In order for team development to have a lasting effect, the process must follow the overall purpose defined by a client (usually the team’s manager or his/her boss) or sponsor (someone from outside the team’s direct hierarchy who might have an interest in the team’s development, such as a project or industrial program coordinator.) Team development is no end in itself, but rather a means to an end. This end is generally a high performance culture. Clients or sponsors define the performance indicators by which the development’s success is measured.
Once the overall purpose is clear, we like the team to set the concrete goals of the team development process. We then support the team to reach these goals as quickly and effortlessly as possible, maintaining our posture of even-handedness: always in support of the agreed upon goals, never in support of any particular party’s personal interest.
Team performance enhancement follows certain fundamental rules. These include clear expectations, unambiguous roles, candid and transparent feedback, clarity of expectations and scopes of responsibility, a purpose that relates to tasks and roles, and a good job-talent fit. All of these elements of performance culture are scientifically proven to be effective in the development of high performance teams.
But even with a room full of top talent, high performance only unfolds within a certain climate. This is why, at some stage of team development, working on relationships might be a critical variable for high performance. Bringing mindfulness – non-judgmental awareness – into the picture changes perspectives fundamentally: interactions under difficult circumstances immediately become more constructive, more productive and efficient, and more respectful – sustainably so.
Good preparation for a team development intervention is critical. We therefore have extensive preliminary meetings with the sponsor and/or team leadership/client about the desired performance indicators. We also have fundamental principles of our own: When we see that our work is intended to be just a smokescreen to make teams believe they’ve participated in decisions that, in fact, have already been made, we decline. For us, a workshop is always part of an overall development process. The more a team can generate this process autonomously, the more powerful the impact of its development. For this reason we also enable teams to help themselves: We train them to continue their development on their own.