Personal thoughts on high-performance teams

While every market faces big disruptions and the competition gets fiercer than ever, organizations need to remain strong and at the top of their game. The key of success doesn’t reside only in new process or new organization charts but in the ability to rely on the commitment of the teams to success. High-performing teams who are ready to embrace the challenge and achieve the goals you give them.

What is a high-performance team?

A high-performance team goes beyond individuals, it’s about collective performance. I like to take the example of a soccer team: if all players are strong individual performers with limited team attitude, the team won’t succeed; but the team has more chance to win if it is made of equally performing players who are highly sensitive to collective performance.

HPT acronym High Performance Team,color chalk handwriting on blackboard

High-performing teams are very focused on their objectives. You cannot expect a team to perform great if they were not explained clearly what performance means to their organization and management.

That’s the reason why you need as a manager to be very focused on giving a clear and stable direction to your team:

  1. Define your strategy for the upcoming period (year or semester)
  2. Define and validate your objectives to support this strategy
  3. Share this strategy and your objectives with your team
  4. Assign individual objectives to every member of your team and show them how their individual objectives contribute to the team success. Individual objectives should be set for a short enough period so you can evaluate and adjust if needed.
  5. Make sure you are able to monitor those objectives closely and you can reward their achievement in a good way.

vision and action

The Management by Objective is a management discipline invented by Peter Drucker in the 20th century: “MBO becomes a process by which the objectives of an organization are agreed to and decided between the management and the employees, this way the employees understand what is expected of them and help set their own individual goals. Therefore they attain both their personal goals and the organization’s targets.”

mbo-process

Is every company ready for high-performing teams?

While every company would like to have high-performing teams and keep growing, the reality is not that simple. I recently read a book called “The Five dysunctions of a team“. This is an entertaining novel about a promising startup of the Silicon Valley. Their problem: they have the best product, the best customer references, the most cash, the most experienced executive board, the most talented employees but they are not leading the market. Why? They are a dysfunctional team that started to dysfunction due to an absence of trust across the board and the departments and that led to fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results.  I recommend you this best-seller if you haven’t read it yet.

The 5 dysfunctions of a team - book

five_dysfunctions

How to keep a high-performance team?

Whereas identifying key contributors to your success is pretty easy, keeping them in your team requires much more attention and work.

I personally pay much attention to keeping the dialog open and listening to people. “One mouth, two ears” … One of my role is to make sure my team members have everything they need to work efficiently and can trust me on making them grow and fixing their issues.

I recently read a very interesting article “Bad mistakes that make Good Employees leave“. There is a mention of “Brownout”, that is a sort of disengagement. Why are the main reasons for employee brownout?

  • A lot of stupid rules
  • Everyone treated as equal
  • Poor performance tolerated
  • No recognition for accomplishments
  • No care about people
  • Big picture not showed to people
  • People are not let pursuing their passions
  • Not making things fun

The following info-graphics circulating on LinkedIn over the past few weeks is also very interesting to illustrate why employees stay in their companies:

employee_retention

And you, what are your thoughts on high-performing teams?

Why you should definitely keep it simple ?

Have you ever heard over-complicated explanations when you ask a very simple question ? Of course you have, everybody has got actually quite used to it since he was a child, both at home, at school or at work.

overcomplicated

We might think it’s our society that leads us to think this way, I don’t think it is true, I believe more that our education has led us to understand the complexity of the world and we tend to apply this complexity to ourselves. But this attitude is slowing our agility and capacity to think big.

confucius-life

For over years, we have learned very complex things, because the world, the human nature and the science are for sure complex. But understanding complex things does not necessarily mean to apply complexity to ourselves and others. Our brain can play us tricks, tend to make us believe opposite things simultaneously. To avoid that, more and more specialists recommend to get rid of this mental complexity as much as possible, to keep our choices simpler and to find a better balance in our life.

simple-life

In the professional life, over-complicated things might be a sign that things are unclear. As a manager, I find it important to make sure everybody has a clear and shared understanding. Spending time on reformulating in a simple way is a good management practice. If I don’t understand something easily, why should other people do ? We live in a world where being smart is not understanding better or faster than others but leveraging collective intelligence to grow better together.

make-it-simple

Simple is not synonymous for easy. And complex is not synonymous for clever. It’s pretty much the opposite. Being able to share complex things in a simple (but not over-simplified) way requires maturity and clear understanding of the situation. Making things complex can be a sign of uncertainty, unclarity or sometimes contempt and leads to confusion.

keep-it-simple

I think young generations have understood that. While evolving in more a more complex environments, digital natives have got used to keep things simple:

  • I want to search something, I go to Google
  • I want to watch a video, I go to Youtube
  • I want to hear from my friends, I go to Facebook
  • I want to follow trends, I go to  Twitter
  • I want to travel, I go to Tripadvisor
  • I want to take a cab, I call Uber
  • I don’t know what I want, I simply watch TV

We live a complex world where everyone has to play the role of a specialist. We are forced to address complex problems and keeping things simple help us understand each other and grow our world collectively.

simplicity-sophistication

make-it-simple_branson

What can you expect from your Product Marketing Team ?

