| Career Zone – How to build a high-performing team
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Career Zone – How to build a high-performing team

By Brian Tracy

This column summarizes an article by Brian Tracy published in the AWWA Rocky Mountain Section’s March-April 2022 newsletter. He is a U.S. Marine veteran and deputy director of public works for the City of Golden, Colo.

Career Zone by Brian Tracy, City of Golden, Colo.Being part of a high-performing team brings members a powerful sense of accomplishment and pride, and a shared purpose. You can clearly recognize these traits in those who win the Super Bowl, the World Series, and even a Top Ops or Pipe Tapping championship.

In turn, high-performing teams generate major benefits for their organization, including:

  • High value and strong results for customers and clients
  • A work experience enriched with a can-do attitude
  • A competitive advantage
  • A positive culture where all employees are valued and respected
  • A high level of trust and camaraderie among staff

Developing a high-performance team requires skilled leadership, coaching, commitment, intentional effort and strong individual contributions. Below are some suggestions for building a high-performance team.

Develop team norms

Ask each team member to reflect on their best team experience, then list key behaviors and traits that contributed to the positive experience on individual sticky notes. As a group, post the sticky notes on a common whiteboard and group them by into categories. These might include trust, openness, punctuality, inclusive, and treating others with dignity and respect. Provide everyone with a list of the common norms and refer back to it as needed.

Communicate to build commitment

Schedule weekly or bi-weekly check-ins between the team leader and each member to ensure everyone stays on track. Hold coaching and mentoring discussions as needed, including necessary but uncomfortable conversations. Ask each member to reflect on these questions:

  • How have I contributed to positive team dynamics?
  • What’s working well and where can we improve?
  • If you were team leader, what is the first change you’d make?
  • What do you wish you had the courage to tell me about the team?
  • How can I be a better team member or leader?

Hold team members accountable

Team leaders should evaluate individual team member performances based on how well they:

  • Model team norms
  • Perform individual job functions
  • Support the needs of the team and the organization

In addition, team leaders should immediately address any counterproductive behaviors that hinder the team or organization’s goals. Examples of behaviors that should be stopped immediately include complaining about other team members or being demoralizing or toxic toward others.

Creating a high-performing team is within reach. It just takes an intentional effort, some skills and a commitment to team norms.

More career resources and job opportunities are available at AWWA’s Career Center and at Work for Water.