People Management: Coaching session

Q. I'm trying to develop a high-performing team. Any tips?

That must be every chief executive's ambition. I wish there was a magic wand to achieve this.

Performance is a combination of motivation and skill, so work on both.

I guess this is a core part of the leadership task, so here are just some broad tips to guide your thinking:

1) Respect learning. You need to reward intellect and encourage your team to read widely, attend seminars and workshops and look for ideas and new ways of working and thinking. Spend money and time on professional development.

2) Be action-oriented. You need to encourage and put a high value on people who deliver. Reward those who do. Weed out under-performance. Be clear on what you want delivered.

3) Maintain informality and keep rules and hierarchy to a minimum. Don't get me wrong, hierarchies are fine (I'm not into woolly social work models), but rigid hierarchies can stifle ideas and innovations. We all see what rules do to the public sector.

4) Take risks, but learn from mistakes. Yes, I know this is easier said than done, but the reality is that top performance is risky.

5) Network. The really high-performing organisations are those that are 'extrovert'. They have lots of external links and contacts and encourage their leading staff to be out and about, mixing with people and picking up ideas. Develop your antennae to pick up good practice and learn from others' mistakes.

6) Have vision. Does your team know what you are aiming for? Do you set clear objectives and have systems to appraise?

Look above the parapet. It is very easy to become bogged down in the day to day, worrying over the next agenda for the board and forgetting how the organisation is doing overall. You have to encourage your team to keep an eye on the horizon.

Finally, as Mao Zedong said: "We think too small. Like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced he would have an entirely different view."

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send questions to

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