Bywater Consulting Group, LLC
Liz Bywater, PhD

March 2009

Spotlight on Leadership: How to Achieve Exceptional Team Performance (Part One)

We live in extraordinary times. The economic, social, and political landscapes are in flux across the globe. Job security is on the decline. People are working harder than ever, taking on more responsibility, with fewer resources, and feeling tremendous pressure to perform.

There has never been a greater need for exceptional leadership.

Today's newsletter kicks off our latest series on the art of leadership. Spotlight on Leadership will highlight the essential skills of outstanding leadership and offer pragmatic advice on how to lead effectively in these challenging times. Today's focus: How to Achieve Exceptional Team Performance.

Whether you are taking on a new leadership role and inheriting an existing team, adding new members to your group or establishing a completely new team, great team performance begins with learning about whom you've got. Ask yourself how well you know each of the unique individuals that comprise your group.

Who are these people anyway? Take the time to get to know your team members as people. Are they newly married or divorced? How old are their children? What joys and challenges do they face in their home lives? Remember that people bring their entire selves to work. The better you know the folks who show up for work each day, the better you can help them manage the stressors that threaten to impair performance. While you're at it, give your team a chance to learn something about who you are, too. This is an important step in gaining credibility, building trust, and fostering strong relationships.

Learn about management needs. What type of support does each member require? Which of your reports requires frequent communication and direction? Who expects greater autonomy? While few people like to be micromanaged or left completely to their own devices, there is tremendous variability in terms of individual management needs and preferences. Learn what each of your people wants from you and how each team member works best. Adapt your style accordingly.

Identify strengths. What does each team member do particularly well? How will you leverage these strengths to maximally benefit the team, the organization, and the individual? Look for opportunities to help each team member build upon existing skills and aptitudes and, where needed, develop relevant missing competencies.

Don't leave anyone out. Don't neglect the layers of employees below your direct reports. While the interaction with these folks may be less frequent, they still need to see and hear from you. Stay in touch with them. Get to know who they are and what they are working on. Convey your respect for them and your appreciation for their contributions. There is no underestimating the positive impact this sort of connection has on employee engagement, morale and productivity.

Take note of team dynamics. In addition to learning about the individual members of your team, you'll need to figure out how they work together as a group. Are they collaborative? Do they freely share information and resources? Do they engage in open and candid communication, including a healthy dose of creative conflict? You'll want to assess the dynamics of your team and uncover the greatest collaborative opportunities as well as any counter-productive undercurrents of mistrust or misalignment. Remember, even a group of top performers can flounder if the team isn't working well as a whole.

Be sure to check out the next Bywater Journal for additional tips on how to develop and maintain the conditions for unparalleled team performance.

Speaking Engagements:

April 30, 2009. Communication Strategies for Real World Success: What Every Student Needs to Know. Burlington County College.

August 6, 2009. Practical Goal Setting: From Intent to Achievement. Technology Professionals Networking Group (TPNG). Plymouth Meeting, PA.

August 20, 2009. Practical Goal Setting: From Intent to Achievement. Career Networking Group. Basking Ridge, NJ. Open to the public. Starts at 7:00 pm. For more information, please call 800.845.4546 ext. 103 or send an email to

In the Press:


Whistle While You Work: Happy Employees are Critical to Organizational Success. (


Nobody Works for Free: How to Reward Outstanding Performance (The Stepping Stone)

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Liz Bywater, PhD
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