The benefits of a high-performing team are obvious – they consistently outperform peers to deliver better results and greater value. The pathway to building a high-performing team is somewhat less obvious. This is in part because the traits of those teams are, in fact, clues to the actions leaders need to take to get their people there.
Traits that underpin the ‘how to’
- Purpose – a high-performing team understands the end game and contributes to outcomes without prompting. A lack of common agreed goals, misalignment in team objectives, or misalignment in prioritisation, all hold this back.
- Success and failure – high-performing teams have a clear, shared understanding of what success and failure look and feel like. They are bookends a team needs to understand and feel. Poorer performing teams commonly don’t have this shared perspective, leaving great results to chance.
- Role clarity – each member knows what their individual role is alongside the roles of their team members. Roles are linked to what’s required to ensure success, and those roles are then clearly defined and people appointed appropriately.
- Conduct – there is a strong, often unwritten, code of conduct to which individual team members hold each other to account. Linked to this is trust, which is prized between all members of a high-performing team, as well as safe feedback, which is ideally shared over time not only from the leader to team members, but between team members.
- Celebration and learning – success is recognised and celebrated in a timely manner. This includes recognising individual performance. Failures and poor performance are turned into corrective strategies to prevent them reoccurring. These should be developed and agreed on by the team, with accountability for implementing improvement actions.
- Resources – the team has the systems and other resources needed for continuous learning and delivering business objectives. While high-performing teams are generally more resourceful, organisations cannot expect the best results without resourcing their people.
The role of leaders
Leaders are key enablers of high performance. They set the direction, inspire and motivate teams toward desired outcomes and ensure, rather than assume, clarity. They also drive acquisition of the resources necessary to enable effectiveness. They are willing to have tough conversations to quickly review and address performance gaps and proactively support further development.
Leaders also ensure all team interactions are considered and principled, continually building trust. At Minset, we see two-way trust as the foundation stone of high performance. The team needs to trust the leader to steer the right course, and the leader needs to trust the team to deliver what’s required. This includes leaders sharing issues with their workgroup and then allowing them to develop workable solutions.
We find that where high-performance teams are lacking, it’s typically because the basics are missing. We focus on team performance as part of improvement projects – mentoring team leaders in areas such as effective communication, decision-making, coaching and issues resolution – because we recognise that while systems and technical excellence are central to improvement, workgroup performance is what underpins and sustains progress.