The five traits of high-performing teams

Humans are adaptable.  

We’ve survived all manner of calamity to get where we are today. So it should be no surprise then that we’ve found ways to make work “work” in a post-pandemic age. 

That’s what I took from recent research into the common characteristics of high-performing teams in the workplace. An article on the research was published in the Harvard Business Review.

The authors found five areas of commonality. High-performing teams: 

  • Are not afraid to pick up the phone. 
  • Are more strategic with their meetings. 
  • Invest time bonding over non-work topics. 
  • Give and receive appreciation more frequently. 
  • Are more authentic at work. 

Some of this affirms what you might expect as a business leader. Essentially, good people get along with other good people and so they are more productive. And the authors acknowledge that. 

“When it comes to building extraordinary workplaces and high-performing teams, researchers have long appreciated that three psychological needs are essential: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. … Of those three essential needs, relatedness, or the desire to feel connected to others, has always been the trickiest for organizations to cultivate.” 

The question is, how do you find and hire people who fit with the culture of your company – who can relate – so that they are part of the high-performing team that you want to build. 

Good question. 

I practice and teach a four-step hiring system that, while rigorous, produces team members who are more likely to be a long-term fit. The hiring process is so rigorous because nothing impacts culture more than hiring – more than who you decide to put on the bus.

One of those four steps is an interview to assess their cultural fit by getting at those five traits listed above and other traits important to the specific culture a company is trying to foster.

If you want to learn more about my hiring system, just reach out.

How To Recruit from Jay Abraham

The Great Resignation has not made hiring any easier, but it has made it far more important. Almost every business I work with is spending more time, energy and money on hiring than they were last year at this time.

One was paying $22 per hour for summer workers in 2019 and struggled to fill those same positions at $35 this year. Another hired a technical manager away from one company only to have that same company recruit them back by bumping the annual salary by $25,000.

But escalating the pay race only gets you mercenaries, that’s why I loved this email I received from Jay Abraham. Jay is trying to recruit believers in his cause and the opportunity he has for them. Not just those in search of a bigger paycheck. Here’s the email:

Nathan,

If you aren’t “a flake” read on.

If you are an unproven aspirant who’s never made any significant deals happen – NOR EVER MONETIZED ANYTHING MEANINGFULLY – stop reading!

I’m searching for someone to structure JV deals for me.

We’re talking about finding influencers to promote programs for me.

We’re talking about structuring co-branded mastermind groups for me.

We’re talking about persuading different media sources and online platforms to run rev-share ads for me seeking six-seven figure clients.

And a lot more.

You need to be truly adroit at connecting with decision makers of every type – influencers, authors, CEOs, consultants and the like.

You need a monster-impressive history of success, selling high ticket intangibles.

You MUST have made a minimum of $250,000 a year doing it – heavily based on commissions or profit shares (and be able to prove it!)

You must have at least ten great and appropriate references I can check.

You must be exceptionally resourceful and exceedingly self-motivated; because, I’m not going to provide the databases – you have to source them, though I’ll pay to acquire them for you – once you do.

This is either a turn on OR turn OFF!

I tried attracting pure performance based people six months ago from my list and got 100 people, most who were either flakes, misrepresented their abilities or just plain were “play acting” at making big things happen.

I wasted tens of thousands of dollars trying to nurture these “inauthentic actors” and worse, I wasted HUGE opportunity cost in the time and energy I had my team devote to people who did not perform!

So I’m offering to write a check every month to give you a very comfortable base.

I’m offering to lay out opportunities EACH potentially worth tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit shares to you.

I’m offering the ability to interact, learn and develop unimaginable deal-making abilities to add to your current impressive skill sets.

But I WILL NOT waste my time or energy on ANYONE replying who is either NOT well-suited or who cannot produce verification they satisfy my rigid criteria.

If I hate anything it’s people who waste my, my team, or sales staff’s time or opportunity cost.

So please DO NOT do that to me.

Anyone unqualified who does waste my time will be immediately and permanently removed from my database!

Qualified and seriously interested candidates feel free to apply c/o: Desiree@abraham.com

Use subject line: I’m NOT a flake!

Deserving applicants will be contacted IMMEDIATELY.

Undeserving responders will have their email deleted.

Jay

The “And”

Most of the companies I work with have been built on the passion and drive of a charismatic founder. The sales “process” was simply to free up as much of the founder’s time to spend with prospects and watch them magically convert.

But they quickly realize that if all sales has to go through them it puts a lid on company growth. So, they start building a sales team, but I have seen many make this mistake: they hire people for sales and…

There are many versions of the “And”

  • Sales and marketing
  • Sales and social media
  • Sales and design
  • Sales and fulfillment
  • Sales and

They’re still hiring as if they’re the small, scrappy startup, asking their people to play multiple roles.

There’s just one problem: building a sales team for the first time is hard work. If you don’t do it the right way – by documenting a clear sales process, identifying your ideal customer, laying out the expected daily activity, painting a clear picture of success, managing and coaching – the first sales people you hire will struggle.

And if they struggle at sales, they’ll be more likely to spend time on the “And.” People naturally want to spend their time on things that are succeeding. So, they’ll subconsciously find a need to post something on Facebook rather than make the next uncertain sales call.

One of my clients who made it through the adolescent phase and is now more than $200 million in annual revenue said that the biggest growth in the company came when they started hiring to plan and not to need.

