Your LEADERS make the difference.

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Your LEADERS make the difference.

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Maree's Blog

The three key elements exceptional teams have

As the HR manager (or the LEADER OF LEADERS) – what you need to know.

You are the HR expert responsible for the ongoing learning and development of the staff in your organisation or the leader of leaders trying to lift the performance of your managers and teams. You know that promotion often happens due to a person's technical excellence. 

They are put into leadership roles because you see their exceptional technical abilities and want to leverage that in other areas. 

However, you have discovered that the skills that got them into their new role are not the skills they need to lead their team well.

Technical experts, when promoted to lead a team, often experience doubt in their management abilities. They find the 'people stuff' more challenging than they expected. 

New managers struggle, and their team starts to struggle as well. When performance drops, workplace behaviour changes and the team's culture deteriorates.

You may observe the following with some managers and their teams:

  • The manager is working longer and longer hours
  • The manager is stressed and overwhelmed
  • Disastrous engagement survey results (low engagement numbers, toxic comments, etc.)
  • Team performance is dropping
  • There is infighting within the team, including conflict between individuals, and bullying behaviour
  • Higher levels of sick leave
  • Higher turnover of staff
  • Missed deadlines
  • People are confused about who is doing what

The impact is that you are constantly firefighting issues with this team or asked to mediate poor behaviour, and it impacts the team's mental well-being. This manager is not managing effectively, and the team are not performing well. 

What's needed here, the three key elements that exceptional teams exhibit, are:

  1. Engaged leaders and teams
  2. Predictable performance
  3. Empowered individuals


No. 1 - You already know that engaged leaders take their teams to higher levels. I wrote about this in my previous newsletter (read it here).

No. 2 - Ongoing team success requires predictable performance. I'm focusing on that element in this newsletter.

No. 3 - We know that empowered individuals can do far more than powerless individuals – More about this in my following newsletter.

Predictable Performance

Successful organisations have more managers in place who focus on creating predictable performance and fewer managers who are crazy busy and overwhelmed.

The exceptional teams you may be familiar with have managers who know how to prioritise their work.Creating predictable performance means the manager can: 

  • Build powerful connections so that the typical siloed approach that occurs in ineffective teams is replaced with alignment, and the team moving in the same direction 
  • Be a practical catalyst for the team, so they go from clueless and unsure of what direction to go in - to being clear about objectives, goals, and outcomes.

The question for you to answer is, 'how can you help emerging leaders shift their team from situational overwhelm to productive control and build predictable performance?'

Predictable performance means this team is doing what it is expected to do and stands out as it outperforms similar teams. The work is in safe hands, and the manager doesn't need to be across every detail. These managers can shift to a more outward focus and concentrate on high-value work appropriate for their pay grade.

A team like this is good news for you if they are in this space :)

The least effective are a small number of companies where many managers and their teams are drowning in their outputs. 'Busyness' is a badge of honour. It should be alarm bells that there is too much to do and no prioritising of the work.

I find that many managers and teams I work with are overwhelmed. The manager is doing a reasonable job with their team and working to improve. However, there is still a significant degree of busyness. The manager doesn't have time to focus on the team because they are busy dealing with issues arising. 

From your perspective, these managers need your support, as the team may feel lost or neglected because their manager is too busy to support them.

I work with a few companies where most managers and teams perform well, and the workload is manageable. Don't get me wrong; people are still busy; however, it is productive where the work is done for the right reasons. Performance is good.

As the HR expert or the leader of this manager, this is excellent for you. At this level, the manager and their team may need support from you. However, you have more time and opportunity to tap into the strategic component of your work as this team is in good shape.

I find there are a few managers and teams who are masterful. The masterful space is where exceptional teams live. Productivity and engagement are high, the manager and their team are highly effective, and things appear to flow. 

The masterful manager and exceptional team are the ones you want to clone across other teams.

Exceptional teams demonstrate the following:

  • Consistently high engagement survey scores
  • Support within the team for each other, with solid team alignment, so everyone understands their purpose and their part in this team
  • Team performance results that exceed similar teams
  • High levels of psychological safety, where there is a sense of security and belonging, trust, and strong relationships
  • Lower levels of sick leave, compared to poor-performing teams
  • Low staff turnover. And generally, turnover occurs due to promotion
  • Strong resilience
  • Clarity within the team about their roles. They are clear about what they are delivering or doing and what strengths they bring to their role
  • A delegation framework distributes work in ways that mean everyone is satisfied with the outputs. 

Skills that these managers demonstrate for predictable performance are:

  • Being able and willing to have difficult conversations. Too often, I've seen managers avoid having these conversations with underperformers. Team morale drops when there is perceived tolerance for poor performance. New managers often inherit personnel issues from previous managers who feared rocking the boat and couldn't/wouldn't have these difficult conversations.
  • Coaching. Having a coaching conversation means the manager is comfortable asking open questions to which they may not have the answer. Too often, managers immediately try to solve someone's problem by giving advice. However, people become capable faster when they think of a solution rather than relying on someone to provide them with an answer.
  • Mentoring. Mentoring is different to coaching. Mentoring is directive. It is about tapping into the manager's technical expertise and sharing their knowledge and experience with those with less experience. They leverage their skills and expertise to guide others. They serve as an advisor and role model.
  • Delegating. These managers develop a delegation framework and don't leave delegation to chance (or not done at all). Good delegation means the completed work meets expectations. 

What would it do for your business regarding predictable performance if the teams in your organisation were consistently at the masterful level? For the managers and teams you support - on a scale between 1 – 10, with one being drowning and ten being masterful - where would you put them? 

Get in touch if you want to talk about some of your struggling managers and their teams and what they can do to Level Up. Or tell me about your exceptional teams – I love a good news story :)

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