A high-performance team can be defined as a group of people with specific roles and complementary talents and skills, aligned with and committed to a common purpose, who consistently show high levels of collaboration and innovation, that produce superior results. The high-performance team is regarded as tight-knit, focused on their goal and nothing else. Team members are so devoted to their purpose that they will surmount any barrier to achieve the team’s goals.

Within the high-performance team, people are highly skilled and are able to interchange their roles. Also, leadership within the team is not vested in a single individual. Instead the leadership role is taken up by various team members, according to the need at that moment in time. High-performance teams have robust methods of resolving conflict efficiently, so that conflict does not become a roadblock to achieving the team’s goals. There is a sense of clear focus and intense energy within a high-performance team. Collectively, the team has its own consciousness, indicating shared norms and values within the team. The team feels a strong sense of accountability for achieving their goals. Team members display high levels of mutual trust towards each other.

A high-performance team moves through the stages of forming, storming, norming and performing, as with other teams. However, the high-performance team uses the storming and norming phase effectively to define who they are and what their overall goal is, and how to interact together and resolve conflicts. Therefore, when the high-performance team reaches the performing phase, they have highly effective behaviours that allow them to overachieve in comparison to regular teams.

High-performance teams have ten characteristics that are recognised to lead to success

  • Participative leadership – using a democratic leadership style that involves and engages team members
  • Effective decision-making – using a blend of rational and intuitive decision making methods, depending on that nature of the decision task
  • Open and clear communication – ensuring that the team mutually constructs shared meaning, using effective communication methods and channels
  • Valued diversity – valuing a diversity of experience and background in team, contributing to a diversity of viewpoints, leading to better decision making and solutions
  • Mutual trust – trusting in other team members and trusting in the team as an entity
  • Managing conflict – dealing with conflict openly and transparently and not allowing grudges to build up and destroy team morale
  • Clear goals – goals that are developed using SMART criteria; also each goal must have personal meaning and resonance for each team member, building commitment and engagement
  • Defined roles and responsibilities – each team member understands what they must do (and what they must not do) to demonstrate their commitment to the team and to support team success
  • Coordinative relationship – the bonds between the team members allow them to seamlessly coordinate their work to achieve both efficiency and effectiveness
  • Positive atmosphere – an overall team culture that is open, transparent, positive, future-focused and able to deliver success

To better understand how these competencies create effective teams, let’s examine some characteristics of highly effective teams.

An effective team understands the big picture.In an effective team, each team member understands the context of the team’s work to the greatest degree possible. That includes understanding the relevance of his or her job and how it impacts the effectiveness of others and the overall team effort. Too often, people are asked to work on part of a task without being told how their role contributes to the desired end result, much less how their efforts are impacting the ability of others to do their work. Understanding the big picture promotes collaboration, increases commitment and improves quality.

An effective team has common goals.Effective teams have agreed-upon goals that are simple, measurable and clearly relevant to the team’s task. Each goal includes key measurable metrics (that are available to everyone on the team), which can be used to determine the team effectiveness and improvement. Understanding and working toward these common goals as a unit is crucial to the team’s effectiveness.
An effective team works collaboratively, as a unit.In an effective team you’ll notice a penchant for collaboration and a keen awareness of interdependency. Collaboration and a solid sense of interdependency in a team will defuse blaming behaviour and stimulate opportunities for learning and improvement. Without this sense of interdependency in responsibility and reward, blaming behaviours can occur which will quickly erode team effectiveness.

