let me know. I would love to hear about it. But for the rest of us in the management 99%, one-on- ones between a manager and each employee are critical. Your effectiveness as a leader is significantly impacted by the intention, energy and presence you bring to the table. ~Anese Cavanaugh
  21. 21. CHAPTER 7 EVALUATING PERFORMANCE MORE THAN ONCE A YEAR
  22. 22. So much ink has been spilled lately about how performance reviews are outdated, pointless, painful, and loathed by managers and employees alike. And who can blame the detractors? Do you enjoy your review process? First of all, without an accurate record of year-long employee performance you have no idea how employees are doing. So you evaluate them based on the last 30-90 days. This is due to something called the recency bias, and this information is completely inaccurate: If you wait to do a review once every year, you miss a huge opportunity to have your team operating at its peak potential. Priorities and shifts in the market occur all the time, not just every December. By neglecting regular check-ins with talent, leaders are unable to collect valuable information that could mean the difference between success and failure. Checking- in quarterly, monthly, and weekly will provide valuable information that can be acted upon in time to make a difference. At the end of each week and each quarter, discuss performance with the team and with each individual employee. This gives people an understanding of where they stand relative to their work so that they can improve, and it gives managers the ability to realign the team. You have an employee who is an average or below-average performer all year. In the last two or three months leading up to the review, he starts to step it up. Recent memory colors your judgment and you will likely tend to rate that person highly. What you fail to account for is accuracy in assessment over time at the moment you sit down to write their report. The employee is a solid performer who is suddenly encountering challenges. Perhaps these are job related or maybe they are personal. Trouble with a relationship, children, finances, health problems… there are a multitude of reasons for diminished performance. These recent issues have tainted an otherwise stellar work record. Again, you run the risk of seeing through too narrow of a lens. Scenario 1: Scenario 2:
  23. 23. Let me tell you a little story about the power of alignment... According to a 2014 study, birds position themselves and time their wing beats so perfectly that, according to aerodynamic theory, they minimize their energy use. The V configuration allows individual birds to catch the rising air generated by the flapping of the bird in front of it. By capturing this rising air, or “upwash,” the bird stays aloft more efficiently. It’s a task that requires each bird to monitor subtle changes in its wing mates’ flight and alter its own path and stroke accordingly. When employees are all working on individual tasks without an awareness of the efforts of colleagues, they are essentially all flapping their wings randomly and ignoring the power of the collective. Don’t risk everyone running out of steam and falling to the ground. Check-in every week instead of once a month or just once each year at review time. This will provide you with an accurate record of performance. But more importantly it allows you to re-align employees around goals while having the conversations that build relationships and inspire people to do their best work. HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHY BIRDS FLY IN A V FORMATION? That shape is the most energy-efficient and that type of natural alignment strategy can work for any team.
  24. 24. Good managers have the ability to become great, and great managers can become exceptional. All it takes is the right information, tools, and the time necessary to build relationships and invest in the success of your team. Encourage employees to become the best versions of themselves and support them as whole human beings. Ask them questions, respond with support, and empower them to do their best work. Lead by example, and you’ll inspire employees to strive toward your vision- whatever it might be. Leadership has always been more of an art than a science, but experts agree—proactive communication is essential. The secret to long-term success is about asking questions, really listening to the answers, and then using that information to guide your business decisions. Along your journey, we’re here to help. 15Five elevates the performance of employees, managers and entire organizations by consistently asking the right questions and having conversations that matter. To learn more, visit www.15Five.com Sources: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/careers/millennials- hungrier-more-well-educated-past-groups-n345406 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroplasticity http://www.shrm.org/LegalIssues/StateandLocalResources/ StateandLocalStatutesandRegulations/ Documents/12-0537%202012_JobSatisfaction_FNL_online.pdf https://hbr.org/product/hbr-guide-to-coaching- employees/13990-PBK-ENG?referral=02560 http://www.15five.com/goals/ http://www.danpink.com/ac/ted-talk/ http://news.microsoft.com/2005/03/15/survey-finds- workers-average-only-three-productive-days-per-week/ http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/01/15/ birds-flying-v-formation/4475687/ Image Credits: Oscar Rethwill TedX Pioneer Valley Allan Ajifo Philip Leara Joi Ito Woodley Wonderworks Bernard Goldbach Tec_Estromberg Iain Farrell TDLucas5000

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