Microsoft’s Erin Krug: How to build, maintain high-performing teams (opinion)
In a world where we are undergoing major transformation to keep up with the pace of change, companies and teams are looking for any competitive edge. What most managers don’t realize is that your greatest asset or the one component of your business that will propel you forward is sitting right in front of you.
People make or break performance, culture and even your personal work life satisfaction. The problem is, many people struggle to build high performing teams or simply haven’t taken the time to understand the people they work with.
A typical question you may get when joining my team is what gives you energy or what type of work do you enjoy doing? We would share personal philosophies, how they were shaped and goals that you have near term and for the long haul.
We will get to expectations of the role and how the business works later, but it is critical that I get to know this new, unique person who can enhance the team by providing insight and increasing our momentum.
You can’t build momentum without energy
Carving out aspects of the business that bring people joy and letting the team weigh in on the work they will take on next increases employee engagement and our ability to get more done in a shorter span of time.
Many people will dread being a part of a project because they are worried about doing aspects of the work they don’t like.
Instead, I encourage them to volunteer for the aspects they do like. They demonstrate leadership and are excited to take on the work.
It’s a mindshift to gravitate towards tasks, topics or skillsets that give you energy vs. worrying about negative impacts of the work itself. Essentially the team can remove mental blocks and retain focus on what they are driving and what’s possible.
Know yourself so you can understand others
The “getting to know you” becomes only a listening exercise unless you truly know yourself. Do you know what makes you tick or what got you to this stage in your career?
It sounds like an easy question, but it takes arduous work and deeper thought to understand oneself. Only in doing so will enable you to understand and relate to others in a way that you can truly appreciate everything they have to offer.
Once you do understand, note that people change and grow constantly so this is not a “check the box” activity. All of these things build trust and camaraderie, key factors in high performing teams.
Best-kept secret to building a high-performing team: diversity and inclusion
In general, people feel comfortable with others “who get them.” And while you can achieve this by getting to know the team, some people make the mistake of hiring people that are most like them.
Diversity of culture, experience and thought helps create a more innovative environment where people can challenge and build on each other in ways to progress quicker.
Limiting an individual’s development will stunt your own growth
Getting serious about personal development with your team requires a regular focus and discipline to help build experience, skills and value.
Investing in your team and providing feedback that are results based, allows them to evolve and progress in their career. It does mean that they may learn and leave but the impact you get in return will pay dividends.
No matter how intelligent and sophisticated our businesses become, the one element that we can rely on to stay constant is our ability to connect with people. People naturally want to be a part of something greater than them, to make a difference that matters — with the limited time we all have.
By knowing your team’s potential — coupled with clear expectations and metrics — you will be able to make better decisions on how to move forward in the most effective way.
Erin Krug is the Global Director of Process Management for Microsoft Operations, based in Reno.
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