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How to Build a High-Performance Project Team

~ By Duncan Haughey

Business people and bar graph going upwards

Let's consider this scenario:

Your manager has asked you to set up a project to develop a new product for your company. Your number one competitor is producing a similar product. You must get to market first to gain competitive advantage. The first to market will gain the greatest market share.

The first thing you need to do is to put together a project team that will design, develop and manufacture the product.

Success is essential to the profitability of your company, so you must ensure you have a high-performing project team focussed on winning.

With this in mind, what makes a winning project team?

  • Continuous wins to have a chance of being successful
  • Doing things right every day (sustainable success)
  • A culture where high performance is natural
  • Team values such as honesty, openness and punctuality exist

How do you build a high-performing project team?

First, let's understand what makes a high-performing team and then the type of people needed:

The Team

Good Team vs. Brilliant Team

Understanding the difference between a good team and a brilliant team is crucial. Brilliant teamwork is supported by SMEs behind the scenes. People need to work together to achieve the common goal. There are no excuses, pessimism or reluctance to change.

A Common Goal

Every team needs a common goal. An athletics team's goal is to win a certain number of medals at a championship. Project teams need a goal with that same level of clarity.

Clarity of roles is crucial.

Be clear what everybody's role is - what each team member is expected to do and how they contribute to achieving the goal. If everyone sticks to his or her role, you will have a professional team and will be successful.

Embrace Diversity

Diversity has to be embraced to increase the potential of the project team. Differences must be welcomed. We need a range of skills to be effective. Why? Too much harmony can kill performance.

To be a brilliant team:

  • Don't just accept OK, look to improve continuously and strive to be better
  • Build a big vision for the team
  • Deliver, through results, what you say you will deliver
  • Aim to hit all targets and achieve all goals

The People

The Three Ds

Successful people have desire, dedication and determination.

Desire is the fuel for your success. Lacking a desire to succeed is like driving a car without petrol – you're going nowhere. Do you have the hunger to achieve your goal?

You must become dedicated to your ambition. Work towards your ambition every day. Ask yourself, "What have I done today to move me closer to my ambition?"

It's easy to have a dream, but it's also easy to give up on that dream when the going gets tough. Power through that. Exercise determination to achieve your dream. Do not trust your talent alone. A mindset of being willing to pay a price makes a difference. What will you give up to achieve your dream?

Become a Winner

What is it that winners do that make them stand out in the crowd? Why do some people always do well, while others struggle?

A useful tool is 'Be - Know - Do' - three simple steps to becoming a winner:

  1. Be - the best you can be
  2. Know - follow a life-long learning approach
  3. Do - choose to take action

Winners play to their strengths and maximise their abilities. It's not always the most intelligent or talented people who succeed. Often, it's those people who have minimised their shortcomings and maximised their strengths.

Are you committed to becoming the best you can be, life-long learning and taking action?

To become a winner, ask yourself three questions:

  1. What can I do personally in the next 24 hours?
  2. What can my team and I do in the next seven days?
  3. What help do I need in the next 30 days?

To build a high-performing project team:

  1. Focus on winning
  2. Set high expectations of each other. Give 100%. Expect 100%
  3. Apply a high degree of accountability to each team member
  4. No excuses – nobody is interested. Improvement does not come from making excuses
  5. Be resilient. Not everything will be sunny and rosy. You will encounter obstacles
  6. Adopt a can-do mentality. Believe in what you're going to do

Finally, you need an optimistic approach to be successful. Believe in your project. Go all out to achieve success.

What does success look like for you and your team?


Recommended Book

Good To Great by Jim Collins. Jim starts by asking the question, Can a good company become a great company, and if so, how? His book uncovers the underlying variables that enable any type of organisation to make the leap from good to great while other organisations remain only good.


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