What Makes Up a High-Performance Team?
When you picture a high-performance team, what image comes to mind?
Is it a championship winning sports team? An extraordinarily successful corporate business? Or perhaps a family unit that pulls together in an exceptional way to get the best out of each other?
The phrase “High Performance Team” often means something different to all of us, but the truth is we need high performing teams in several elements of our lives.
If you were a fly on the wall observing a top-performing team, you would undoubtedly see the cohesion between team members where each person understands their role and performs it to the best of their abilities. You would feel a sense of passion for what each team member is doing, and you would understand that they are all aligned and pulling in the same direction. When you work in a high-performance team, there is always less of ‘me’ and more of ‘we’.
High performing teams create a sense of belonging and a certain team dynamic that is often hard to articulate, but you can sense it in the way team members act and communicate with one another. They share a common goal and often have a group of leaders not just one individual that influences how the team behaves and performs as a unit. This is true in sport, work, and life.
In my search to create my own high-performing teams I have listed what I believe to be the key attributes of high performing individuals.
In my opinion communication is key to so many elements in life. Effective communication builds connections, interdependence, and trust. But what does it mean to communicate effectively?
Effective communication involves accepting one another’s personalities and styles of communication. It allows conversations to focus on substance rather than the way a message is delivered. It is extremely easy for passionate individuals to come across in an aggressive manner. High performance teams encourage these conversations and see them as an opportunity to grow rather than avoiding them in case other team members are offended.
Communication is much more than just words; it’s about understanding each individual in the team. High performance teams are aware of one another’s backgrounds and needs. When you know someone on a personal level, you can understand where they are coming from and communicate constructively. You may also choose to rein in what you say or feel in order to maintain peace and cooperation.
High performance team members will also take responsibility and connect with each other directly rather than through a team leader or the most influential member of the group. Side conversations and interactions outside of the typical team meetings build greater cohesion between members and benefit the team.
If you had to describe your team in three words, what would they be?
Most teams don’t know the answer to this question and instead often throw out buzzwords like collaborative, transparent and authentic…
When it comes to team culture, actions speak louder than words. What you do, rather than what you say you are going to do, ultimately dictates who you are as an individual and a team.
High performing teams need high performing individuals, but a culture that encourages all members to work together to achieve a goal is more powerful than always relying on a few contributors or the team’s superstars.
However you define your culture, it must come from a positive place. High-performing teams share more positive feedback than average teams, while low-performing teams share more negative feedback than average teams. This doesn’t mean that you should dance around problems to keep the peace, simply ensure that feedback is clear, direct and provide suggestions for improvement.
High performing teams are inclusive and create a culture of openness. Every team member should be in the know about important news and developments where decisions are taken jointly, and results are available to all members.
The biggest issue you often see is where teams post their culture on the wall, but don’t actually live by them! A team should set performance standards that everyone commits to and set an agreement that they all hold each other accountable to. This ensures that all team members act in alignment with the culture, and everyone is fully on board with what is expected of them.
If you love what you do, then you will never have to work a day in your life! Simply being part of a high-performance team is often a very satisfying factor for many individuals. However, maintaining the motivation required of a high-performance team is challenging and can be affected by so many factors, such as your current life situation, your physical health and those closest to you. Bringing your goals and ambitions into sharp focus can help you deal with the ups and downs of motivation.
A high-performing team always has its eyes on the prize and ensures that everyone’s heart is in it. It will require a lot from you to keep pushing in this manner, therefore, anyone who no longer enjoys being part of the team or wants to move on, can do so with the best wishes of the team and good memories of their experience.
All the above factors are important in developing high-performance teams, however, none of this works if the team members aren’t prepared to work! Everyone has the capacity to develop a work ethic, they just require the motivation and a strong will to succeed.
I believe that your ability to motivate yourself depends on whether you feel nurtured, empowered, and challenged by your team. In a supportive environment, high performance rarely needs to be forced. Yet, some members will fail to meet expectations despite feedback and assistance. When a lack of work ethic is the underlying reason for underperformance, the team will be better served by replacing the member with someone who is more hard-working and committed.
This is great when everything is going well, but what happens when high-performance teams and individuals, suffer with low performance?
In my opinion this is when the true colours of a high-performance organization can shine through. High performing individuals will always have good days and bad days. The true strength of a great team is to recognize a low performer, create a safe environment for them to communicate and express their vulnerability and have the procedures in place to support this individual, restore their motivation and work ethic and enable those high-performance habits to return.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on high-performance teams in the comments section below.