Creating a High Performance Team: Finding Talent & Connecting the Dots

by Jessica Waters Davis

posted on 10-26-2017

****The idea of “high performance” teams is tossed around a lot, especially in the tech arena. And I get it—companies and industries that are anchored in innovation tend to lean heavily on highly skilled, highly motivated, and high-velocity players to dig in and really push the envelope.

But what does a high-performance team—and a high-performance employee—look like? And how do we, as managers, identify these power players and connect the dots to drive success? In my experience, it’s multiple parts—it’s determining who you’re looking for, assessing if a candidate checks the right boxes and, ultimately, managing your team to perform at their peak both individually and as a whole. Managed right, these teams are a force to be reckoned with and, hands down, the single greatest way to drive success in any vertical.

Looking for High-Performance Employees? Start Here.

So the first piece—finding employees who will be rock solid contributors to your high-performance team. Often, hiring managers look for the candidate with the most show-stopping resume—the years of experience, the top companies and the A+ education. While background and experiences are important, I’d personally take a candidate with a real hunger and unwavering passion any day of the week.

An employee who wants to learn and grow—and who’s the right cultural fit for the team—has the potential to not just make up for the gaps in career milestones but to push far beyond those parameters, even. It’s a passion and cohesion that can’t be taught, though—and one that’s central to the future of work as a whole. In Adobe’s Future of Work: More Than a Machine study nearly eight in 10 respondents agreed successful office workers of the future will inherently be better collaborators. What’s more, three in four say they’d work longer hours for a job they love versus shorter hours for one they don’t. That’s perfect but more junior employee? Go for it. They’re your future. And that existing all-star employee? Maybe they’ll be a great fit and keep growing, and maybe this is their ceiling—sometimes you don’t know until it’s too late.

So now the big question: How do you assess a candidate to determine that “right fit”? In my experience, one of the best things you can do is something we do a lot at Adobe: promote from within. These candidates understand the organization and are actively looking to learn and grow within the company. Chances are, they “get it”—get the environment, the unique needs and how to perform at their peak within your company. And that gives them a serious leg-up on candidates who don’t have this level of exposure.

That said, sometimes you must look outside, especially if you need a specific technical expertise. But if the position has a few skill-based requirements that fall outside of a great candidate’s immediate reach, I’m happy spend time helping them learn and grow so they check all the boxes. Ultimately, it comes down to the person wanting to learn—and that’s the kind of person I want on my team, at the end of the day. And, the reality is, employees should have this hunger and curiosity. Future of Work found that less than one-third of U.S. and German office workers feel equipped to succeed in the tech-heavy environment of tomorrow—so the people ready to learn are the people primed to excel, from my perspective.

Integrating & Accelerating Team Members

Once a new employee is hired, I focus on developing a career map with them. It’s something I’ve been sharing with my own leadership circles here at Adobe, and something that’s evolved from my own coaching and development work. Career maps focus on three specific areas:

  1. The employee’s core values

This is all about understanding the employee’s core values in life and in their career. As a manager, this helps me understand who they are by understanding what’s at their core and what they value most.

  1. The employee’s key motivators

This often stems from a person’s core values. Here, understand what really motivates an employee in both work and life—and what will motivate them to be successful. When are they at their best? What ignites their excitement and passion? I always have people jot down their answers—there’s something about putting pen to paper that really helps articulate values and motivators and better ground the conversation. And seeing that, of course, helps me as a manager better manage—I know what makes them tick and I can work with them to drive success in their work as well as for the organization.

For some, it’s the promise of a true career path, not just a job now. For others it’s the culture and access that comes with a position—more than four in five U.S. office workers in the Adobe Future of Work survey say tech is an important piece of the work experience, and those who feel their company is ahead of the curve love their work twice as much. They also feel twice as creative and twice as motivated. If you can deliver, you have an employee who’s going to be committed and ready for action.

  1. The employee’s knowledge and skills

I want to understand the knowledge and skills an employee feels they have right then and there, as well as the ones they want to develop during a set period—by the end of the year, for example. Every one of my direct reports answered this question at the beginning of the year and, at the end of the year, we’re going to review and see what’s been achieved and what’s still hanging out. From there, we can create meaningful action plans for next year.

For me, this exercise is less about the what of it all—what skills they have and what skills they want to fine-tune and achieve—and more about goal setting on a macro level. Again, high-performance team members are goal-oriented and unrelenting in achieving those goals. I want to see that on paper from day one, and this process really facilitates that.

  1. Creating comprehensive career maps

While it’s not a set piece of these career maps, I also consider what I’m doing for my employees’ professional development to be a big piece of the puzzle. How am I—and how is Adobe—supporting their growth and development? How am I engaging with my manager and my team to help move the needle? Am I encouraging them to pursue big goals and bigger opportunities—leadership circles and programs like my own, or initiatives like Serious Decisions, which helps provide strong frameworks for our internal sales and marketing teams?

Together, these pieces have really helped me cultivate a high-performance team and identify employees and candidates who will best align with our culture, our goals, and our collective journey. These maps are all about establishing these overall values, goals, and objectives right off the bat, while helping individuals think about themselves as part of the team—and, from there, to align with what we think when we think about team.

So far, so good—these methods have been well received within my own team and within the organization. These career maps give us all a good framework and documentation process that facilitates sharing, constant iteration, and both short- and long-term development. It also helps all of us—me, the company, our employees—identify connections that will make us all more efficient in our day to day. And that is the makings of a high-performance team. In my next post, I’ll unpack part two—what comes next of it all. Because it’s not enough to have high-performing employees or the potential for a high-performance team. With the right people in place, it’s essential to shore up the processes and workflows that will crank things up and turn your employees into a powerful high-performance team.

Topics: Future of Work