WHAT IS TEAM PERFORMANCE?
Before we go any further, let's establish a common understanding. What is a team and what do we mean by performance? For the purposes of this article, let's use the following definitions:
TEAM: ANY GROUP OF TWO OR MORE PEOPLE COMBINING EFFORTS TOWARD A COMMON PURPOSE.
I suppose we could begin to discuss why that's not the best definition. Maybe it's not the normal definition. It could simply be that you see it differently. You might even be able to convince me your definition is better. Fine. I get it and I care... sort of. We can explore that more later in another article called Words Matter.
For us to get anywhere together on the subject of Team Performance, we need to:
- Have a common sense of what matters,
- Have a common sense of what we call those things that matter, and
- Have a common sense of what we mean when we refer to those things that matter.
Can we agree to that? Are you willing to go with the definition of team above for the duration of this article?
Excellent! I'm glad you're still with me (or at least interested enough to keep reading). Please know that when I use the word team I mean any group of two or more people combining efforts toward a common purpose.
This brings us to performance.
PERFORMANCE: THE RESULT OF EFFORT.
You will note I did not say the intended result or the desired result. For our purposes here, performance is simply the result; be it high, low, extraordinary, typical, glorious, catastrophic, predictable, accidental, mediocre or undetectable.
It follows, then, that Team Performance is the result of the efforts of two or more people combined toward a common purpose.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Human beings are amazing. Don't take my word for it. Ask anyone. It is hard to dispute the wonder of our species and the incredible capabilities of the human mind. As individuals we have created great works of art, explained mysteries of the universe, made countless technnological advances and inspired millions.
Working in teams, we have performed moving symphonies and experienced the thrill of victory in sport. We have built barns, pyramids, railroads, airplanes and atom smashers. We have created businesses, societies, communities, economies, governments and belief systems. Working in teams, we have left the confines of our own planet and sown the seeds to make it necessary.
My point is that we human beings are powerful as individuals. When we combine efforts toward a common purpose big things happen. The more talents and efforts you can bring to the team, the bigger the results can be.
We are also social creatures with an ever-increasing ability to connect, communicate and form teams with other individuals almost anywhere. The teams we form keep getting bigger and more complex. This progression brings with it the promise of making hard things easier and impossible things possible. Sometimes they are wondrous things. Sometimes they are calamitous. Sometimes they are both.
Team performance matters. It matters a lot. Whether you are a team leader, a team member or a beneficiary of the results, it pays to take team performance seriously.
WHOAH, LET'S TAKE THIS DOWN A NOTCH.
That's some pretty deep stuff. Did you catch the bit where we went from cool space travel to scary all in one sentence? Whew!
As passionately as I feel about teamwork, my interest didn't start with any lofty goal of helping humankind. It wasn't about preparing to colonize other planets, saving the Earth or even wanting desperately to help the 113th United States Congress learn how to work together better (wouldn't THAT be something?).
My passion stems from personal experience in some very high performing teams. The best word to describe those performances is awesome. A singular symphonic band performance my Junior year of high school comes to mind, as do numerous practice sessions, performances and tailgating sessions with The Ohio State University Men's Glee Club. Launching a new wireless telephone company in Madrid, Spain over a period of seven months was pretty cool too.
Factoid: The OSU Men's Glee Club was unanimously declared "Choir of the World" under the direction of James Gallagher in Llangolen, Wales in 1990. Sadly for me (and maybe lucky for them), I had left the group the year before to move West.
My early professional career required work with many highly diverse, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-disciplinary and geographically distributed teams. Many of these teams did amazing things under challenging circumstances. Most had members that were only a year or so out of college. They had to work with people they had only recently met and who pretty much all came from someplace else. Everyone had to rely on those around them just to get by, let alone succeed. We learned very quickly how to work with people who were not like us.
TEAM PERFORMANCE MATTERS BECAUSE BEING SUCCESSFUL AND HAPPY MATTERS.
Most of our lives demand that we work together with others. I have never felt more proud to be human than when working with a high performing team. The feeling of wonder, appreciation and fulfillment that comes with being a part of a high performing team is worth chasing. It makes me happy, independent of the results themselves. It is the stuff goosebumps are made of.
"That's it?" you ask? "Team performance matters because we need it to be successful and happy?"
Isn't that enough?