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As America’s fire service witnesses the retirements of the baby boomers, it is critical that leadership continue to build solid winning teams.  It is important that we drill into the heart of what it takes to create a winning team in an evolving fire service.  The foundation of the future modern fire service will be based on the creation and communication of a vision and setting goals that focus on the many new talents of the younger members of this great profession and utilizing their diverse knowledge, skills and abilities.  We must capture the knowledge of these great Jakes before they depart.  The predicated knowledge and experience they hold is a critical component to the cement that hold the building blocks together.  The lived and experienced what got us to were we are today and were instrumental in the changes.  many of these folks can give a true account of America Burning as they lived it.

 

The purpose of this article is to share a very adaptable model for achieving a high-performance culture, which is critical for a winning team.  So how do we build this high-performance culture and the winning team?  So what is a high-performance culture?  It is a mind-set with accompanying and reinforced habits, routines, practices, principles and values. 

 

The process is built around four critical components:

  1. A Collaborative Environment
  2. Accountability at all levels
  3. Focus
  4. Robust Processes

 

Collaborative Environment

Collaborative environments are not easily created.  It takes time to create the team or organizational environment where the belief of collaboration is required in every application.  This means that team members embrace and truly believe that the atmosphere exists that their input and points of view are welcomed and embraced with value.  This environment creates in individual team members a feeling of obligation to participate on a consistent level both fully and candidly. 

 

A collaborative environment both facilitates and is facilitated by other key components of a high–performance culture of a winning team.  It is critical that in developing a winning team the organization must focus on the systematic development of collaboration through developing a common vision for the future.  It is common that when this process is started even dysfunctional groups discover how much they have in common when they truly communicate.

 

The development of the collaborative environment is the most critical component in the building blocks of a high performance culture and a winning team.  It is not an easy process but can be accomplished when the group members overcome the challenges of collaborating which are lack of skills in collaboration and a mono-vision on how to accomplish a task, and finding several different ways to accomplish the common vision.

  

Culture of Accountability

I am sure you have often heard that individuals in organizations talk about the lack of accountability and that there needs to be accountability.  This is common and most people will speak it but when true accountability shows up it is usually a major shock to the culture. 

 

A culture of accountability is a team/organizational culture characterized by three consistent beliefs and practices:

  1. Expectations of personal performance and behavior are clear and concise
  2. Exceptional performance is recognized, reinforced and appropriately rewarded
  3. Performance problems, including failure to meet one’s commitments, are addressed quickly and fairly based on the rules.

 

This all sounds great until it is you who is on the receiving or delivery end as most people do not like confrontation.  In a high-performance winning team accountability is where the failure will begin as individuals do not live up to the expectations and leaders or peers do not want to hold them accountable do to confrontation of the situation.  For your team to be high-performance everyone is accountable to holding accountability true.

 

Focus

We all want to accomplish so much as organizations and individuals that we often loose focus of the prize through the process of getting there.  Focus is the ability to limit our goals to those few that allow us to concentrate our limited resources in order to not only establish clear priorities but also to have significant accomplishments. 

 

If there are too many priorities then there are no real priorities.  This is a common mistake that organizations make as they bite off far more than they can accomplish which results in nothing being accomplished at a high level, confusion and distress of the team members. John Maxwell in his 1999 publication “The 21 indispensible qualities of a leader” describes this with “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.”  Think about that…simply put focusing on more than one goal at a time will result in failure frequently. The obstacle to achieving focus is the human tendency to want to do or accomplish too many things.  The ability to focus on one great goal is better than two or more mediocre goals. 

 

Robust Processes

Robust Processes are extraordinarily effective and efficient ways of getting things done.  In the emergency services world we put a specific emphasis on effectively delivering services of the most critical importance to our customers both internal and external.  These robust processes are the heart of execution but can only be achieved with the support of the other three previous components.  Robust processes ensure two things critical to success:

  1. Explicit focus on the needs of customers both internal and external.
  2. Ability to execute what it takes to get the goals accomplished.

 

Conclusion

Being able to execute these four critical functions of a high-performance team will create an organization of excellence.  These four components and other factors will be necessary to build that team.  It is important to understand that you must remain vigilant in your efforts and enduring this process as it will not come easy or quick.  You must remain focused and endure the battles remembering that the end results are worth waiting and working for.

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