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Building Peak Performance Teams

Even if you are not a racing fan, there is something exhilarating about seeing a car fly into a pit in a blaze of color as crew members in fire-retardant suits change tires, refuel the tank, replace hoses, make sure the engine is humming, attend to the driver, and, without a wasted motion, amid the incessant roar of engines, in a continuous blur of activity, get the car back into the race. Such pit stops can take less than ten seconds. Ultimately, they are where records are won and races lost.

In this tight economy, businesses like material handling distributorships can learn a lot about building peak performance teams from such pit crews. Whether companies are large or small, success often depends upon forming a cohesive group of people who, in other situations, might not necessarily get along together. It used to be enough for companies to concentrate on simply hiring the best people for each position. But that alone is no longer enough to stay ahead of the competition. Now the most successful companies are those that can create synergies, sparks and a sense of purpose among divergent team members.

Such companies are able to create environments where managers are keenly aware of their own strengths and limitations, and are able to identify and develop the potential of their staff. These companies have a special fire, a mission, that keeps them pulling in the same direction.

Peak performance teams are able to bring out exemplary talents in each player, create efficiencies, prepare for eventualities, synchronize activities, communicate on the fringes of each other’s abilities and operate with a unique single-mindedness of purpose.

Creating peak performance teams is what separates the best companies from the rest. Most managers succeed not because of their talent, knowledge or ability alone, but because they are able to recognize potential in others and turn their staff into a productive team.

Lessons from Team Building
Team building is not a quick, one-shot approach. Rather, it is a continuous, evolving process, which, in order to be effective, starts with a clear vision of the team’s goals and a well-defined strategy on how to attain those goals. A team must be viewed as a totality, not as discrete elements. Every team has particular strengths and weaknesses.

Regardless of the nature of the business or the size of the company, peak performance teams typically share a number of common characteristics:

  • They have a unified understanding and vision of the company’s goals, objectives and future.
  • Each team member is keenly aware of his or her own skills, precise role and value to the team, as well as those of all the other team members.
  • Members of the team derive as much satisfaction from the performance and achievements of others as they do from attaining their own milestones.
  • Communication among team members is open, informal and ongoing.

There are, of course, many tools available to help management move a team forward; including studies, valid psychological tests, employee productivity workshops and team building activities. Which of these activities is appropriate depends on what gaps exist between where the team is and where it could be.

The touchstones for developing a peak performance team are: having insights into the strengths, limitations and potential of each of the members of the team, starting with the leader; developing a clear understanding of the chemistry among team members; unraveling possible areas of conflict; and knowing how the team fits in with the company’s overall goals.

Regardless of size or age, the most successful companies share one thing—an emphasis on creating more effective ways of empowering people to collaborate. Only with such a commitment can today’s companies, including material handling distributorships, keep ahead of the competition, and move toward reaching goals and realizing visions.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Herb Greenberg Meet the Author
Herbert M. Greenberg, Ph.D., is president and CEO of Caliper, a human resources consulting firm located in Princeton, New Jersey, and on the Web at www.calipercorp.com.

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