High-performing teams are capable of extraordinary work. They exceed expectations and produce measurable results that propel business growth. This guide presents a strategic approach to building a high-performing team that delivers remarkable value to your organization.
Benefits of Building High-Performing Teams
High-performing teams offer considerable advantages to team members (employees) and organizations.
Businesses that build high-performing teams enjoy:
- Innovative solutions to complex problems.
- Highly motivated, productive employees who collaborate toward shared goals.
- Measurable outcomes in performance, efficiency, and profitability.
Employees who work on high-performance teams enjoy:
- Rewarding work that’s celebrated by their leaders and peers.
- Contributing to a greater purpose that supports others.
- Valuable experience and career growth.
Characteristics of High-Performing Teams
High-performing teams tend to exhibit these characteristics.
- Well-Prepared: High-performing teams are 39% more likely to require pre-work for meetings and 55% more likely to begin meetings with updates from each team member.
- Communicate Frequently: High-performance team members communicate with one another 14 times more per day than their peers, on average.
- Bestow Appreciation: Members of high-performing teams are twice as likely to express appreciation for one another.
- Represent Diverse, Yet Complementary Skillsets: Team members represent diverse, yet complementary skillsets that allow them to collaborate and innovate, sometimes leading to new ideas that disrupt entire industries.
- Commitment to Success: The highest-performing teams are committed to success. They resolve conflicts, define a shared vision, and work hard to deliver measurable outcomes.
How to Build a High-Performing Team
Follow these tips to build high-performing teams that help your business eclipse its competitors.
1. Select a Small, Diverse Group
High-performing teams thrive when they’re limited to a few people. Research shows that teams comprised of more than ten people are less effective than smaller teams. They’re also less likely to divide into sub-groups that result in divisive behavior.
Diversity is likewise key to success. One analysis found that executive teams in the top-quartile for gender diversity were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability. This shows how important it is to build high-performing teams with diverse members who have independent expertise yet complementary skills to foster collaboration.
2. Appoint a Strong, Trusted Leader
Your most talented employees are likely independent thinkers, capable of solving complex challenges on their own. That’s a good thing, but it could lead to conflicts in a team setting that requires open-mindedness, trust, and collaboration.
Appoint a strong leader who can corral independent egos, delegate tasks, and push your team toward a common goal. Trust is paramount: if each team member already trusts your leader, it will be easier for them to trust the process, accept other team members and value their contributions. If your employees work from home, your leader should be adept at managing remote teams. Many adopt the R.E.M.O.T.E. leadership approach: Rewards, Evaluation, Mindset, Transparency, and Empathy, to help transition their management skills to align with a remote work environment.
3. Assign Clearly Defined Roles
Each team member should have a well-defined role. Otherwise, you risk duplicate efforts or conflicts over who is responsible for which tasks and the validity of their findings. You can create roles that reflect the team’s composition and goals or adopt an existing model and appoint team members who fit predefined roles. For example, you could use the nine roles of the Team Role theory developed by Dr. Meredith Belbin:
- Resource Investigator: Brings ideas to the team.
- Teamworker: Identifies and completes required work.
- Coordinator: Delegates work.
- Plant: A creative problem solver.
- Monitor Evaluator: Makes impartial judgments.
- Specialist: Offers in-depth subject expertise.
- Shaper: Motivates the team to push forward.
- Implementer: Develops a strategy for success.
- Completer Finisher: Evaluates work for quality control.
4. Anticipate a Settling-In Period
Don’t expect your team to gel instantly. Instead, anticipate a settling-in period in which team members get to know one another, begin to value each other’s expertise and ultimately learn to trust one another. Psychological researcher Bruce Tuckman identified five stages of team development, and you might find it helpful to understand how those stages affect your high-performing team:
- Forming: Team members are excited yet anxious or uncertain about their roles.
- Storming: Conflicts arise as team members become frustrated with progress or one another.
- Norming: The team begins to resolve conflicts, openly share ideas and respect one another’s expertise.
- Performing: The team performs at a high level, working together to solve problems and prevent new issues.
- Ending: For temporary teams, this stage can introduce feelings of anxiety about the future and demotivate members to contribute.
5. Encourage Open Communication
Communication is critical to success. As previously noted, high-performing teams communicate much more frequently than their peers. They’re also open to new ideas and willing to explore innovative, and even disruptive, proposals to see if they will yield desirable outcomes.
Open communication means leaving egos at the door and accepting that no idea is a bad idea. Even if an idea isn’t right, it could serve as a springboard for better ideas. Leaders should encourage open communication so that every team member feels comfortable sharing their thoughts.
6. Grant Ownership
Give team members autonomy so they can explore and propose independent ideas within the scope of your team’s objectives. Clearly defined roles help, as each team member understands their purpose and is more likely to take ownership of their contributions and how they influence the outcomes. Servant leadership is a popular strategy that empowers team members and grants ownership, a powerful motivator for high-level employees who care about team success and their reputations.
7. Recognize and Reward
High-performing teams work hard. Their members are among your most valuable employees, so it’s essential to recognize and reward their efforts. Studies have shown that recognition can be a more powerful motivator than money, a likely reason why managers recognize high-performing team members 79% more frequently than their colleagues. Champion your team members and reward their efforts to achieve more successful outcomes.
8. Create Learning Opportunities
Create learning opportunities to help your team collaborate effectively and glean the insights they need to solve demanding problems. One example is a team-building workshop in which a presenter explains the purpose of high-performing teams and the roles of each team member. Another is bringing in specialists for roundtable discussions in which they can present their challenges to team members. You might have an expert write a problem statement to help team members understand what they face.
9. Develop Measurable Goals
Teams perform best when they know what they’re working toward, so develop measurable goals to set clear benchmarks for success. Many recommend adopting the SMART goal model:
- Specific: A well-defined objective.
- Measurable: Data that quantifies the goal.
- Achievable: Realistic expectations.
- Relevant: An objective that benefits the organization.
- Time-Bound: An established time frame for success.
10. Replace Underperforming Members
Building a high-performing team requires ongoing maintenance. Sometimes, a team member might slack on their duties, exhibit divisive behavior or consistently incite conflict. In other cases, a team member doesn’t meet performance expectations or simply isn’t a good fit. Though you should give your team time to gel (remember Tuckman’s stages of team development), you should also replace underperforming members with better candidates if they’re not contributing to the team’s success.
High-performing teams deliver exceptional and measurable benefits for businesses. They’re well-prepared, frequently communicate, express appreciation, and commit to organizational success. Building a high-performing team requires a strategic approach that prioritizes diversity, leadership, autonomy, goal setting, recognition, and communication. Follow the tips outlined in this guide to build a high-performing team that brings remarkable value to your business.