Nobody ever said building and maintaining a high-performing dev team was an easy job.
High performance teams are filled with passionate, talented, and very opinionated individuals. They’re used to being stars individually, so the transition to being stars as a cohesive, productive team might have a speed bump or two.
One of the toughest things for these kinds of teams to learn is conflict resolution. What do you do when everyone on the team has their own ideas, all those ideas are great, and each individual thinks their idea is the best one? How do you decide how to move forward as a group?
Luckily, there have been many high performance teams that have figured this out, and we can all learn from their example. Here’s how to teach and encourage teams to work together to perform at their highest possible level, easily and productively managing whatever conflict arises for them along the way.
Before even reaching the conflict resolution stage, the first challenge is developing a high performance software team. That, in itself, is no easy feat.
Developing this kind of team takes a combination of a few different things.
First, you need to recruit team members who have high-level skills that are complementary to those of the rest of the team.
Then, you have to cultivate an environment that’s conducive to that team growing, learning, and accomplishing goals together. The team needs to have a clearly defined purpose and values, and each member of the team needs to be equally accountable for what the group accomplishes.
Finally, team members need to have equal ownership in the team’s success, so that everyone is committed to achieving a goal or purpose together.
- Purpose and Values: The team has a common goal and everyone on it is on the same page about why that goal is important.
- Empowerment: Everyone on the team has what they need to do their jobs. This includes policies, rules, and procedures that enable everyone to succeed.
- Relationships and Communication: The team exhibits mutual trust and respect. Individual members care about one another as much as they care about the success of the team as a whole. The environment is open for communication because team members not only care for one another, but depend on one another.
- Flexibility: Team members have complementary skills that allow them to pivot their goals and take on new tasks and challenges when needed.
- Optimal Productivity: On a high performing team, every member is committed to achieving results and meeting goals. Everyone holds one another accountable and takes pride in meeting deadlines, and because of this, the team’s work continues to move forward.
- Recognition and Appreciation: Both individual and team accomplishments are celebrated. The team feels highly regarded and takes pride in meeting its goals.
- Morale: Members of the team are proud to be a part of the larger group. They have a sense of belonging and are generally optimistic about what they team can and will accomplish in the future.
These traits are necessary because they’re the keys to conflict resolution as the team works together toward its goals. These traits can be put into action as the team faces different kinds of challenges, helping solve conflicts quickly and easily.
There are some common roadblocks that high performance teams are likely to encounter. These are some conflicts a high performing team might encounter, and how a strong foundation of the seven key traits above can help overcome them.
Trust is an essential part of a high performance team that allows the members to develop a rapport with one another that gives them the confidence they need to freely share ideas with one another. Trust also leads to sharing of failures and vulnerabilities, which instills honesty as part of the team’s culture.
When there’s a lack of trust, team members might default to working individually instead of as a cohesive unit.
Resolving a lack of trust on a team isn’t easy. Start by reinforcing the team’s purpose and values, then foster an environment of open communication where listening is as important as speaking. Clarify every team member’s role and ensure they’re empowered to complete their work, and that everyone is held equally accountable for working toward the team’s goals.
All too often in group settings, especially at work, we set aside productivity and professional goals in favor of preserving harmony.
To resolve this kind of conflict, again reinforce the team’s overall goals and purpose. Reconfirm each team member’s commitment to working toward the shared goal of the team. Foster open communication that includes facing trouble head-on, prioritizing resolution of conflict for the team over individual needs.
There are a few reasons why team members might not be equally committed to the team’s goals and priorities:
There’s no consensus across the team.
Team members aren’t empowered.
Solving this type of conflict can take a few different forms. If the problem is a lack of consensus, your team needs to focus on its purpose and values, ensuring everyone is clear about your common goals, and on relationships and communication, ensuring everyone feels heard and like their ideas and contributions are valued when deciding the team’s direction.
If the problem is that team members aren’t empowered, it’s important to find out why. Are they missing the skills, materials, or support they need to do their jobs? Is there an organizational hurdle in the way of their goals?
A common conflict for all kinds of teams arises when members have their own goals that they’re placing ahead of the goals of the team as a whole.
In this case, resolving the conflict can be tough. Revisit the team’s purpose and values to start, and make sure team members are all in support of the team’s common goal.
Then, turn your focus to optimal productivity, recognition, and morale. If members of the team are more interested in reaching their own goals than the team’s, it’s because they’re not getting the satisfaction they should out of achieving group goals.
An important trait of a high performance team is optimal productivity, and part of that is that team members all hold one another equally accountable for the success and achievements of the team. But when a team member makes a mistake, they might be tempted to try to shift or avoid accountability, which can create conflict for the team as a whole.
If this is the case, the team needs to work on its relationships and communication to ensure the environment is one that’s safe for team members to be vulnerable. Without vulnerability, team members can’t be honest with one another about their wins — or their losses.
On any team, conflict is inevitable.
But on a high performing team, members are inherently better prepared to resolve their conflicts because of the traits they possess.
A team that’s truly high performing — that possesses all seven key traits — has all the tools it needs to resolve any conflict that arises. It’s just a matter of identifying the conflict and which traits are best suited for solving it.
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