5 Keys to Building High Performance Teams


The greatest product idea and the best business strategy cannot succeed unless there is a high-performance team to turn them into reality.

Why are some teams great at implementing good ideas, while others struggle? What are the traits of high performing teams, and how can leaders help to create them?

There are those who think that great teams are created by assembling a group of great individuals. If the individuals are winners, then so is the team. But this is only a very small part of the truth.

Recent research into the dynamics of great teams has shown that the performance of most people is strongly affected by their team environment.

In other words, ‘A-players’ can be underachievers in the wrong environment, while ‘B-players’ can rise and excel in the right environment.

This means that leaders need to understand how to create team structures that help people perform better than they normally would while avoiding those that block people from doing their best.

Here are 5 practices that help to build high-performance teams, consisting of inspired individuals working together successfully in close collaboration.

1. Build excellent communication skills

Effective communication is essential for all aspects of modern business.

Without good communication, it doesn’t matter how good your individual team members are – the team will fail. Or at best, it will perform at a mediocre level.

Good communication has always been important for the performance of great teams. But it has become even more so now since modern business depends on the dynamic integration of many disciplines, as well as remote collaboration across multiple sites.

Because of this, leaders need to work on improving the communication skills of their teams continuously. This is not something you mention once in a while. It’s something that needs to be taught, practiced, and analysed, over and over again.

If you can turn your team members into star communicators, you’re halfway to creating a high-performance team

2. Foster collaboration

Collaboration builds on good communication. So, if you succeeded at implementing point one, you’re in a great place to start improving the collaborative skills of your team.

As mentioned above, modern business is critically dependent on the close collaboration of experts in very diverse areas. These experts must be able to come together and make contributions that serve the larger goal of the team.

Traditionally, businesses have rewarded individuals that excel and deliver high performances. However, the recognition of individual performance ignores the collaborative interactions that were necessary to enable that individual success.

So, if you want to build great teams, you should also start recognising and rewarding exceptional collaborative efforts. After all, when you reward a group effort, you are also recognising the individuals.

A good way to do this is by showcasing examples of great results achieved through collaboration. Demonstrate how these results were possible only because of effective collaboration, and use these examples to inspire others.

3. Focus on quality rather than quantity

It’s tempting for leaders to measure the performance of their teams by how much they achieve. But more isn’t always better.

If you pressure people to grind out a lot of stuff, it’s unlikely you’ll inspire them to do great work at the same time. In fact, it’s more likely that they will do what you expect them to, but no more than that.

The value of great teams doesn’t lie just in the fact that they can get a lot done. It’s more about their ability to find solutions that you would never come up with yourself.

So, learn to focus on the essentials, and ask your team to come up with great ways to make progress in critical areas, instead of overloading them with many tasks that are not really important.

4. Build up trust

High performing teams are always built on trust. Trust has to be generated not only between the leadership and the employees – it also has to be strong amongst the team members.

Positive feedback and appreciation are great ways for leaders to gain their employees’ trust. You can also build trust by giving people more responsibility, and rewarding them with recognition when they do well.

Trust between team members fuels their ability to rely on each other, which is essential for effective collaboration. It’s important to stop any practice of team members placing blame on each other, or talking negatively behind each other’s back.

Any conflicts or difficulties should be directly addressed. An important role of the leadership is to help find solutions that bring people into alignment.

In addition, there are many team-building exercises that help to build trust among team members. It’s really worth investing time into exercises like this. A great idea is to make them fun by combining them with team outings.

5. Lead by example

The best leaders don’t tell people what to do and then pressure them to get it done. Instead, they know how to inspire their teams with enthusiasm and creative energy.

In fact, great leaders are so busy pushing the boundaries of their own projects, that they don’t have time to micro-manage their employees.

This approach requires a strong foundation of trust, while also making team members accountable for their area of responsibility.

While it’s still important to have regular catch-up sessions about the latest results, this shouldn’t be about micro-management, but rather about inspiring and empowering team members to perform at their best.

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CEO, PeopleLauren Ryder