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The Journey to High Performing (HiPo) Leadership Team Status

Many leadership teams underperform. The symptoms are clear to all who participate in such teams and show up in poor performance of the areas under their stewardship coupled with the dissipation of energy, frustration, indecisiveness and inaction.

Such teams seem locked into the ‘Forming’ stage, bound up in procedures and formalities, power struggles and confusion that mire even the best intentioned leaders.  Surprisingly such teams appear on the surface to be making progress. They:

  • Have agenda’s for their meetings;
  • They report progress;
  • They discuss issues and appear to resolve problems and
  • Spotlight non-performance.

It all feels very familiar. The team know each other and are polite and personable and are very careful not to rock the boat with anything too contentious in their meetings. If, by accident, something contentious does crop up in their meetings, there is a general consensus that this discussion is best held ‘outside the meeting’.

Such leadership teams are trapped in ritualistic and routine behaviours that prevent them evolving and even starting on the journey to High Performing Team status.

The Journey Begins

This is an adventure, so pack your bags and make sure you get the basics in place. Any leadership team needs a clear purpose, a reason to be a team worthy of the name. A HiPo team has a clear and shared reason to exist with a clear ‘end in mind’. The team purpose has to be significant enough to be worth “growing up” for as individuals, and “growing together” for as a team.

Process – Leadership teams usually have at least 3 very different agenda to manage:

  • Operational – the first area, (and usually the one that dominates to excess), is the operational agenda. Monitoring recent performance and taking decisions to course correct as required.
  • Leadership – this second area is designed to create the environment and focus the talent into areas where Operational work can flourish and perform in the medium to long term.
  • Strategic – this area is often sadly neglected for much of the year. It gets attention spasmodically, usually towards the end of a current operating plan cycle. It is designed to secure the long term future of your organisation.

A HiPo leadership team successfully balance these often competing agenda well, and give their scarce time and attention to each appropriately.

Membership & Value

While some turnover is healthy, HiPo teams have enough consistency of membership, so that once the team is built, it can focus on delivery, rather than keep ‘forming’ and ‘reforming’. A HiPo team contains a variety of gifts, personality styles, perspectives, talents, and are true the old adage that “none of us is as smart as all of us“.

Leadership teams can be given responsibilities but can only develop commitments. A HiPo team is clear what it is that this group of people, acting as a team can deliver. They know that without being a team what will never be accomplished, and they know the significant distinctive value to the organisation and the key stakeholders their team delivers.

The Journey Continues

Behaviours ­HiPo teams learn and can effectively:

  • Challenge each other’s beliefs, assumptions and paradigms.
  • Support each other’s efforts and are committed to each other’s success.
  • Align the independent efforts they often have to lead to make sure they synergise and are complementary.
  • Co-create things which cannot be created by simply aggregating individual efforts.
  • Disagree with each other without fear of recrimination. They use conflict as a potential source of new thinking, and all conflict is handled professionally and productively.
  • Choose and deploy a range of decision making processes to suit different situations.

All of these behaviour modes are appropriate at different times to suit different challenges. HiPo teams instinctively know how to collectively adopt the necessary mode(s) to match the situation they face.

Performance – HiPo teams know what success looks like, set energizing targets and have performance measures that track progress towards this destination. They have a track record of actually delivering results.

Permeable Membrane – HiPo teams are externally oriented and open to ‘feed-back’ and ‘feed-forward’ input. They regularly interact with other key stakeholders, such as markets, customers, direct reports, in a listening and learning mode and take the input to re-energise their ways of working.

Radical Action Conversations – A HiPo team tackles important business conversations in a way that translates potential into real results. Radical conversations go to the root, core, essence heart of whatever has to be evaluated, initiated, changed influenced or executed. They encourage the team to;

  • Face facts fast and develop imaginative responses;
  • Take collective and personal accountability;
  • Establish and drive priorities;
  • Have zero tolerance for divisiveness, defensiveness and bull;
  • Track and drive commitment;
  • Encourage progress; &
  • Share appreciation.

In Summary

HiPo teams know they are on a learning journey so regularly take ‘time out’ to review their performance and ways of working and invest time and resource in building the relationships necessary to make the team sustainable. A HiPo team leader needs to be capable of deploying appropriate leadership styles. Directive: Coaching: Supportive: Delegating: & Empowering styles are all necessary at times. HiPo teams take time and effort to create together and when successful they can become exemplars and can exercise leadership throughout the organisation as a result of their behaviour.  

If you would like to learn more about the work I have done to develop HiPo leadership teams then please contact me.