Five Top Team Leadership Tips for High Performance

For a recent software conference keynote, my assignment was to provide personal strategies to ensure individual success when serving on product development teams. Here are five top tips I suggested.

1. Take personal responsibility for team productivity

Question: Do you want and deserve to be on a wining team? Assuming so, then answer this: Who will be responsible for making that happen again and again and again for the rest of your career?

Individual contributors who have been conditioned to be accountable only for their own role might like to refute this tip. But if you are truly on a team (see tip #2 below), as opposed to fulfilling an independent role in a bureaucracy, refute it only at your own peril.


Because on high performing teams, individuals win only when the team wins. Therefore, ensure your own success by assuming responsibility for team productivity. How? Follow tips #2-5.

2. Define and then get in the same boat together

The single best way to enhance team productivity is by gaining alignment around what the team is to do AS A TEAM. Ask teammates to put aside individual roles until you get 100% complete shared clarity about what your collective will accomplish.

To do this, think about being “in the same boat together:” No crew member can claim victory until the boat reaches its destination, then all crew members win.

3. Determine WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), then WIIFY (…You)

Predicting the motivation of peers is of major concern to most team members. Organizations use carrots and sticks to manage motivation, but team members don’t usually have authority over each other. Teams DO form naturally when individual members’ interests are aligned with the collective effort or task. So, if you want to energize yourself and others, connect what each is doing on this team to something important to them.

How do you discover what that is? Ask! Ask how you (they) will benefit when this team is successful.

4. Make and keep agreements

Since you’ve just made your interests known, wouldn’t you like to protect them?

You can by making explicit agreements about how team members will work together. Because teams don’t use an authority system for controlling behavior, they lack the implicit norms that exist in hierarchical relationships. These include implicit norms for decision making, communication, performance measurement and feedback. So, make and keep agreements about how you will communicate, make decisions, treat secrets, deal with upsets, and anything else important to you.

5. “Call it!”

When there is no authority to determine right and wrong, a team must police itself. This is done by team members letting each other know when individual actions threaten the team. Whenever any team member violates an agreement or appears to ignore the team’s interests, call them on it. Not nastily. Instead, do it in an even tone that let’s him know that you noticed and are concerned for the team.

Today’s 5-Minute Stretch

Think about teams and other peer relationships where you share responsibility for outcomes. Do you INTEND to do what it takes to have a productive relationship? Or, do you “do your part,” “meet them half way,” or “just do your job and hope they will do theirs?” What can you do to take any of these teams or relationships to the next level?

You can use these five tips to bring responsible productivity to any work relationship. Try it today. And let me know how they work for you.


Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies now in this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Posted in Leadership, Responsibility, Teamwork on 04/01/2013 09:59 am
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