Building High-Performance Teams For Your Business: The How-To

Success in business is often put down to a single, talented individual. But, as in many other areas of life, it’s more often the result of high-performing teams. As Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, said: “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”

In my view, there is a great opportunity here for business owners in the UAE and GCC. We know diverse teams perform better, and there are few workforces more diverse than those in our region. The question is: are we leveraging this advantage?

One other point I also want to stress is that while recruiting the right people is crucial, developing a high-performance team is equally about creating an environment where they can learn, grow, and improve. So, in this article, I’ll give my take on whether we can say if great teams are hired or molded.

DEFINING THE HIGH-PERFORMANCE TEAM

What constitutes a team? Fundamentally, it is the collective endeavor of individuals striving towards a common objective. A team is made up of interdependent individuals who are jointly accountable for results.

What makes it special is that a team possesses the potential to surpass the collective capabilities of its individual members. Whether we call this “team performance” or “team effectiveness,” we’re talking about how well the team fulfils its basic duties, and how it goes beyond them (such as working cross-functionally), as well as its ability to respond to changing demands– through learning and innovation.

When we look at the small startup teams –huddled around kitchen tables, or working away in garages– that later grow into tech giants, we often find a cross-functional team of developers, designers, and marketers working together seamlessly towards a shared goal. Even outside of business, we can find examples to help us think about our own organizations: in the early NASA space program Apollo 11, it took an estimated team of 400,000 people to make the moon landings possible.

In all cases, whether the team in question is large or small, what they share is that they are cohesive units that consistently exceed expectations, innovate, and adapt in the face of challenges. They exhibit exceptional levels of collaboration, communication, and accountability.

Related: Why I Took My Dubai-Based Team To Work Out Of Zanzibar For Two Weeks

THE NEED FOR HIGH-PERFORMANCE TEAMS

It’s been found that high-performing teams can lead to a 20%–25% increase in performance. In the context of the GCC region and UAE specifically, where rapid economic growth and fierce competition prevail, cultivating high-performance teams is critical for companies striving to stay ahead. Whether in finance, technology, hospitality, or any other sector, organizations that prioritize the development of such teams are better equipped to navigate uncertainties as well as capitalize on emerging opportunities.

To my mind, these are the key components of high-performance teams:

  • SHARED VISION AND GOALS High-performance teams are driven by a common purpose and clear, achievable objectives. Every member understands their role in contributing to the overarching mission, and they are committed to its attainment.
  • EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION Open, honest communication is the lifeblood of high-performance teams. They foster an environment where ideas flow freely, feedback is welcomed, and conflicts are addressed constructively.
  • COLLABORATIVE SPIRIT Collaboration is ingrained in the DNA of high-performance teams. Members leverage each other’s strengths, support one another in times of need, and celebrate collective achievements.
  • CONTINUOUS LEARNING High-performance teams are not complacent. They embrace a culture of continuous learning and improvement. They seek feedback, adapt to changing circumstances, and proactively identify opportunities for growth.
  • RESILIENCE AND AGILITY In the face of adversity, high-performance teams display resilience and agility. They remain adaptable, innovative, and unfazed by setbacks, viewing challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles.

Related: Planning Your Brand Communication Right: Six Trends You Need To Be Ready For In 2024

BUILDING HIGH-PERFORMANCE TEAMS

A quick glance at the numbers tells you everything you need to know. Let’s start with what happens if your team isn’t high-performance. A 2024 market data report shows that around 46% of failed startups cited a lack of team competence as the primary reason. That’s almost half of failed startups claiming it all comes down to the team. Another study shows that 75% of teams struggle with dysfunctionality.

As I’ve mentioned, one area of optimism for business owners in the UAE –where teams are, by the nature of the workforce, exceedingly diverse– is that increasing diversity within teams can create a 50% enhancement in performance. This is according to a study, which also found that when team members are empowered and working well together, companies show a 6% higher net profit margin.

So, what does a high-performance team look like, and how can leaders nurture and sustain such teams? As Steve Jobs said, “The best ideas have to win, otherwise good people don’t stay.” So, trusting others, and having arguments that are focused on the task at hand and don’t get personal, is key. (Now, it’s debatable whether Jobs himself truly followed this, but you can’t argue with his success!) In short, if your teams are engaged, they will stay with your organization for the long run.

One question often debated is whether high-performance teams are hired or molded. My view is that the truth lies somewhere in between. While recruiting individuals with the right skills, mindset, and cultural fit is undoubtedly crucial, investing in their development and nurturing a conducive environment for collaboration and growth is equally essential.

To achieve this, leaders must adopt a holistic approach that combines strategic hiring with team-building initiatives. This may involve implementing rigorous recruitment processes to identify top talent, providing ongoing training and development opportunities, fostering a culture of trust and psychological safety, and establishing clear performance metrics and feedback mechanisms. Managers should aim to cultivate cohesion within teams by promoting inclusion and recognition, ensuring that all team members feel valued for their unique contributions.

So, developing cohesion within teams requires a proactive approach on the part of managers. They should recognize that social cohesion is dynamic and can evolve over time, and as such, having regular check-ins with the team is crucial to gauge feelings towards one another, and identify the need for new strategies. Plus, building trust and familiarity through team-building activities remains vital. Additionally, managers should facilitate a sense of belonging among team members by highlighting the value of their individual skills and personalities in contributing to the team’s overall success.

Building high-performing teams in the UAE requires a multifaceted approach that prioritizes skillful recruitment, continuous development, and a collaborative environment. By recognizing the diverse cultural landscape of our region, I believe we can harness its unique strengths and unlock untapped potential. This means investing in team cohesion, trust-building, and inclusive practices to enhance productivity and cultivate a sense of unity and shared purpose. If you create a “best idea wins” environment, you will prove the maxim that a great team will always outperform even the most brilliant individual.

Tayyab

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