The five blind spots that can destroy a high-performing team

There are five areas that can help organisations sustain their teams’ high-performance and inspire them to achieve goals.
By: | April 6, 2023

Amit is a smart, passionate, and driven leader who heads up the strategy and expansion team for a major retail company. He assembles a team, which quickly bonds and is already planning and taking steps towards the first milestone.

Then, by the slightest of margins, they miss the first milestone and Amit must answer the board, who are understanding and give Amit some leeway.

Amit decides, without consultation with his team, to make two changes. He gives the operations role to his strategy specialist, and cuts down on all distractions, including the time the team spends together. Instead, he takes charge, checks-in daily with everyone, and supports them as needed.

Things change and they meet the second milestone. The team continues an upward trajectory and subsequent milestones are met. Everyone on the team is working hard and has little time for anything else.

Then, things start spiraling in the wrong direction. Out of the blue, his strategy specialist resigns, and another member of the team asks for a transfer. Amit’s people have lost faith in him. How did Amit’s super-charged high-performing team fall apart? What could Amit have done differently?

Let’s look at the five blind spots that can tear apart a high-performing team.

  1. Comfortable vs uncomfortable trust

Amit trusted his team at the beginning and empowered them to get on with the tasks at hand. That trust was severely degraded when the team missed the first milestone. Amit moved from what we call comfortable trust to uncomfortable trust. This is a typical response to things going wrong: frequent check-ins, providing support to an individual without them asking for it, and being more hands-on in general. These are a few examples of well-intentioned actions that, unfortunately, signal a lack of trust.

Action: Understand the distinction between comfortable trust and uncomfortable trust, and avoid actions, though well-intentioned, that convey lack of trust.  

  1. Setting vs sustaining the vision

Amit’s team were energised and inspired by his vision at the start of their journey. Then, the vision got overwhelmed by targets and milestones. Everybody was scrambling to meet them and were on their own, heads down, working hard. The fun and the camaraderie disappeared. Amit panicked to a certain extent and did not stick to the vision the team had bought into.

Action: There is a big difference between setting the vision and sustaining the vision. In organisations with strong culture, leaders take it on themselves to remind everyone why they are doing what they are doing.

  1. Leveraging strengths vs abilities

Amit put together a team based on their strengths, but later he unknowingly tried to force a team member into a role they did not flourish in. A person may be able to perform well even on tasks that are not their strengths. They may have abilities, like the ability to learn, that allows them to perform well. But that will not energise them in the long run.

Action: Understand the distinction between strengths and abilities—strengths energise the team; abilities ensure the completion of the project. Maintain a good balance.

  1. Focusing on what vs how

After they missed a milestone, Amit asked his team to focus on their individual tasks and targets. He got them to focus on ‘what’ needed to be done. It was the best solution at the time, but in the long run, it eroded team spirit and collaboration. The team culture is a critical factor in sustaining a high performing team and ‘how’ a project is run, matters.

Action: Striking a balance between the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ is one of the toughest tasks in leading a high performing team. Completing a project is paramount. But doing it in a way that builds a positive culture is important, too.

  1. Reward vs recognition

Amit celebrated every win with his team, and they were well-rewarded. But was each member recognised for what they were most proud of? One of his team members was a new father. Amit never told this team member that he recognised how difficult it would be for him and validate the effort that went into meeting his targets.

Action: Ask your team members about their goals and what is important to them. Do not assume what they value when you are setting up rewards. Recognise your team for what they want to be recognised for.

Focusing on these five areas will help you sustain your team’s high-performance and inspire them to achieve your grand vision.

About the Author: Ritu Mehrish is an Executive Coach, Global Speaker and Author, The Leadership Troubleshooter.