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Okinyo Mark

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The Art of Building High-Performance Superstar Teams

March 19, 2023 Management & Leadership
The Art of Building High-Performance Superstar Teams

Why This Topic?

Hallo and welcome to the concept of high-performance superstar teams. If you’re an individual looking for vertical growth in your career…at some point you will find yourself with the responsibility of leading and managing a team. These can be teams that you either inherit, or, build from the ground-up through recruitment.

Each scenario will have its own unique challenges but as you start making the transition from being an independent contributor to actually leading a team, finding the answers to these questions can help you unlock superior performance:

Do I Hire New Talent, OR, Do I Promote and Develop Existing Talent?

This will ultimately depend on the current growth stage of your company, the targets and timelines it has set for itself, current competencies of the available talent, and whether you have the bandwidth or capacity to choose a specific path.

What is The Projected Impact of Choosing a Specific Path?

Hiring new talent depends on budget availability, and has the potential of disrupting current team dynamics. On the flipside, it can also help you hit high pressure goals if you find the right fit.

Promoting and developing existing talent on the other hand is good for team morale, potentially more affordable, but it takes time. Are you prepared to be the bulletproof vest that the team needs as it upskills? Do you have the skills to manage stakeholder expectations as this happens?

How Will My Team Grow With The Company?

You need to be able to visualize how your team will transition as time flies, how roles will change, pay structures, and have a learning and development plan in place for them, and job descriptions for when they get to those milestones.

How Do I Get The Right Balance of Personalities in My Team?

Getting this right is key for achieving great team morale and culture. Personally, I have used The Belbin Team Role Model (a team building framework) to great success…but more on that later.

This is not an exhaustive list but they are all great questions to think about as you set on your journey to building a high-performance superstar team.

So What is a High-Performance Superstar Team?

A high-performance superstar team is a group of individuals who are exceptionally skilled, talented, and high-performing in their respective fields who come together to work towards a common goal. These teams often consist of individuals who have achieved or demonstrate the potential of achieving great success in their individual careers, and are recognized as experts or leaders in their fields. Superstar teams can be found in a wide range of industries, including sports, entertainment, business, and technology.

Examples of High-Performance Superstar Teams in Africa:

Safaricom’s M-Pesa Team

Safaricom’s M-Pesa team is responsible for developing and managing the M-Pesa mobile money transfer service, which transformed the way people in Kenya and other African countries manage their finances. The team has received international recognition for its innovative approach to financial inclusion, and has helped to create new economic opportunities for millions of people. In the 2022 Sustainability Report, Safaricom revealed that a total of Sh29.55 trillion had been transacted on the M-Pesa platform in its financial year. This was eight times the value of the country’s [Kenya’s] budget in the 2021/2022 financial year [Sh3.66 trillion].

Read: “The Evolution of M-PESA: From Mobile Money Transfer to Mobile Banking and Beyond.”

International Journal of Business and Management. Vol. 7, No. 20, 2012

Flutterwave’s Engineering Team

Flutterwave’s engineering team is responsible for developing the company’s payments platform, which has become one of the most popular and widely-used payment gateways in Africa. The team is comprised of experts in software development, data analysis, and machine learning, and has been instrumental in driving the growth and success of Flutterwave as a company. As of 2020, Flutterwave was already processing over 200 million transactions well worth of $16 Billion.

Read “How Flutterwave is Changing the Face of Payment Gateways in Africa.”

WeeTracker. November 2, 2020.

Andela’s Developer Teams

Andela’s developer teams are comprised of highly talented and skilled software developers from across Africa, who work with companies around the world to provide remote software development services. The teams are recognized for their expertise in a wide range of programming languages and technologies, and have helped to bridge the global skills gap in software development. As of March 2023, Andela had supported projects in over 110 countries with their user base of over 175,000 technologists who have a track record of project delivery rate that is 70% above the industry standard.

Read “How Andela is Bridging the Global Skills Gap in Software Development.”

Harvard Business Review. November 1, 2019.

Jumia’s Logistics Team

Jumia’s logistics team is responsible for managing the company’s delivery network, which has become one of the most efficient and reliable in Africa. The team uses advanced logistics technology and data analysis to optimize delivery routes and ensure timely and accurate deliveries to customers across the continent. In 2021, Jumia seamlessly processed more than 34 million packages with support from its 700+ logistics partners and over 3,000 drop-off and pick-up stations, distributed across Africa.

Read “Jumia’s Journey from a Garage Startup to Africa’s First Unicorn.”

Quartz Africa. April 13, 2019.

Twiga Foods’ Supply Chain Team

Twiga Foods’ supply chain team is responsible for managing the company’s innovative mobile-based supply chain platform, which connects smallholder farmers in Kenya with informal retailers in urban areas. The team is comprised of experts in logistics, agriculture, and technology, and has helped to create new opportunities for farmers and retailers in Kenya’s informal economy. As of 2021, Twiga was delivering over 600 tonnes of product to over 10,000 retailers every day.

