8 Defining Features of a High-Performing Team

High performing teams are the hallmark of a successful organization. Having a cohesive, high-performing team not only ensures the success of your organization in the long run, but also sets you apart in the industry.

When we talk about high-performing teams, they all share similar attributes. They are highly sustainable, they have an uncanny ability to solve conflicts and navigate change smoothly, they are highly efficient and productive, they are highly engaged, they ensure seamless communication and collaboration, they thrive in a culture of accountability, mutual respect, inclusivity, and trust, and they operate under a clear mission narrative.

Here are the 8 characteristics of high-performance teams that you will unanimously found across all successful businesses.

Purpose

A sustainable high-performing team cannot function without a purpose for existence. Call it agenda, strategy, vision, or mission, a successful purpose is one that keeps team members inspired to put one foot in front of the other, yields measurable results in output, motivates employees to look at the bigger picture, and is customer centric.  Leaders need to meticulously craft the team’s purpose or agenda with their team members so that they have a say in its creation and stay committed to it.

The leader should constantly reinforce the team’s purpose through actions, messages, symbols and words so that it impinges on the minds of their team members. When all team members are highly focused on objectives and are emotionally connected to the missions narrative, they will be better equipped to make it happen.

Personal Excellence

Personal excellence goes a long way towards creating a high-performing team. Each team member needs to hold themselves accountable for exhibiting excellence in order to foster a culture of excellence amongst the entire team.

Decision-Making Flexibility

High-performing teams are those that are given the flexibility to make decisions for themselves in real-time instead of waiting for management approval. In a nutshell, successful teams take a more decentralized approach to leadership and decision making. 

Leaders need to understand that employees who work in specific areas of the company are best suited to make decisions related to their area of expertise and work for the betterment of processes. While management may roll back certain decisions if they don’t align with the bigger picture, letting team members make day-to-day decisions helps the team pivot faster.

Learning

Even the most high-performing teams do things that work and those that fail to make a mark.

Successful teams are the ones that commit to incessant learning. They are never satisfied with the status quo. For instance, teams can call meetings to reflect and assess an event or a time frame of work. Post-action reflection draws on questions such as ‘what worked and what did not’, ‘reasons for failure’, ‘how did we do on this task on the whole’ and so forth. This helps teams identify mistakes and determine how the process could be improved.

Similarly, teams should identify common errors and drawbacks. For instance, a team might be consistently slow in decision making, or a team might repeatedly be missing deadlines. Ask those affected by the team to give their two cents on the team’s pattern of mistakes. Most importantly, there is no blame-game in high-functioning teams. Every team member knows how to own up to mistakes, apologize, forgive, and move on.

Empowerment 

Procedures, rule, and policies are implemented to help teams do their work easily. It falls upon the leader to make sure that their team members have access to all the resources and information that are needed to succeed. Leaders also need to define their team’s accountability, scope of authority, and decision-making power, so that there are no confusions. High-performing teams are given the opportunity and autonomy to pave the way forward.

Conflict Resolution

What sets a high-performing team from a mediocre one is their ability to handle conflicts in a constructive way. Teams succeed because people with different views and perspectives come together for common interests.  If the team does not have diversity of thought or individuals are not given a safe place to put forward their views, productivity will be stunted.  The conflict resolution method needs to be depersonalized, with a focus on “joint problem-solving.”

Healthy teams can disagree without hostility, have tension without contention, and argue without putting down one another. Team members need to sacrifice their personal interests for the betterment of the team, and the organization in general. In high performing teams, conflict is seen as “differing views” meant to challenge the ‘status quo’ and helps to address the problem from different angles.

Positive Team Relations

When team members care for each other, they are more likely to engage with each other and make amends where necessary. Healthy team relationships manifest themselves in the form of trust, expressing gratitude and acknowledgement for each other’s work, listening to others, harboring respect for differences, and asking personal questions to become more aware of each other’s non-work related concerns. Team members in high performing teams know how to let go of grudges and grievances, and apologize to each other.

Strong Communication

Seamless communication is the building block of a cohesive and successful team. In high performing teams, everyone makes their utmost effort to make sure that everyone understands the plan – and progress toward the plan – without any ambiguity. Leaders and managers are responsible for sharing information across the organization. Especially in the midst of the COVID pandemic, when many teams are still working remotely, it is essential to maintain regular communication via voice and video calls, as well as instant messaging, to ensure projects are completed and team unity is maintained.

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