How to build a high-performing team
In today's fast-paced and competitive business landscape, organisations strive to achieve maximum success and efficiency. One proven way to attain this is through the development of high-performing teams that can continuously achieve exceptional results.
In this blog, we will explore what high-performing teams are and uncover effective strategies for putting them in place and retaining them.
What is a high-performing team?
Before delving into the specifics, it is crucial to define what exactly constitutes a high-performing team.
A high-performing team is a group of individuals with defined roles and complementary talents and skills who are not afraid to challenge the status quo, actively seek out new ideas, and adapt swiftly to changing circumstances. They are not afraid to tackle conflict and challenge, but do this in a positive way.
Aligned with and dedicated to a shared purpose, this team consistently demonstrates elevated levels of collaboration and innovation. Their hallmark lies in the achievement of superior results while effectively mitigating radical or extreme opinions that could prove detrimental. Considered tight-knit and supportive, these teams maintain a laser focus on their objectives and employ supportive processes, empowering each team member to overcome barriers and contribute to the achievement of collective goals.
With exceptional soft and technical skills, each team member brings their unique expertise and strengths, fostering a culture of collaboration. The team works together seamlessly, harnessing individual talents for the benefit of the team as a whole, ultimately achieving outstanding results.
Key characteristics of high-performing teams
Now that we know what high-performing teams are, let’s explore the 6 key characteristics that make these teams truly exceptional:
1. Clear communications:
Effective and open communication is the lifeblood of any successful team. It goes beyond mere information exchange; it involves active listening, empathy, and articulating thoughts and ideas in a way that everyone can understand.
Leaders should establish regular communication channels that encourage team members to share their perspectives openly. Creating an environment where everyone’s voice is valued enhances collaboration and ensures that diverse ideas contribute to better decision-making.
2. Team dynamics and psychological safety:
The presence of psychological safety within organisations ensures that team members not only feel comfortable but also secure expressing their ideas, opinions, and concerns. This fosters an environment where team members can speak up, take risks, and contribute freely, thereby enhancing problem-solving and decision-making.
In alignment with CIPD’s recommendations for high-performing teams, leaders should encourage a culture where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning, rather than reasons for punishment. Additionally, acknowledging and welcoming diverse viewpoints becomes paramount as that helps build trust between team members.
3. Strong leadership:
At the helm of high-performing teams stand exceptional leaders who serve as the driving force behind success. These leaders go beyond inspiring and motivating; they empower team members to unleash their full potential. Effective leadership entails providing clear guidance, setting high, yet achievable, expectations, and cultivating an environment where trust and accountability flourish.
Leadership in high-performing teams demands a unique blend of technical expertise and exceptional emotional intelligence. A keen understanding of each team member’s strengths and weaknesses allows leaders to delegate tasks strategically, ensuring that individual capabilities contribute synergistically to the team’s goals.
Exemplifying their principles, high-performing team leaders lead by example. They foster a sense of ownership and pride among team members, instilling a collective commitment to the team’s objectives. In doing so, these leaders contribute significantly to the team’s cohesion, productivity, positivity and overall success.
4. Equity, diversity and inclusion:
Equity, diversity and inclusion are not just a checkbox in high-performing teams; they are a recognised catalyst for the team’s collective brilliance.
Leaders should actively seek out individuals with different backgrounds and experiences, creating a rich tapestry of knowledge and expertise. This commitment ensures that the team remains at the forefront of creative problem-solving and informed decision-making.
5. Shared goals and values:
High-performing teams are unified by a shared purpose and set of values. This shared vision creates a sense of cohesion and ensures that every team member is working towards the same ultimate objectives.
Shared goals and values provide high-performing teams with a sense of direction and purpose. They create a strong sense of identity and belonging, fostering a collaborative and supportive environment. When team members are aligned in their goals and values, they are more likely to work together seamlessly, leveraging their individual strengths to achieve outstanding results.
6. Continuous learning:
High-performing organisations prioritise personal and professional growth. They encourage ongoing learning and development, fostering an environment where team members are motivated to continuously improve their skills and knowledge.
In high-performing organisations, learning is not seen as a one-time event but as a continuous journey. Team members are encouraged to seek out new knowledge, acquire new skills, and stay updated with the latest industry trends, which ultimately benefits the organisation as a whole. This commitment to continuous learning ensures that high-performing teams remain adaptable and resilient in the face of challenges, constantly evolving to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world.
The benefits of having high-performing teams
High-performing teams play a critical role in the success of an organisation. By fostering a culture of excellence, these teams have a significant impact on both productivity and efficiency, as well as the overall workplace culture.
1. Enhanced productivity and efficiency:
High-performing teams consistently outperform their counterparts, achieving goals with remarkable efficiency. The synergy among team members, each contributing unique skills, enables the accomplishment of tasks in less time, maximising overall productivity and driving financial success.
2. Positive workplace culture:
The commitment to excellence and collaboration within high-performing teams inspires and motivates others, fostering a positive and supportive workplace culture. This culture, in turn, leads to increased employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention, reinforcing the overall success of the organisation.
