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Partnering to Build High Performance Teams
by Edwin Richard Rigsbee

Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart, said in his autobiography, "The associates did it [the Wal- Mart Cheer] for President and Mrs. Bush when they were here in Bentonville not long ago, and you could see by the look on their faces that they weren`t used to this kind of enthusiasm." Would you like to have your staff enthusiastic about coming to work and serving your customers? If so, outlined in this article are many elements necessary to build your high performance team. Partnering with your employees is the window through which to view all that follows.

The Elements of a High Performance Team.

Element #1 Leader displays personal power rather than position power: Leading the charge is the most important element in partnering with your employees. When I was a child, my mother would say, "Do as I say and not as I so." Which choice do you think I made? Sure, I`d do as my mother `did` and frequently got in trouble for my actions. If this scenario sounds familiar, you better change your approach. "Be sure you`re prepared to live the values you profess your people will `hear` what they `see,` not what you say." -Dan McNamara, Senior Vice President, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America (The Art of Partnering).

If you want to lead a high performance team, you must do so by example. One way to lead by example is to exhibit self-confidence. You can show that you are a confident leader. A leader who has personal power rather than to be concerned with the title on a business card. Show this by delegating tasks and responsibilities to your team members. Delegate in a way that builds alliance relationships so team members become interdependent with one another rather than dependent or independent. Listed below are some tips for high performance partnering delegation:
  1. Adjust your attitude (be willing to hand over control).
  2. Identify which tasks can be delegated and then define the delegation.
  3. Create a training program (delegating without educating is a formula for disaster).
  4. Show trust in your team and encourage trust between members.
  5. Spell-out the limits, explain results wanted and define authority. Create a safety net so individuals can take risks.
  6. Ask for, and agree on a project/delegation deadline.
  7. Set intermediate goals and check to be sure the goals are being achieved (regular follow-up is crucial).
  8. Delegate with a purpose (explain the reason for the delegation and how the activity effects the workplace).
  9. Delegate the `What, ` not the `How` and get out of the way. Do not micro-manage.
  10. Be honest with your team members and assign tasks fairly based on ability and past performance.
  11. Avoid perfectionism.
  12. Debrief (feedback to and from the person who was delegated the task).
  13. Do not take on the projects of others until you are sure you want the responsibility. If you take on something from your team members, which they should be doing, you can easily become the supervised rather than the supervisor.
Element #2 Clear, Concise and Focused Goals: The best plan I have ever discovered for goal achievement is the model in Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It has worked for me and it can work for you and your team. The following is my translation of his model:
  1. Determine exactly what you want.
  2. Determine the price you are willing to pay to have what you want. Lunch is not free.
  3. Select a date when you will have or achieve what you want.
  4. Create your action plan (map) and begin at once.
  5. Write a concise statement detailing what you want and how you are getting it. Write this document in a way that what you want is coming to you.
  6. Read your document twice daily, in the morning when you rise and in the evening before you retire.
Element #3 Individual Team Members` Desire for mutually Beneficial Work Environment: This starts with attitude and a willingness to make Relationship Bank Deposits. Similar to the cash deposits you regularly make to your company`s checking account at your local bank. Without these deposits you cannot make withdrawals to pay your suppliers. There are two basic types of deposits you can make, those with strings attached and those that are unrestricted. It is understood that the latter are the ones that will allow you to make future withdrawals.

Element #4 Individuals` Desire for Team Success: In team dynamics, members can have a buy-in or an ownership in the plans for success. Like the executives at Mitsubishi Motor Sales found out, buy-in does not necessarily lead to success while ownership generally does. If you and your team members intellectual understand what must be done to build a partnering alliance environment but have not yet developed an emotional ownership at the core of your being; chances are that the team will not be as successful as possible. A commitment to participation is essential along with the need for all involved to also commit to have fun. If things get too dull, your team will loose their edge and bickering will follow.

