I’m a big Dallas Cowboy fan. I grew up with Rodger Staubach and then Emmitt Smith and then suffered through the Tony Romo days. I recently attended a Dallas Regional Chamber event where Staubach predicted that this year the Cowboys will have the team required to get to the Super bowl in Atlanta. I hope he is right!

How is your team functioning? Do you have the right members on your bus and in the right seats to get to the Super Bowl in 2018? Recently, in Phoenix at a Leadership Conference, I heard a presenter speak at length about “The Team Performance Curve” from the book Wisdom of Teams.

We may all say we are a member of a team or that we have a great team, but the reality is really based on whether or not the group you have gathered is having the impact and effectiveness in achieving your organizational objectives.

The “curve” can be plotted on an X-Y axis to form what the authors, Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, call the team performance curve. It’s essentially a J-shaped curve, starting low on the Y (vertical) axis representing the teams true impact on the organization, then sloping down to touch the X (horizontal) axis which represents the teams’ overall effectiveness; it then bends back upwards to the right where a high-performance team that has both a high mark in impact and effectiveness would be plotted.

Working Group: The graph starts with what we might call a ‘team’ but the authors of the book refer to it as a ‘working group’. This group may have little impact on performance and isn’t operating very effectively. They don’t have shared responsibilities and are not working on shared goals, they primarily work on daily tasks not objectives.

Pseudo-Team: As a team progresses, they may become more effective but their impact on performance actually drops and the authors refer to these as a ‘pseudo team’. A pseudo team is a team in name only, people act out of fear, there’s a lack of trust, and they have no individual accountability.

Potential Team: As a leader begins to develop their organization, they will find that they will eventually have, what the authors call, a ‘potential team’. These teams are thinking and creating, not just following orders. They are beginning to understand the mission and have mutual goals.

Real Team: Then there is the ‘real team’, who has common goals and understand the big picture, metrics, and how dials impact results.

To move from Real to High-performance teams, a leader must aide their teams to drive execution and establish a level of mutual accountability. You will have coached the team to work smarter not harder and given them the permission to fail. To move to the next level, a leader must be able to have the hard conversations around patterns of not accomplishing desired results.

High-performance: The characteristics of a ‘high-performance team’ is a strong sense of trust, they want to see each other grow. You’re working with people that you’d want to step into life struggles with, walk the journey with, and you’re willing to not only carry but be carried at times. These teams are giving and not necessarily receiving credit. At this high-performance team level, people are willing to have the hard conversations and deal with conflict.

I have struggled in my career with having those hard conversations. A few years ago, I committed to working on this weakness in my leadership but it’s a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I am still working through how to have those conversations while building a level of trust that makes it possible. This coming year, many of the leaders in my organization will be participating in a 6-week long training over The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I’m looking forward to it as we build trust and walk in life together, developing our leadership skills, and becoming the high-performance team we all seek to be. If you have thoughts or ideas I would love to hear about it!