Read “Twiga Foods: Using Mobile Technology to Connect Farmers and Retailers in Kenya.”

World Bank Group. December 7, 2020.

The Challenge With Managing High-Performance Superstar Teams

While superstar teams can achieve remarkable results and set new standards for excellence, they can also face challenges. In some cases, there may be a lack of cohesion or collaboration among team members and across teams as each individual may be more focused on their individual success than on the success of the team as a whole. Additionally, there may be challenges in managing the egos and personalities of highly successful and accomplished individuals.

A good example of great leadership is seen in Manchester United’s current manager Erik ten Hag. The coach has become a hugely admired figure around the corners of Old Trafford after leading the club’s renaissance to a familiar position in the league table, and claiming their first competitive trophy since 2017. All this after a rocky start to the 2022/23 season where he had to drop the team captain Harry Maguire from the starting line-up, and show larger-than-life Cristiano Ronaldo the exit door.

The Art of Building High-Performance Superstar Teams

Building high-performance teams is crucial for the success of any organization… It requires a combination of strategy, creativity, and a willingness to continuously improve at an individual and team-level because a team that works together efficiently and effectively, can achieve amazing impact that is worthy of the history books.

This is not the know-it-all guide to building superstar teams but it offers a tried and tested approach that has worked for me in the past. This is the reason my teams at Moringa School were able to increase revenues by 26% in 2020 – during the pandemic – while the rest of the education sector had shrinked by 56%. Here’s what worked for me:

Clearly defining roles and responsibilities:

Clarity is key when building a high-performance team. Make sure each team member knows what they are responsible for and what is expected of them. This not only eliminates confusion but also creates accountability and ownership. A great way to do this is by using a visual tool such as a Gantt chart that clearly outlines each team member’s tasks and deadlines.

Setting SMART goals:

Teams work best when they have a clear sense of direction. Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals for the team and make sure each team member understands how their work contributes to the team’s success. Regular goal-setting and progress tracking can keep the team motivated and focused.

Hiring the right fit:

The foundation of a high-performance team starts with the hiring process. Hiring individuals with the right skills, experience, and personality can make a huge impact. During the interview process, look for individuals who are positive, work well with others, and have a passion for the company’s vision. An easy way to do this is to use behavioral interviewing techniques where you ask questions about past experiences to gauge the candidate’s work style.

Fostering open communication:

High-performance teams are built on trust, and trust is built on open communication. Encourage team members to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns, and make sure everyone feels heard. You can achieve this by conducting regular check-ins, setting up an open-door policy, or encouraging team members to use communication tools such as Slack.

Encouraging collaboration:

Teams that work well together are the most successful. Encourage collaboration by creating opportunities for team members to work together on projects, solve problems, and share ideas. You can also use team-building activities or off-site retreats to bring the team closer together.

Recognizing and rewarding success:

A little recognition can go a long way in boosting morale and motivation. Make sure to recognize and reward the contributions of team members, whether it’s through a simple thank you or a more formal award.

Continuous improvement:

Teams, like individuals, can always improve. Encourage continuous learning and growth by providing training and development opportunities, and regularly reviewing and updating processes and procedures. You can also conduct regular performance evaluations to gather feedback and identify areas for improvement.

Creating a culture of trust:

Trust is the foundation of any high-performance team, and it starts with the manager. Create a culture of trust by being transparent, honest, and fair. Lead by example and show your team that you trust them, and they will reciprocate. According to Dr. Travis Bradberry, best-selling author of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” trust is the cornerstone of high-performance teams because “it enables individuals to be vulnerable, to take risks, and to be creative.”

Celebrating team successes:

High-performance teams are built on positive energy, and one way to create positive energy is to celebrate successes. Whether it’s a small win or a major milestone, make sure to acknowledge and celebrate your team’s successes. This will boost morale, increase motivation, and foster a sense of pride and ownership among team members.

Fostering creativity and innovation:

Teams that are encouraged to be creative and innovative are more likely to come up with novel ideas and solutions. Encourage your team to think outside the box and challenge the status quo. Create an environment where team members feel free to experiment and take risks.

Encouraging autonomy and empowerment:

High-performance teams are built on ownership and accountability. Encourage autonomy and empowerment by giving team members the freedom to make decisions and solve problems on their own. According to management expert, Ken Blanchard, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” By empowering your team, you build their confidence, increase their engagement, and promote a culture of ownership.

Promoting diversity and inclusivity:

Teams that are diverse and inclusive are more creative, innovative, and effective. Encourage diversity and inclusivity by creating a safe and welcoming environment for all team members. Make sure everyone feels valued and respected, and that their voices are heard.