They had plateaued at around $10 million for more than a decade and had always been hiring for their current need, waiting until everyone was overwhelmed. It was only when they began to hire people that they wouldn’t need for 3-6 months that growth took off.

Resist the temptation to hire sales and…

Hire them for a sales role they can grow into over a few months. Do the hard work of setting them up for success and coach them so they can help you succeed.

This is the fourth step in our 4D Transformation Method: Drive Results. I talk about it here:

If you want to drive better results by setting up a sales team for success, reach out to see if I can help. Just fill out this short assessment and book a strategy session with me.

What I read in May

My reading slowed a bit in May as I hired a business coach to help me with some changes in the business. It’s something I hope to write more about at a future time, but it required a lot of my time and attention, so reading decreased a bit. But learning did not. I was learning by reading a lot of their resources, working through video-based training and interacting with my coach on weekly calls.

Still, there was time for reading. Here are the highlights of what I finished in May, 2020:

Who – The A Method for Hiring

Most business leaders and entrepreneurs have run across the famous concept popularized by Jim Collins in his seminal book, Good to Great: “First who, then what.” The idea is that those who build great organizations focus first on getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats before they figure out where they’re driving the bus. But most don’t know how to do this. They follow what Geoff Smart calls some method “of voodoo hiring” like scanning a resume, conducting a short interview, calling a couple of references and going with a gut instinct. Smart instead gives a system for hiring that involves a scorecard rather than job description and a series of interviews designed to determine if the candidate is a fit for the mission, has the competencies to do the job and can achieve the agreed upon objectives. The ultimate goal is to hire A Players – to get the who decisions right. I’ve started implementing some of these concepts in my business and, if you don’t have a hiring system, you should, too.

VC – An American History

One of my businesses is owned by a private equity company, which is not exactly the same as venture capital, but in the same vein. So I was interested in this history of venture capital in America. It started long before California became a state and has been tied to the entrepreneurial story of America since its founding. Wherever there has been the promise of out-sized returns at great risk, financial intermediaries (venture capitalists) have arisen to mitigate that risk. It started with whaling industry and was made famous by the Silicon Valley firms that invested in the tech giants Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Uber, etc. etc. In between those two points in history is a fascinating story where the industry was kept alive first by wealthy families, military investment and universities. I was especially interested in his take on where the industry goes in the future. Nicholas mentions the innovative approach of Andreessen Horowitz to offer its portfolio companies a slate of services (HR, marketing, etc.) in addition to investment. Nicholas sees that as a sign of the industry returning to a long-term focus of building companies for public markets rather than short-term returns. Time will tell if that approach wins out, but what’s not debatable is that venture capital will continue to be part of America’s story.

Free Prize Inside!

The only way to win in business is to become remarkable. That was the message of Purple Cow. But how do you make a purple cow? That’s what this short book is about. In fact, that’s what the subtitle says. According to Seth Godin, he had to write this follow-up because business was all wrong in how they were going about their search for a purple cow. They were seeking the big. Big innovations. Big marketing campaigns. But a Purple Cow is much more likely to be a small, soft innovation that customers love – a Free Prize inside their offering. Writes Godin, “Most free prizes have two essential elements in common. First, they are the thing about your service, your product or your organization that’s worth remarking on. Something worth seeking out and buying…Second, most free prizes are not about what the person needs. Instead, they satisfy our wants. They are fashionable or fun or surprising or delightful or sad. They rarely deliver more of what we were buying in the first place.”

One of the most obvious free prizes is customer experience. It’s not more of the product or service. It’s something unexpected during the delivery of the product or service. Something that’s worth remarking on. And late in the book, Godin gives a fitting example. He tells the story of his interaction with Jose who worked in a taco shop in the Denver airport. What was remarkable about this interaction? Jose chatted with Godin for an extra minute while he ordered, got him a special condiment from the back. Later, he asked Godin how his meal was. In other words, Godin had a great experience with Jose. And as he points out, the cost of that experience was zero, but the value to Godin was “enormous.” Your customer experience can be a free prize for your guests. It can cost you nothing while delivering enormous value.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Great teamwork is the exception and that exception almost always means that a team has overcome five specific things that cause all teams to misfire. Patrick Lencioni has identified those five dysfunctions in this fantastic little book. I’m a huge fan of Lencioni. The first two-thirds of almost all of his books are a fictional account that makes his point followed by a non-fictional explanation of that point. I’d read the non-fictional third of this book many times, but never the fable that comes before it. I think both are his best work. Here’s a quick listing of the five dysfunctions (as I plan to write more about this book later):

  1. Absence of Trust: The fear of vulnerability prevents the building of trust within the team.
  2. Fear of Conflict: The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive conflict.
  3. Lack of Commitment: The lack of clarity or buy-in prevents making decisions the team will stick to.
  4. Avoidance of Accountability: The need to avoid discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable.
  5. Inattention to Results: The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success.

I recently listened to Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which Lencioni calls the field guide for implementing this book. I can’t recommend both highly enough to anyone managing a team.

More

I read The Vision-Driven Leader by Michael Hyatt, which would be a great book for someone looking to establish an organizational vision for the first time. Also read Visioneering by Andy Stanley, which I blogged about here.

What should I read next? Leave a comment below if you have a recommendation.