In a recent LinkedIn thread on leadership, Bob Whipple posted up a short note on “4 Essential Elements for a High Performing Team.” Bob said:

There are four common denominators of high performing teams. When these elements are present, teams are almost guaranteed to be efficient and rewarding for the members. The elements are:

1. A common goal – so all members pull in the same direction
2. Trust – so members are not playing games with each other
3. Good leadership – so that the team is fully engaged
4. A Good Charter – so the consequences of social loafing are spelled out in advance

In my experience, most groups understand the need for the first three (although only a small percentage actually have all three), but the fourth element is often not in place. It is critical to have a Team Charter that spells out expectations and that all members agree on the consequences if a member does not pull his or her fair share of the load.

Pretty Darn Simple and to the point. The Rule of 80/20 and Occam’s Razor both focus on keeping things simple.

My post was actually the first one and very much supportive of Bob’s thinking, where I shared thoughts about how easy it is to form a team:

A lot is made about personal styles for personality or decision-making or astrological signs but the four bullets above will generate pretty solid teamwork. Sure, one can nuance things and add factors and frameworks, models and surveys and all sorts of other things that CAN be helpful.

But how many teams never get started because they have not been through the training programs or certified to be team leaders or (even) team members, as if HR is running the show? I mean, really?

Put a bunch of kids on a baseball diamond with a ball and a bat — heck, some of them might even have gloves — and they will start working together as a team. They may even FEEL like a team. They know the rules of play, share a goal, trust each other (more or less) to do their jobs of fielding and batting and come together a little better if one person serves as captain.

This team stuff ain’t rocket science, but so many sure try to make it an expensive and time-consuming proposition. Sure, we can make teams work better but let’s face it: with the incredible sorry state of engagement we see in today’s workplace, with 85% of employees saying their morale declines significantly after spending six months on the job (Source: Sirota Survey Intelligence March 2007), don’t you think that a little teamwork might help things just a little?

And ANY performance improvement is worth the cost of involving and engaging people in a shared mission with clear expectations and necessary resources.

Ben Simonton, who says a lot of really smart simple things, added:

But how does one do it like create trust or what are the actions that constitute good leadership?

The answer is simple – listen to what employees want and respond to their wants to their satisfaction or better even if it means telling them why they cannot have what they want. Only in this way can we make the corporate culture align to the values of employees.

But, as expected, the consultant gang among us starts posting up about all sorts of additional requirements for success including things like training in Emotional Intelligence (which should take a few weeks)

But what happens over time is that we begin, as they say in the South, “to pick fly shit out of the pepper.” The conversations begin to focus on narrow and even more narrower points, make the discussion overly complicated, add model after model after theory and personal experience to the discussion and muddy the water.

I tend to view things through a pretty simple lens and to me, a lot of potential organizational improvement and team building situations basically look something like this:

SWs LEGO Boss Gang with Skis and RWs 2 90

Am I that wrong about this view? Aren’t most leaders somewhat isolated and don’t most people have ideas that would make for workplace improvement?

Do we HAVE to make things complicated with models designed through rigorous testing by the best academic researchers in the world and published by HBR and the academic press in books we will never read before we simply ACT?

Give them a ball and let them go play!

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, Surprised Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

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