Element #5 Consistent, Professional Performance and Behavior Standards: Take out a piece of paper and start listing the standards of performance you want all of your team members to follow. Offer them as a start to the team and invite them to add to and modify your list. Once the team has come to a consensus, print out the list and have the individual members (including you) sign the document. Give each team member a copy and post the original in a location where the team regularly meets. They will have more than a buy in, they will have an ownership in the standards of performance they helped to create.

Element #6 Information Free-Flow in All Directions: What is the value of withholding information? Generally the answer is power, the power over others. This is not the behavior of a leader, a person who derives their power from the person they choose to be. This is the behavior of a boss with low self-esteem who believes they will be diminished if they share information (power).

What might be the value of information sharing? The list goes on and on; communication, productivity, comfort, security, feeling good about the workplace just to name a few. During the first six months of 1995, I did an informal survey of hundreds of working people who attended my seminars across the country. The attendees ranged from entry level to executive level. I asked them to write one thing their company could do to improve their loyalty to the company. The replies that I most frequently received were: praise, recognition, communication, comfort, security and feeling good about the work they did. Do you see any similarity to the lists?

Feedback is an important part of open communication. The Three on Three method I learned from my mentor, Patricia Fripp, is an excellent way to build a partnering relationship with your team members. This is truly making relationship deposits, the right kind. Here is what you do. Start with the team member that you get along with the best. Ask them to tell you three things they do not like about the way you lead the team. After each response, answer with nothing more than, "Thank you." Then ask them to share three things they do like about how you lead, answering again with only, "Thank you." Get back with them in a week or two and review your progress so they will know they were doing more than talking to a brick wall. Do this with each team member once a quarter and within a year you will be amazed just how open the communication is within your team.

Element #7 Motivation Through Praise, Recognition & Reprimand. The difference between praise and recognition is that praise should be, from your heart to theirs, and in private while recognition is usually done in public.

Keys to Praise and Recognition:
  1. Reward the behavior you want repeated.
  2. Be sure that your praise and recognition work.
  3. Do it Immediately.
  4. Be consistent in the performances that you reward.
  5. Combine verbal praise with activities or things.
  6. Reward all improvement.
  7. Tell team members the exact reason they are being rewarded.
  8. Be sincere.
If you must, fake it `till you make it.
Keys to Reprimand:
  1. Reprimand immediately.
  2. Be consistent and fair.
  3. Specify and reinforce the behavior you do want.
  4. Reduce the attention of other team members.
  5. Reprimand privately whenever possible.
  6. Be the calming force in the interaction between you and the person receiving the reprimand.
  7. Say only what you mean and mean what you say.
  8. Reprimand unacceptable performance and behavior, not people!
Element #8 Celebration. Celebration in a natural human activity, it is the payoff for all the hard work. Sure everyone wants money but in my survey, it was far from being the motivator many think it might be. Celebrate achievement, positive results and phase completion or reaching a new plateau. A celebration can be as simple as a box of donuts during a break or as grandiose as a trip over seas. No matter the type of celebration, celebrate soon and often.

Believe in your team as Sam Walton did if you truly want to partner with your staff, employees, associates or team members to build a high performance team. In the postscript to his father`s book, Rob Walton, chairman, Wal-Mart Stores, stated, "President Bush and the First Lady would be traveling to Bentonville to present the metal [Presidential Metal of Freedom] to Dad, and he was thrilled by the honor. At such an occasion, of course, Dad could have invited anyone he wanted to attend the ceremony, but we hardly had to ask whom he wanted to be there with him: his Wal-Mart associates." Sam was an integrity partner with his associates you can too, if you simply make the same choice as Sam.

Copyright Edwin Richard Rigsbee. All Rights Reserved.

Edwin Richard Rigsbee is the author of author of PartnerShift, The Art of Partnering, The Art of Developing Strategic Alliances and CEO of a strategic management and marketing consulting firm specializing problem detection and solutions, customized training programs, and keynote presentations.

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