What makes a high performing team?

A high performing team is a thing of beauty.. It looks and feels like a well oiled machine, that just does what’s it meant to do – over and over again, without drama. Of course, knowing what it looks like is one thing, getting there quite another.

How a high performing team differs from a work group

I am running a great session next week- one where we talk about the attributes and components of a high performing team. And more importantly – what can a team do to enable it to become even more high performing.

I will also be talking to them about the difference between a group of people that happen to work together and a true team.  The two often get confused; and it’s this confusion that often provides the background for less than optimal team performance.  There is a great explanation here that explains how the two differ.

Knowing whether you are a work group or a team is important – some groups of people simply aren’t teams. And that’s ok.  No amount of fiddling is going to change that.

What makes a high performing team?

I have written before about the what makes a high performing team. My model has at its most basic, the following components:

  • How is the team being led?
  • Are the right people in the right jobs (at the right times?)
  • Do the systems, processes and procedures of the organization support the team?
  • Team dynamics – how does the team interact?

The fancier version of this model looks like this:

What makes a high performing team

There’s also nice model from Guttman that describes the attributes well:

  • The mission, goals and business priorities of the team are clear to all team members.
  • The team is comprised of the “right” players. This implies that they are technically/functionally competent, with the ability and willingness to influence across functional lines.
  • The roles/points of intersection/turf are clear to all team members regarding every player on the team.
  • Team members are committed to the team “winning” (that is, achieving the business goals) over their own parochial/functional self interest.
  • The decision making/leadership mechanism that the team employs is understood and accepted by all team members.
  • Every team member feels a sense of accountability/ownership for the business results which the team creates. As a result, every team member feels that they have a license to speak on any matter concerning how the team functions. The team operates as a Managing Board of Directors.
  • All team members are comfortable dealing with conflict in the team. Consequently they are willing to be candid, able to depersonalize and attempt to reach a resolution on outstanding team issues.
  • The team has a willingness to periodically self assess its progress as group, focusing on how the team function as a total group. This includes assessing business deliverables, individual commitments and relevant protocols.

There are two further components of high performing teams that neither of these model overtly picks up:

  • the research from  Marcial F Losanda into teams that shows for a team to shift to high performance the ratio of positive feedback interactions v negative needs to be 3:1 ( this is a 6:1 ratio for elite performance); and
  • it’s not enough for a team to be inwardly focussed. High performing teams are perceived to be so both within the team and external to the team; more broadly through the organisation.

Team members know when they are part of something special – a true high performing team. It doesn’t happen that often (sadly). But when it does, it’s something to be relished.

What do you think? Have you been part of a team that was something special? What made it so? What did it feel like? Was it at work, a sporting team, or something in the community?

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Tammy Tansley
I am a coffee loving, energetic human who loves words, bright colours and spots, silly t'shirts and good champagne. Mum to two beautiful mischiefs. Long time wanderer around the world. Author. Blogger. Speaker.
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