Leaders: Abandon Ship or Row to Shore?

What is it that makes a high performing team?

Imagine this…

You have just started your new job post and you are about to meet your new team. If it feels like the first day at school for you! But take moment and think about your team. Just imagine how they are feeling. Is it  a good feeling, or another one?

When you glance over at your new team, they are watching your every move. They are awaiting with anticipation your words of wisdom that will engage and inspire them.

The Audience

There are the usual suspects: the one who wanted your job; the one who already knows it all; the three who have seen it all before; the two that are excited and open-minded, and the rest that are terrified but feeling positive about change.

Never has what you say and how you say it been as important as those first two paragraphs that you deliver to your new team.

So how do you make an impact and take this group of people on a journey to becoming a high performing team.

STOP –pause for a moment and ask yourself:

How can I provide relationships which these people may use for their own personal growth?

How can I, as the leader create and nurture relationships that will encourage my team to grow in skill, motivation, self belief, confidence, attitude, responsibility and purpose?


Sink or Swim: It’s OARS & ARMS

So here is where you need to find your OARS and focus on building trust.

O – Openness

A – Acceptance

R – Reliability

S – Straighforwardness


create this in people by encouraging them to gradually reveal more about themselves and share information that is relevant to each other. Communicating with each other by being open about how they are feeling and by giving and receiving quality feedback. Create team openness by having adequate access to each other via meetings or other forms of communication. Keeping each other informed, telling others more than they need to know. Having no secrets, including an overview of the bigger picture and being prepared to discuss feelings as well as information.

Acceptance –

can be achieved by nurturing a non-judgemental attitude where people accept each other for who they are as people. A mutual respect for roles and ability as well as for differences such as ideas, values, beliefs and lifestyles. The team have input into decisions in an environment where people listen and it is OK to make mistakes.

Reliability –

is created by all individuals doing what they say they will do, keeping promises and being dependable. Consistent consequences are the norm both rewards and punishments. All members of the team can count on each other, fulfil meeting commitments and offer support when it is required.

Straightforwardness –

is encouraged by people saying what they mean and meaning what they say. Actions and feelings match, nothing is hidden, no ulterior motives. There is adequate confrontation, a method for conflict resolution and a level of team self-discipline that is understood by all members. Adequate analysis of mistakes is underlined by clarifying expectations with no hidden agendas.


In order to use the OARS and influence your team’s performance and growth first you need to be there for them both physically and emotionally.

Your job is to get them to use the OARS with powerful ARMS.

A – Attitude

R – Responsibility

M – Motivation

S – Self Belief

Attitude –

a little thing that makes a big difference. Choose you attitude daily, this is one of the four cornerstones of the FISH philosophy.  Make an ally of discipline for an unshakable attitude for achievement. There will be bad days when the going gets tough, there will be failures, but there is no such thing as failure, only learning. Your attitude and that of your team is what will always pull you through.

Responsibility –

all team members take responsibility for their actions, their decisions and for all the outcomes for the team. Challenge everything, have proper rituals, reflection, critique – this is necessary for the team and people to create new ways of thinking and negate barriers and assumptions.

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”Winston Churchill

Motivation –

what is the vision, purpose for your team. Is everyone involved in creating a compelling vision and strong powerful actions that will deliver results. Is the future brighter and more exciting, so much so that everyone wants to be a part of it. Do you have some ‘fun’ whilst on your daily journey.

Self-Belief –

how worthy do you feel? What about the people in your team, how good do you all KNOW you really are? Is there any doubt, if so who and why and how can you as leader support the people and the team? Are all team members able to face themselves, their weaknesses and the skill gaps within the team? Take the responsibility for noticing and interacting with all team members to create unwavering self belief in both themselves and in the team goals.


Those first days/weeks/months with a new team may feel like stormy waters, however with strong ARMS and good OARS you can make it to the most distant shore. Leadership is all about relationships and the bridges that you build to cement those relationships. Just remember that it is always the leader who starts building first.

“The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.” ~Faye Wattleton

What experiences can you share about building high performing teams? How much impact do you think trust has in teams? How do you feel as a leader working with a highly motivated team? What experiences can you share that involve lack of trust in a team?

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Mandy Russell is Managing Director of Mpower International Limited
She helps with Coaching, Leadership and Teambuilding Workshops and Training
EmailLinkedInFacebookTwitterWebBlog │ Skype: mandy-russell │ 07831 1250288

Image Sources: davidtoyne.com

One response to “Leaders: Abandon Ship or Row to Shore?

  1. Pingback: It’s Not All About You. Really! « Linked 2 Leadership·

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