Investing in team building and training:

Teams that receive ongoing training and development opportunities are more likely to be high-performing. Invest in team building activities and training programs to build camaraderie, foster teamwork, and develop new skills. According to management consultant, Patrick Lencioni, “The single biggest predictor of a team’s success is its level of cohesion.”

Now… Onto The Belbin Team Role Model – What is It?

The Belbin Model was developed by Dr. Meredith Belbin, a British researcher and management consultant, in the 1970s. The model is based on the idea that individuals have preferred ways of working within a team, and that these preferences can be identified and used to build more effective teams. The model identifies nine different team roles, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. By understanding these roles, team members can be assigned tasks and responsibilities that align with their strengths, resulting in a more effective and productive team.

The Nine Team Roles in the Belbin Model

Belbin Team Member RoleMember’s Common StrengthsMember’s Common Weakness
The creative and innovative member of the team who generates new ideas and approaches.
Creative, Imaginative, Free-thinking, Generates Ideas, and Solved Difficult ProblemsIgnores Incidentals, too preoccupied to communicate effectively
Resource Investigator:
The member who explores opportunities and external resources for the team.
Outgoing, Enthusiastic, Communicative, Explores Opportunities and Develops ContactsOveroptimistic, Loses interest once initial enthusiasm has passed
The member who brings the team together and helps to focus on the task at hand.
Mature, Confident, Identifies Talent, Clarifies Goals, Delegates EffectivelyCan be seen as manipulative, Offloads own share of the work
The member who challenges the team to improve and pushes for progress and change.
Challenging, Dynamic, Thrives on Pressure, Has The Drive and Courage to Overcome ObstaclesProne to provocation, Offends people’s feelings
Monitor Evaluator:
The analytical member who evaluates ideas and suggestions to determine their practicality.
Sober, Strategic and Discerning, Sees all Options and Judges AccuratelyLacks drive and ability to inspire others, Can be overly critical
The member who maintains the team’s cohesion and ensures that everyone is working effectively together.
Cooperative, Perceptive and Diplomatic, Listens and Averts FrictionIndecisive in crunch situations, Avoids confrontation
The member who takes the ideas and plans of the team and puts them into action.
Practical, Reliable, Efficient, Turns Ideas into Actions and Organizes Work that Needs to Be DoneSomewhat inflexible, Slow to respond to new possibilities
Completer Finisher:
The member who ensures that all details are attended to and deadlines are met.
Painstaking, Conscientious, Anxious, Searches out Errors, Polishes and PerfectsInclined to worry unduly, Reluctant to delegate
The member who brings specialized knowledge or skills to the team.
Single-minded, Self-starting, Dedicated, Provides Knowledge and Skills in Rare SupplyContributes only on a narrow front, Dwells on technicalities

How to Use the Belbin Model to Build High-Performance Superstar Teams

  1. Identify The Roles of Each Team Member: This can be done through a questionnaire, a competency assessment framework or through observation and discussion with team members. Once the roles have been identified, the team can be structured in a way that takes advantage of each member’s strengths and compensates for their weaknesses.
  2. Increase Diversity Where It Lacks: Your team should include members with a variety of different strengths and skills because this can lead to more creative solutions and a better overall outcome. This allows you to assign roles and tasks based on each member’s strengths, while providing support and training where necessary to help them develop in areas where they may be weaker.
  3. Implement an Open Feedback Culture: It is important to ensure that team members understand and appreciate each other’s strengths and contributions. This can be achieved through regular feedback and recognition of each member’s achievements and successes and you can lead by example when it comes to this.
  4. Finally, have a Learning and Development Framework in Place: In addition, the Belbin model can be used to identify areas where a team may be lacking in certain roles, allowing for targeted recruitment or training to fill these gaps.

Other Team Building Frameworks

Besides the Belbin Team Roles Model, there are other team building frameworks that you can consider depending on what you’re comfortable with implementing. Remember that frameworks are not set in stone, they are just as good as their implementation.

The Tuckman Model:

One popular framework is the Tuckman model, which was first proposed in 1965. This model describes the stages of team development, including forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Understanding and managing these stages can help a team move from being a collection of individuals to a cohesive and effective unit.

Tuckman Model
Tuckman Model: Image Source NS4B


Another popular framework from the Agile methodology is the Scrum framework that is particularly well-suited for building high-performance software development teams. It emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and rapid iteration to deliver high-quality products in a timely and cost-effective manner. Scrum teams are made up of a Product Owner, a Scrum Master, and a Development Team.

  • The Product Owner is responsible for setting the priorities and goals for the team,
  • the Scrum Master helps the team to stay focused and productive, and..
  • the Development Team is responsible for delivering the final product.
The Scrum Process
Image Source: pm-partners

There’s still a lot to learn about what it takes to build high-performance superstar teams but as long as you have situational and self-awareness and can stay connected to an overall vision…you already have 60% of what you need. The rest you can get through practice!

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