High performing teams have a serious impact on a company’s productivity and profitability. A high performing team can be defined as one that exceeds all reasonable expectations and produces extraordinary results. Building a team, let alone one that consistently exceeds expectations, is challenging.
In this article, we list some key characteristics of high performing teams.
Characteristics of high performing teams
1) High performing teams have a common vision and goals.
Objectives are paramount in engaging employees. In high performing teams, team members are highly focused on objectives, and they understand how their individual objectives contribute to overarching team/organizational objectives and vision. Understanding objectives and having a common vision helps ensure that team members are all ‘rowing the same direction’, creating a culture of accountability (see point #2). To that end, clearly communicating goals is paramount in a high performing team.
A few ways managers/organizations can clearly communicate goals to their teams:
- 1-on-1s: Managers should use this 1-on-1 time to communicate objectives and understand if the employee is facing any roadblocks in being completing their tasks. These check-ins are also perfect for giving feedback on objectives, values, and competencies.
- Weekly team meetings: Team meetings can be an effective way to communicate goals. They allow managers to explain the goals, discuss progress towards the goals, and reflect on how the goals were met. Weekly meetings also allow teams members to ask questions if they have any throughout the project.
- Online communication channels: As flexible work options has become increasingly more popular, managers face the challenge of how to communicate their vision and goals without in-office interaction. Multiple tools have become popular over the years, for example slack, google teams, zoom, and G-suite. Organizations need to prioritize having these tools in place if they want their leaders to be able to effectively communicate goals and have the ability to hold teammates accountable. We also suggest having a robust performance management software as the visibility of everyday makes giving real-time feedback harder.
- Team Newsletters: A less formal way that organizations can communicate their goals is through a newsletter that is sent to teammates to keep everyone up to date with what is going on internally in the organization. We recommend holding a short meeting following the newsletter to allow time for employees to ask any clarification questions to ensure they understand their role in meeting these goals.
2) There is clear accountability and performance reporting in high performing teams.
To build a high performing team, managers need to ensure they are holding every team member accountable for their part in achieving goals. There are many ways managers can ensure that teammates are ‘pulling their weight’ on the team.
First off, all employees need feedback, 4 out of 10 workers are actively disengaged when they get little to no feedback. Leaders should be providing positive feedback to recognize the team’s good work and corrective feedback to help them grow in real-time. This is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to develop high performing teams. Encouraging 360-degree feedback throughout the organization is a way to build a strong sense of team (and also helps establish a culture of feedback). This process can be made easier with a 360 feedback software to hold employees accountable and document all feedback conversations.
Second, managers should be holding 1:1s with team members. 1:1s allow for managers to check-in and analyze the employee’s progress towards their goals and make sure they are on the right track. It also allows for managers to catch poor performance quicker so they can figure out a way for the employee to improve. 72% of managers indicated that 1:1s were one of the most important things they do to manage performance and therefore should be a priority within the organization.
Third, leaders should be documenting feedback and 1:1 conversations with every team member. If these conversations are documented, managers can go back and analyze if team members are improving, what their skills and weakness are, and make data-driven decisions about their talent.
Lastly, each team member needs to have the right skills to excel in their position. Upskilling and reskilling team members will become more important as workplaces become even more dynamic as hierarchal work structures begin to be de-constructed, and new tech is introduced. Organizations should understand what skills are currently needed in their organizations and what skills will become increasingly important in the future. Continuously training employees (through training courses, mentorship, coaching, and continuous feedback) will be increasingly important to stay competitive and to make sure that each employee is holding themselves accountable for upholding their specific skills to ensure the entire team is performing.
3) High performing teams have good team dynamics.
An important part of creating a high-functioning team is communication. 86% of employees and executives cite the lack of effective collaboration and communication as the main causes for workplace failures. Due to remote work and hybrid work becoming a dominant trend in 2022, communication is more important than ever. Teams can no longer collaborate during a team meeting in the office, but they need to have a standard set of tools implemented by the organization to make communication and collaboration easy when working in a remote and hybrid structure.
While strong communication between team members can help ensure accountability, there is more to building a strong team. Employees need to be able to trust one another as workers at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, exhibit 50% higher productivity, and experience 40% less burnout. High performing teams have multiple working parts and employees need to be able to lean on one another and trust that each member will do their job. Employees can start to build trust by providing one another with effective feedback and giving recognition when recognition is due. In fact, Harvard Business Review claimed that members of high-performing teams reported receiving more frequent appreciation at work — both from their colleagues (72% more) as well their managers (79% more).
Conflict is bound to happen within the team. Employees will have different ideas, opinions, and ways of working that can affect the teams’ dynamics. How teams deal with conflict is directly related to how they will perform together. 60% of employees never received basic conflict management classes or training for conflict resolution in the workplace. Of those who did, 95% state that the training helped them navigate workplace conflict positively and seek mutually beneficial outcomes. Leaders need to be helping their teams navigate conflict to ensure that it is not a reoccurring problem.
4) Team composition is key in high performing teams.
Having a high performing team is not about having a group of top performers and calling it a day. A high performing team has everyone working together effectively. The size of the ‘ideal’ team will differ from organization to organization. The average team is reported to be about 3-5 people. For some projects this may be too small, and for others it may be too many. Organizations need to analyze what responsibilities and skills will be expected and build the team based on these factors.
Teams also need to be diverse; without diverse team, organizations may notice a lack of creativity and innovation if everyone on the team is thinking the same way. Teams should challenge one another’s thinking and debate each other’s ideas so that they come up with the best strategy and solutions to problems.
High performing teams are built off individual employees working closely together to make one high performing unit comprised of different strengths and weaknesses. These teams need genuine connections with one another where real relationships can be created in and outside of work.