There’s plenty to be said for the accomplishments of an exceptional individual. After all, we tend to hand out awards and build statues with just one name on the plaque, one face carved in bronze. But if we look at some of the greatest corporate success stories, they are actually the result of the work put in by high performing teams.
A high performing team is more than a loose assortment of workers. It’s a collection of skilled, collaborative talent, that come together to find the most innovative approach to share their expertise and achieve their assigned goals.
That said, not every team flourishes by themselves. They need an appropriate amount of encouragement, support and to be assembled in the first place. Meaning managers looking to improve their business’ performance, must understand how to build high performing teams. As well as the most effective ways to measure high team performance, to guarantee longstanding results.
What are the key characteristics of a high-performing team?
When building a roster for a sports fantasy league or assembling a dream cast of actors, we assume you want the biggest and the best names. And while that’s partly true, this pursuit overlooks a key unwritten factor: compatibility. Just because your team is stacked with all-stars, doesn’t mean they will gel well and produce the best results for you.
The people you want to court all share distinct high performing team characteristics. Which stand as a gauge for how they will work collectively and buttress one another to realize shared goals and targets.
Granted, some of these can be taught or learned over time but, intrinsically, you will find these characteristics resonate at the core of these individuals’ respective attitudes and work ethic.
1 – One vision
Chemistry, humility and cooperation are crucial for a team to achieve harmonic, high-flying results. This is because members of a high performance team can see the big picture. Their goals, focus and priorities are aligned, allowing them to formulate effective means to perform to the best of their abilities.
2 – Playing your part
Confusion and disarray are the weights shackled to the ankles of progress. You may have a fantastic plan and phenomenal talent with the eagerness to make it a reality, but without clarity, you’ll only generate wheelspin, frustration and conflict. That’s why high performing teams have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. By ascertaining who is in charge of each outcome or objective, it’s easy to get a good overview of workflow, and support one another should problems arise.
3 – All together now
A good team is also able to look beyond the white picket fence. Naturally, knowing your own roles and being able to come together is vital. But understanding your team’s place in the wider organization, and the impact your work and successes directly have on the company at large, is just as essential. Without this, there is the risk of operating in the dark, establishing a path that is out of synch with the aims and intentions of management and fellow departmental teams.
4 – I’d just like to say…
In order to achieve the above, however, your team of high performing staff must be able to communicate deftly. With one another, with other teams, and with management. In order to relay struggles and accomplishments, to ensure the wheels are sufficiently greased and there are no lasting delays or complications. And this needs to always be carried out with due respect and precision. Because without respect, no one is going to listen and without precision, no one is going to understand.
5 – I’ve got this
Some workers not only require a steady stream of assignments and tasks, they also need a helping hand along the way. There’s no shame in that, everyone operates differently. But your team of high performing staff should display a level of self-reliance. Because when they know the part they play in the team, as well as where that team fits in your organization, they can effectively manage workloads, deadlines and priorities with ease.
6 – Levelling up
Any good team knows their skills can always be improved. Not only in terms of individual proficiency, but also as a component making up a larger entity. Subsequently, high performing team members are always looking for new, exciting ways to hone their strengths, evolve and develop. As well as supporting each other to grow and advance.
What are the key benefits of developing high performance teams?
When it comes to high performing team benefits, you have to look at it from two perspectives: namely that of the employee themselves, and the organization. Granted, both benefit but in different ways and this acts as an interesting motivator for both parties.
Because, let’s face it, no company wants to invest in a team that isn’t going to aid in its prosperity. Any more than an individual member of staff wants to be part of a collective that doesn’t offer them the opportunity to grow and realize their full potential.
High performance team benefits for employees
From the outset, high performance teams create a feeling of value within an individual. To be welcomed and respected by a group of peers of equal standing, instils a sense of pride. It’s the reassurance that you matter within the company and can be trusted with its future and heading. Those that display the requisite characteristics, will thrive with every new challenge and exciting opportunity. And working alongside their team members, nurtures a rapport and degree of support. This, in turn, is then adopted and can be extended to newly inducted team members. Because to have experienced that trust and encouragement, is to want to share it with others.
That’s not to say there isn’t a self-serving side to this partnering. Of course, employees want to get something out of these experiences, that will help them in the long run. The status and complexity of the types of projects that are assigned to high performing teams ensure continuous chances to prove oneself, learn new techniques, and advance your ability to problem solve. And working with highly skilled and motivated colleagues is a great way of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
High performance team benefits for organizations
In a result-driven business, companies rely on specialized groups to tackle high priority tasks.
Everyone has an A Team that they deploy when things get serious.
And being able to meet demands and aims head-on, is a guarantee of getting the results you want. But no good management team wants to be constantly checking-in and chasing their employees, they want to operate safe in the knowledge that this unit can conduct themselves independently, flexibly and reliably.
Similarly to employees, companies don’t actively want to train someone up, just to see them run to a competitor. This is why creating a team with great harmony doubles as a means of staff retention. Because if your employees are working productively, seeing the results of their labor and have an enviable dynamic within their team, why would they ever want to leave?
And finally, there’s the future. As high performing teams are hungry for new ways to work (happy to explore the options for and rollout of new processes) your company already has a built-in faction for support, advice and assistance. Which is then easy to replicate and spread across the whole organization.
High performance team models that work
As with any endeavor there are many schools of thought in how to best proceed. And the unsurprising truth is, finding the best fit for you and your company, can be a long and arduous case of trial and error. That said, there are a handful of high performing team models (essentially tested tools and frameworks) that you can work off, in order to discover what works for you.
There’s the GRPI model which is one of the most widely used. It focuses on four key areas:
Goals – establishing clear objectives and the most pertinent aims.
Roles – that every team member knows how they can best contribute to the team.
Procedures – having processes in place to guarantee smooth daily operation.
Interpersonal relationships – every team member must build and nurture a good working relationship with solid communication.
For a different interpretation, the Lencioni Model concerns itself less with what your team should have and instead what shouldn’t be present in your high performing team:
Absence of trust – without the ability to be open and vulnerable, there can be no room for growth.
Fear of conflict – generating a false sense of harmony only allows bitterness to fester.
Lack of commitment – a deficit of dedication leads to delays and poor decision making.
Avoidance of accountability – the art of self-scrutiny is the only route to improvement and only by knowing when things have gone wrong, can you remedy mistakes.
Inattention to results – being oblivious or indifferent to results means lessons cannot be learned and new victories cannot be won.
How to build a high performance team strategy that is sustainable
When considering how to build high performing teams, sustainability invariably crops up, because you not only want to build something that functions well, but something that lasts. And a lot of this comes down to team composition. Specifically, finding the right balance and variety to guarantee all areas and needs are being covered.
What’s more, team size plays an important role. Each team should be large enough to ensure room for strategies to be nurtured, but small enough that they don’t get weighed down with bureaucracy. Meaning the team itself is nimble and can actually get things done. This also avoids division and branching off into sub-teams.
Finally, the team needs to be founded on a culture of open and respectful communication. This encourages freedom to speak-up, to make sure new ideas are given the space to grow, and the output doesn’t devolve into generic groupthink. Which would continually steer every outcome to a very familiar sounding conclusion.
Armed with these tools and what to look out for, any organization can take advantage of the potential and benefits that high performing teams deliver.
To hear more about team building and other topics from leading experts, check our list of UNLEASH America 2023 speakers.
Sign up to the UNLEASH Newsletter
Get the Editor’s picks of the week delivered straight to your inbox!