Developing a High Performance Team: Effective Conversations

by Jo Anne Nelson on April 4, 2013

In recent posts, we have examined what is involved in developing a high performance team. We looked at the role of the individual, and the connections, interactions and dynamics that happen between individuals–relationships. Now let’s look at another critical element: conversations.

High performance teams are pulled together to complete projects or initiatives. And, doing that requires having conversations. The level of skill each individual brings to the conversations they have directly impacts the way the team coordinates and completes the project.

At the start of the project, the team needs to clarify and align around what it is they are going to produce. Otherwise, each team member may have a different interpretation of what successful completion will look like. And to generate efficiency and effective project execution, they need to delineate roles and responsibilities up front and give feedback and coordinate during execution.

For some people, having these conversations is very easy. But for others, they can feel difficult or confrontational. Developing a high performance team requires focusing on building the skill of each individual to have difficult conversations in an objective and professional manner.

It is important to remember that ‘difficult’ is just an assessment. It is an opinion. So what may be difficult for me may not be difficult for you. This can create a lot of complexity if we don’t have the ability to empathize and connect with those we are interacting with.

What do I mean by this?

For instance, I may learn that you avoided having a conversation with me. I can’t figure out why you did, because for me it might be a really easy conversation to have. It’s then easy to create the story that I think you’re avoiding me, even though you are really just avoiding the conversation.

Remember that awareness is also critical. I need to have awareness of myself and those with whom I am interacting with to understand that what is easy for me may be difficult for them. Or vice versa. If I don’t, then it is easy for my relationships to get off track.

On a day-to-day basis, suboptimal, avoided, postponed, unnecessary and inappropriate conversations divert focus from what matters, generate distraction, and lead to confusion, delays and unfulfilled promises and commitments. As a result, mood and performance are compromised, and talent often exits prematurely.

Developing a high performance team means focusing on conversations, and bringing discipline to the network of conversations that drive action and results within the organization. That is the most profound way to have dramatic impact on efficiency, effectiveness, productivity and performance.


Jo Anne Nelson

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