A lot has been written on the importance of high performing teams to an organization. Included are characteristics of a high performing team and the process to build high performing teams (my favorite process is Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing). Also, working on a high performing team is really fun. The most rewarding times in my career are when I’ve been associated with high performing teams.
To uncover if the team you are looking to join is a high performing team, you first need to understand the characteristics of one. I like to break this down into two areas; how a high performing team functions and what a high performing team does. The “how” includes critical characteristics like:
- Team member trust
- Collaboration between members
- Diversity of thought
These characteristics are very difficult to determine during the research phase of a job search and during the interview process, but they are not impossible. Also, these characteristics aren’t mutually exclusive to high performing teams. Teams can contain these characteristics but still not be high performing. They are just well functioning. We need to understand the “what” characteristics:
- A clearly stated ambitious goal
- A timeframe in which to achieve this goal
- Team goal aligns with corporate objectives
- Every team member understands their role in achieving the goal
- Passion for achieving the goal
When seeking a new role, be on the lookout for the “what” characteristics during your multiple rounds of interviews. Most interviewers will give you glimpses of these during various parts of the interview, but know the most important time of an interview for a candidate is the Q&A portion.
I’ve often found myself underwhelmed with questions received from candidates as I am interviewing them. Questions like:
- Can you tell me about the culture at the company?
- What is your leadership style / how do you manage?
- What are the biggest challenges facing your business right now?
- Why do you like working at this company?
These are all good questions, but because they are subjective to the individual, really aren’t that helpful in understanding if you are joining a high performing team. What should you be asking during the interview? Below are questions that will help you determine if you are joining a high performing team:
- What is your team’s ambitious goal and what is your timeline to accomplish this goal?
This should be a layup question for the interviewer, but you’ll find a lot of people will struggle answering this question. If the answer doesn’t follow some construct of a *SMART goal, the interviewer may be bluffing their way through the answer. Probe with follow-up questions to get the specifics if you feel you received a generic answer. If the person you are interviewing cannot quickly and effectively convey this information, you are not joining a high performing team.
2. How will this role assist the team in fulfilling this goal?
A lot of interviewers will answer with some sort of re-statement of the job descriptions. Don’t let them get away with it. You understand the duties of the role and the day-to-day responsibilities of the role, you are trying to understand if you will just be completing tasks in this role or if you have a critical function within a team.
3. How does your team goal align with the corporate objectives?
Here you can get extra-credit showcasing the research you’ve done on the company by weaving in a corporate objective into the question. This will help you understand how far up the organization the goal has been socialized and if there is organizational alignment.
Ask these questions to every interviewer and the answers will provide you the insights needed to determine if you are joining a high performing team. Every company has pros and cons that get exposed after you join, but high performing teams will always offer rewarding career growth. Make sure your next career move is to a high performing team.
*SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely
*VP of Sales & Marketing, Walmart – TracFone Wireless
*Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search