As a “Pragmatic Marketing” Certification Graduate, I often refer to this definition of Product Marketing in large organizations, especially software vendors:

“Product Management looks at the needs of the entire business and the entire market. Recognizing that existing and future products need different levels of attention, some companies split the product management job into smaller bits: one group is responsible for next year’s products while another group provides sales and marketing support for existing products. These companies often add a product marketing component to the marketing communications effort, supporting them with market information and product content.”

 

Let’s go into more details and see which specific activities are managed by a professional Product Marketing team.

 

Business support

Daily business support is a key part of Product Marketing. Goal is simple, this is about encouraging and helping sales reps make the most business with your product. The more responsive and committed to business success you are, the more sales teams will be willing to sell your product.

business_support

Action list:

  • Supporting sales reps for customer meetings and workshops
  • Working closely with sales specialists
  • Continuously improving the RFP answering process
  • Providing access to the right experts when needed
  • Gathering and analyzing feedback from the field
  • Understanding customer maturity and success criteria per region

 

Events

Planning events with the field marketing teams and participating to them as a specialist is an important part of the job as well. If you cannot speak well of your product, who could ?

professionnal_event

Action list:

  • Selecting the most appropriate events with the field marketing teams
  • Speaking at events
  • Creating new business relationships at events

 

Go-To-Market Strategy

A Go-To-Market strategy (GTM strategy) is an action plan that specifies how a company will reach customers and achieve competitive advantage.

go_to_market

Action list:

  • Defining target audience and related horizontal and/or vertical value proposition
  • Prioritizing marketing investments (from Corporate & Customer Marketing to Demand generation)
  • Identifying market opportunities
  • Working with Product Management on focus & priorities
  • Setting up lead generation campaigns
  • Measuring outcomes

 

Sales enablement

Sales enablement can mean different things to different companies. I would refer to the definition given by Brainshark:

“A systematic approach to increasing sales productivity, by supporting reps with the content, training and analytics they need to have more successful sales conversations.”

I also like the definition from IDC:
“Getting the right information into the hands of the right sellers at the right time and place, and in the right format, to move a sales opportunity forward.”

Action list:

  • Building great internal assets supporting the corporate sales methodology
  • Building external assets with high impact (see “Technical writing” below)
  • Federating information on a dedicated sales portal
  • Aligning every support team on sales objectives and helping them define how they can contribute
  • Training sales and presales teams on best practices and available assets

 

Web marketing

Web Marketing generates awareness and develops awareness for your product. This is a vital activity to provide your sales teams with a continuous flow of qualified leads.

 

web_marketing

Action list:

Writing content for your Product Web site

  • Working on SEO with SEO experts
  • Working on SEM campaigns with SEM experts
  • Working on DRIP campaigns
  • Engaging conversation with influencers

 

Technical writing

In a technology company, your job as product marketer is to make your technology the most simple to understand to your target audience. Goal is to provide every target user with the right level of information and show that you have strong market recognition.

technical-writing

Action list:

  • Writing datasheets, white papers and infographics with the corporate marketing team
  • Preparing webinars with the field marketing team
  • Working with the customer advocacy team to get targeted customer case studies
  • Helping with press release content

 

Product expertise

When it comes to product expertise, people should turn to your team. You are the main point of contact with access to the top product experts in the company. You work closely with most critical resources of the company and know who to call when sales teams on the field face particular challenges.

product_expertise

Action list:

  • Animating internal workshops to foster team work
  • Hosting a “product academy” to increase internal knowledge
  • Feeding teams with “Product and market” news
  • Developing customer intimacy and know-how on delivered projects

 

Market research

Keeping ahead of the market is a daily activity that requires a lot of reading and discussions. Working as a team is essential for having different people with different types of market expertise. We live in a world of specialist and this is important to go into details when analyzing the market and check your understanding with real-life customers. “One mouth, two ears”: Let people talk, listen carefully and try to synthesize the messages. Your idea doesn’t count, your customer needs do.

market-research

Action list:

  • Following Web alerts
  • Exchanging with a community of peers
  • Keeping tight relationship with analyst firms
  • Curating relevant content
  • Listening to your customer needs
  • Informing internally and help the Executive board take the right decisions

 

Evangelism

Influence of technology evangelists have grown over the past years. Companies have realized that their target audience are more interested in reading articles and opinions of thought leaders than software vendor assets. Technology evangelists are technology or business matter experts who have strong communication skills (both written and oral). As Product Marketer, identify the rare persons in your company that can help you with this activity.

technology_evangelist

Action list:

  • Developing thought leadership through tribunes and blogging
  • Participating to keynote sessions and round tables at major events
  • Help your people grow internally