3. Autonomy and empowerment:
High-performing teams thrive in environments that encourage autonomy and empowerment. When team members have the freedom to make decisions and take ownership of their work, they become more motivated and accountable. This sense of ownership propels them to go above and beyond, resulting in exceptional outcomes.
How to build a high-performing team?
As suggested by the CIPD (2023), building a high-performing team requires careful planning, strategic implementation, effective leadership and interventions such as teambuilding, teamwork training, debriefing sessions, and goal setting.
By following a few crucial steps and understanding the role of leadership in team performance, organisations can create teams that thrive.
Steps to create a high-performing team
Creating a high-performing team starts with clearly defining the team’s purpose and goals. By establishing a shared vision, team members can align their efforts and work towards a common objective. Additionally, organisations must ensure that team members’ roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and understood.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, fostering team collaboration is pivotal for cultivating a high-performing team, recognising that collective achievements surpass what individuals can accomplish in isolation.
Furthermore, fostering a culture of trust and open communication is paramount. Team members should feel comfortable expressing their ideas, concerns, and feedback, knowing that their contributions are valued. Regular team meetings and check-ins can facilitate communication and collaboration, ensuring that everyone remains informed and engaged.
Role of leadership in team performance
Leadership plays a critical role in driving team performance. Effective leaders provide guidance, support, and resources to their team members. They set clear expectations, establish a positive team culture, and cultivate an environment of trust and accountability.
Leaders should also empower team members by delegating tasks and decision-making authority, allowing individuals to take ownership of their work. By providing regular feedback and recognising team members’ achievements, leaders can foster a sense of motivation and commitment among team members, driving them towards exceptional performance.
Implement the ‘Manual of Me’ exercise
To deepen the understanding among team members and enhance interpersonal dynamics, leaders should consider implementing the ‘Manual of Me’ exercise, as suggested by David Burkus, an organisational psychologist and best-selling author, in the Harvard Business Review (2023).
This approach encourages each team member to share insights about their individual traits and work preferences by answering questions such as:
- ‘I am at my best when…’
- ‘I am at my worst when…’
- ‘You can count on me to…’
- ‘What I need from you is…’
Fostering self-awareness through the ‘Manual of Me’ helps create a supportive and personalised work environment, enabling managers to tailor their leadership approach to meet individual needs.
By integrating the ‘Manual of Me’ into your team-building strategy, you empower individuals to communicate their strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. This personalised approach contributes to a positive work environment and enhances the overall effectiveness of the team.
How to maintain high-performance in your teams?
Once a high-performing team is established, organisations must continuously strive to maintain and enhance its performance. This involves implementing strategies for sustaining team performance and effectively addressing challenges that may arise.
Strategies for sustaining team performance
To ensure continuous high-performance, organisations employ various strategies that go beyond day-to-day operations. One fundamental approach involves promoting ongoing professional development. By providing opportunities for team members to enhance their skills and knowledge, organisations can keep the team abreast of industry trends and best practices. This includes providing access to diverse opportunities such as:
- training programmes
- industry-recognised certifications
- relevant courses
- other opportunities to network with like-minded people, and listen to great speakers who can share new ideas
- mentorship initiatives
- participation in conferences, and in-house skill-building workshops
The above collectively contribute to individual growth and enhance the team’s overall capabilities.
Moreover, fostering a supportive and inclusive team culture is essential. Engaging in regular team-building activities, including off-site retreats or social events, proves instrumental in strengthening team bonds and promoting collaboration.
To further solidify sustained high-performance, organisations should implement a rewards and recognition programme that recognises outstanding contributions. This not only boosts morale but also motivates team members to consistently excel. Simultaneously, establishing policies supporting a healthy work-life balance is crucial. This ensures an environment where team members can thrive not only in their professional pursuits but also in their personal lives. Balancing these aspects creates a harmonious workplace that nurtures continuous growth and success.
How to measure the performance of your teams?
Measuring the performance of high-performing teams requires the identification of key performance indicators (KPIs) and the implementation of regular review and feedback mechanisms.
Key performance indicators for high-performing teams
KPIs may include metrics such as:
- project completion rates
- customer satisfaction ratings
- team members’ individual goals
- quality metrics
These KPIs should be aligned with the team’s objectives and provide a clear measure of success.
Addressing challenges in high-performing teams
While high-performing teams offer numerous benefits, they are not without challenges. Conflict, lack of communication, and complacency can hinder team performance. For example, a disagreement on project priorities or conflicting working styles among team members can create tension. Similarly, if team members are not kept in the loop about project updates or changes in strategy, it can also lead to confusion and hinder progress. To address these challenges, organisations should encourage open and honest dialogue among team members, providing a platform for expressing concerns and resolving conflicts in a constructive manner.
Regular performance reviews and feedback mechanisms are also essential for identifying areas of improvement. By providing timely and constructive feedback, organisations can address any performance gaps and ensure continuous growth and development within the team. This process not only helps in recognising and reinforcing positive behaviours but also provides insights into areas where additional support or training may be beneficial.
In conclusion, high-performing teams are an invaluable asset to organisations. By understanding the concept of high-performing teams, recognising their importance, and implementing effective strategies for building and maintaining them, businesses can achieve exceptional results, foster a positive workplace culture, and drive long-term success.
This is a guest blog which contains the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the IoD.