How to develop a high-impact team - PwC

The best leaders don’t just stumble upon such teams; they know how to build a dream team, even under challenging circumstances. And they do this not by focusing on one or two impact players but by carefully curating team members with the right mindset; developing them as individuals and as a team; and nurturing a robust, healthy culture.

When you’re a leader building a team, sometimes you can recruit and stack the deck in your favor; this is especially likely if you work in an organization that is actively bringing in new talent. However, few corporate managers have the luxury of handpicking and assembling their dream team from the start. More often, you must create your dream team by conjuring brilliance from a group of inherited employees. In this case, it’s your job to grow the talent you already have. To do this, you need to create an environment in which the right mindsets and behaviors can flourish, and then you need to implement five key coaching habits.

Creating safety that enables stretch

The best leaders cultivate a climate that is both comfortable and intense. They remove fear and provide the security that invites people to do their best thinking. At the same time, they establish an energizing, intense environment that demands people’s best efforts.


What occurs when you create only one of these conditions? What happens when you stretch people without first building a foundation of safety, trust, and respect? The onslaught of challenges produces debilitating anxiety rather than growth. On the other hand, if you foster a supportive environment but never ask others to do something truly difficult, your people feel appreciated but stagnant. People perform and grow best with equal doses of safety and stretch.

Five high-impact coaching habits

The following five leadership habits will encourage the right behavior in a team—the first two establish an environment of safety; the last three provide stretch.


Define the W.I.N. If you want the people on your team to venture beyond artificial job boundaries and do what’s needed, help them see what’s most important at any given time. Sharing strategic imperatives or annual objectives is a good start, but we all know these goals tend to evolve as the environment changes. You can help your team know where to focus by defining the W.I.N. (What’s Important Now) and keeping it front and center.


Redefine leadership. Innovation is increasingly becoming a team sport, requiring diverse perspectives and collective intelligence. These innovation-focused teams tend to be ephemeral. They form, collaborate, and disband quickly. Team members need to be able to step up and step back with equal ease. To participate in this fast, fluid model of leadership, less assertive employees (and those uninterested in careers in management) will likely need help stepping up. To get these reluctant leaders to step up and then step back, provide a path of retreat. Show them that being a designated leader can be a temporary assignment, existing for the duration of a project or even for just a single meeting. Some team members will need encouragement and support to become “step-up” leaders, but others will do so with ease. It can take work to then get them to step back and support others. You can help these people develop a more fluid leadership style by modeling healthy followership practices. Let them see you collaborating with a peer organization or contributing to a project led by someone below you in the management hierarchy. Show your team that you can work as passionately as a follower as you do as a leader and that excelling as a follower is part of growing as a leader.


Ask your people to stay until the job is done. If we want people who work for us to finish strong, we might need to insist that they finish one job before moving on to the next. When we hold people accountable for finishing their work, we send a powerful message that their work matters and that we believe they are strong enough to stay in the game, even when things get tough.


Provide performance intel. People generally need two types of information to achieve top performance. The first is clear direction: What is the target, and why is it important? (In other words, the W.I.N.) The second is performance feedback: Am I hitting the target? Am I doing it right? Think of feedback as critical information—data that people need in order to calibrate and adjust their approach—rather than a critique. When feedback is simply much-needed information, and not a personal judgment, the feedback is easier to both share and receive.


State what you appreciate. Many managers admit that they’ve never communicated to the people who work for them what they most and least appreciate about what they do. Managers, if you want your staff members to make work light for you and others, make a practice of flagging behavior that you appreciate. When someone does something to make your work easier, say, “When you do X, it’s easier for me to do Y.”

Sustaining a winning culture

As you create the right environment and implement these coaching habits, you will start to build something more powerful than a few strong players on your team. You will create a culture—a set of norms and values about how work gets done—that will persist long after your team disperses. Your culture will be filled with a sense of adventure and a productive combination of initiative and accountability. People will have the confidence they need to learn and innovate and the agility to adapt to moving targets. Your organization will have the collective strength to tackle hard problems, navigate ambiguous situations, and pursue opportunities.


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