Ten Leadership Techniques for High Performance Teams

  • Define a very clear picture of the future – a vision for the team. This is crucial, because teams search desperately for specific targets. Consider the old expression: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Journeys without a clear destination leave groups feeling flat and lost. Keeping teams informed on where they’re headed and how best to get there means leaders must be prepared to acknowledge and adapt to changes in operational 1recreate the vision and team spirit that stops people losing heart and becoming lost.
  • Be genuine, even if it means lowering your guard. Leaders who create ‘click’ have an uncanny sense about how and when to express their inner selves. They will even reveal their own vulnerabilities at the right time to gain the respect of those around them. They are not so concerned about projecting a perfect image: they know that high-impact leaders get results by laughing at their own flaws. They don’t play make-believe, knowing it’s more important ‘to be’ than to ‘seem to be’.
  • Ask good questions. They use enquiry and advocacy in such a way as to keep them abreast of what is really going on. They seem to use a simple formula of the 70-20-10 rule in conversations: 70 per cent listening, 20 per cent enquiring with just the right amount of advocacy, and 10 per cent tracking (i.e., summarizing and synthesizing information, and providing possible courses of action).
  • Talk about things – even the hard things. A leader who gets their team to click is not afraid to talk about the tough stuff. They find ways to have the difficult conversations in the knowledge that burying problems doesn’t make them go away. They also know that if they, as leader, don’t talk about things, no-one will and, pretty soon, a culture will develop in which too many things are left unsaid. (I can always tell when teams are dysfunctional by measuring the amount of stuff not talked about, or what I call the “let’s not go there” issues.)
  • Follow through on commitments. Leaders of high-performing teams find ways to build trust and maintain it, especially by making teams hold to their commitments and keeping the team’s view of its goals clear. However, they also know how to distinguish professional trust from blind loyalty.
  • Let others speak first. In high-performing teams, members see themselves as equal in terms of communication. Leaders should therefore encourage this by putting the other person’s need to express their agenda ahead of their own.
  • Listen. High-performing teams comprise people who have mastered the art of listening without fear, of allowing others to speak without reacting strongly or negatively to what is being said, or what they anticipate will be said. The leader fosters and honours this attribute within the team by quickly putting a stop to bad conversational behaviour that cuts other people off and implies that their ideas are not valued. The leader knows that achieving higher levels of innovation requires team members to be unafraid to express unusual ideas and advocate experimental processes. They emphasize this by publicly thanking those who take risks – and by making sure that sharp-shooters put their guns away.
  • Face up to non-performing players. This brings us to a very important characteristic of high-performing teams, which is that their leaders do not tolerate players who pull the team apart. Interestingly, experienced leaders frequently maintain unity and discipline through third parties in the form of people we call ‘passionate champions’. A leader may surround his or herself with several passionate champions, who have established an understanding and close working relationship with one another, and who are totally focused on, and committed to, the team’s objectives. They are capable of getting the job done – and not afraid to remove people who are failing to help them do so.
  • Have fun, but never at others’ expense. High-impact leaders steer clear of sarcasm: they always take the high road. If they do make fun of someone, it’s usually themselves. They have learned the lesson that reckless humour can be misinterpreted and backfire. They know that critics of the organization can turn inappropriate remarks back on a leader who makes them.
  • Be confident and dependable. Somehow, over and above the daily struggle, leaders who get teams to click project confidence. They do this by preparing their conversations and not backing away from, or skimming over, real issues and problems, even difficult or confronting ones. They always address ‘What’s up?’ and ‘What’s so?’ in the organization. They don’t try to be spin doctors because they know that, ultimately, this doesn’t work. Rather, they are known as straight shooters – people who play hard, fight fair, and never, never give up. At the end of the day, team members know that, whatever happens, their leader will be left standing. This gives them confidence that they will be standing, too. They also know that, should things get really bad, their leader will not desert them or try to shift the blame, but seek to protect them, even if it means standing in the line of fire.

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About Luis Soares Costa

From the very beginning, coaching has always been at the core of my passions.

For the past 38 years I have been an Executive and Team Coach working globally with CEOs and their C-Suite Executives, Business Owners and top talent in a significant number of the major global companies (including a significant number of Fortune 500), innovative companies operating in new ecosystems and dynamic family owned businesses.

During the past 28 years, I have also been an Executive and Team Coach and a “consultant to consultants” developing partners and top talent at major consultancies, Big4 Firms and Legal Firms

As an Executive and Team Coach, I partner with you and/or your teams in a “real play” thought-provoking and creative process which inspires you to “connect the dots” and maximize your personal and professional potential. The aim of the partnership is to bring about a sustained behavioral and performance transformation and profoundly shift the quality of your and your team’s working and personal life, whilst maximizing your potential and generating sustainable value.

You can contact me at coach@LuisSoaresCosta.com and visit my Website at www.LuisSoaresCosta.com