High Performance Teams and Mitigation

One of the most exciting and fulfilling things you can do as a project manager is to create a high performance team environment.  In one of the recent audio episodes I discussed creating a collaborative environment and used the word “mitigation” frequently, and for good reason.  When you are building a high performance environment, you are constantly mitigating risks and issues that arise that can tear apart your team.

The team balance is very delicate.  It is based on trust that people can voice a concern or raise an issue and the rest of the team will take that issue put it in the middle of the table and look at it from different angles to view it objectively and analyze it for substance or effect.  The team cares not about the personality that raised it and detaches the personality from the issue to truly understand between the lines what is the real issue or real concern regardless of the language being used.

This is a true team environment and it takes the most political and personal communication skill that is available to nurture it, protect it and promote it.  As a project manager you need to constantly be vigilant about what is said and how it is said.  If words spoken are a veiled personal attack you must address the voice that is attacking in private with that individual immediately.  For the person being attacked, you must help them understand how the language used was inappropriate, and replace with what was meant to be said.  You must constantly mitigate destructive conversation.

A trusted team environment is not something you can demand or dictate.  It will emerge on its own.  When it does, when you have mitigated all the personal communication risk issues, the feeling will be magical.  The team will know it and embrace it.  A true high performance team environment is difficult to define, however when you are in it, you know it.

A true team environment is heady and infectious.  People cannot get enough of it.  I have had senior technical staff approach me, when I have left for other opportunities and complimented me on the environment I created and it has been said many times, that it was the most enjoyable technical and business environment they ever worked in.

It will be due to your hard work that it gets to that point.  It starts with yourself and moves out from there.  It starts with you being humble about what you know and don’t know and your admission about errors or missteps.  Lack of confidence and self deprecation is different than humility. 

Humility can be confident.  When you lead a team and understand your role and don’t try to make yourself wise about other areas of responsibility and treat issues and problems objectively you will be begin to build that level of trust.  Then as the circle of trust widens from there to begin to create your high performance team, you can confidently begin to mitigate the communications problems that will arise, knowing that you have worked to set an example yourself.