leaders in a workshop

What makes a high-performing team?

June 20, 2016
4 minute read
Last updated January 29, 2019

Every business leader hopes to manage a high-performing team. And every employee hopes to be part of a high-performing team. High-performing teams get things accomplished—and their members feel engaged and satisfied when they reach strategic goals.

How can leaders design and inspire their teams so they become high performing? Read on to find out.

How leaders can design high-performing teams

From a talent optimization standpoint, leaders should design teams to align with the business strategy. Leaders must also predict how new hires will affect team dynamics and culture. Do both and you’ll be on your way to cultivating high-performing teams.

Team design

Team design is a part of creating your people strategy. Both your organization’s structure and the design of its teams must be intentionally planned out so you can successfully carry out the business’s strategic objectives. If your business strategy is to innovate, you’ll want a flat structure with few middle managers to enable quick decision-making.

Also, map out which behavioral profiles you’ll need on each team. A product team at the same innovative company will need employees that work quickly while maintaining quality. In this case, hiring managers might plan to hire employees with low patience and high formality.

Team dynamics

Even if all your employees are good at what they do, they can’t achieve all that is possible if they aren’t empowered to work together effectively. Leaders are responsible for designing and maintaining team dynamics and culture, and part of that is making sure every new hire adds to the team in a positive way.

How can a leader pull this off? With the help of a talent optimization platform. Best hiring practices rely on pre-employment behavioral assessments to gauge someone’s workplace behaviors. Managers can use this critical people data to ensure the candidate will mesh well with the team. Team dynamics determine whether the team will successfully execute strategic goals, so getting this right matters.

A tool like PI’s Team Work Styles can help leaders ensure that team dynamics will be conducive to accomplishing work:

Roles need to be flexible.

Leaders of high-performing teams know when to be flexible—and they build that flexibility and resiliency into the team in various ways including designing flexible roles.

There may be a project in which “employee A” has a great deal of knowledge, so he or she is a natural leader for that project due solely to subject matter expertise. The rest of the team must have a willingness to defer to this person—even if he or she is an individual contributor. The next project might be something that “employee B” is an expert at.

On high performing teams, roles change with ebbing and flowing of expertise—all team members maintain trust and work ethic, supporting each other always while holding each other accountable for achieving positive results.

What kind of people make up a high-performing team?

These are the common threads of people on high-performing teams:

Hard working:  Nearly everything worth attaining in life comes from hard work.  A high performing team is composed of people who encourage each other, challenge each other, and push each other to work hard to achieve their shared vision and goals.

Interested in learning:  Even the smartest people will find things they know little about. In that situation, the people on a team who are behind in the learning curve will work hard to catch up with the rest of the team. They will not expect the rest of the team to carry them.

Ethical: They will share ideas and recognize good work in each other rather than take credit for things they were not responsible for. When it comes to looking good in front of superiors, their work speaks for them.

What drives high-performing teams?

High-performing teams don’t need promises of monetary rewards to work hard and accomplish the shared vision. Often they work for internal satisfaction and a shared feeling of success. They enjoy being part of something bigger than themselves and striving every day to live up to the company’s mission and vision statements.

Need to create mission and vision statements?

Use our template to create your company's most important messages.
Download guide

Monetary rewards are appreciated, but members of high-performing teams don’t go above and beyond just for a bonus. They do it because their role, team, manager, and culture engages and inspires them.

These teams are made up of people who aren’t afraid of conflict. They understand that healthy conflict is part of the process, and there’s enough trust on the team to support that conflict. They leave disagreements behind them, disagree and commit, and work together to accomplish the company’s goals. And of course, a willingness to communicate is the basic skeleton to begin any successful team.