Text LinkThis article is part of Lattice's Magazine for HR Professionals. Check it out and join the community

Top 4 Characteristics of High-Performing Teams

April 23, 2021
By

The success of any company hinges on its ability to assemble high-performing teams; the better the team performs, the better the company performs — and the more successful the organization is as a result.

But in order to assemble high-performing teams, you need to know what to look for: What makes for a high-performing team? What are the must-have qualities you need to look for during the hiring process? And once you’ve assembled your team, how can you inspire, engage, and support them in a way that keeps them performing at their highest level? Read on for everything you need to know about how to create high-performing teams, and inspire and motivate them to continually succeed.

Key Characteristics of a High-Performing Team

In order to assemble high-performing teams, you have to know what characteristics enable that high level of performance. These are the elements that need to be in place for teams to perform at their highest level and reach their full potential.

1. High-performing team members trust each other.

With a certain baseline level of trust, teams are able to collaborate, innovate, and work as a cohesive unit; without trust, employees will struggle to share their thoughts, opinions, and ideas, and may also have a hard time collaborating with coworkers — all of which can hinder performance. That’s why trust is one of the most important characteristics of a high-performing team.

Karen Eber
, CEO and Chief Storyteller of culture transformation consultancy Eber Leadership Group, echoed this sentiment: “High-performing teams have a high level of trust,” she said. “Everyone is comfortable showing up authentically. They are able to be vulnerable with each other, discussing mistakes and lessons learned without blame or retribution.”

2. High-performing teams have a team mentality.

When employees operate under an “every person for themselves” mentality, they may perform well on an individual basis — but they will struggle to find success as a team.

High-performing teams, on the other hand, “relish their team’s collaboration, coordination. and creativity,” noted Amie Devero, strategy consultant, executive coach, and founder of consultancy Beyond Better. “They see the product of their work as being a group effort — one that is better than could possibly come from any one person.”

3. High-performing teams are diverse.

“Passionate and committed people are at the heart of every high-performing team,” said Edie Goldberg, PhD, founder and President of consulting company E.L. Goldberg & Associates and author of The Inside Gig: How Sharing Untapped Talent Across Boundaries Unleashes Organizational Capacity.

When you’re assembling your team, you might look for people who fit into your idea of what “high performing” means; for example, you might think you need to populate your team with overachievers with a specific background or skillset. But the truth is, hiring a lot of the same type of person isn’t going to contribute to the success you’re seeking. To build a team that performs at the highest level, diversity is key.

“A high-performing team isn't made up of well-rounded individuals,” said Eber. “A high-performing team is well-rounded with individuals of different strengths, perspectives, [and] experiences.”

Hiring different types of people allows you to leverage each of their unique strengths, perspectives, and experiences to build the strongest team possible. But keep in mind that because you’re bringing together different types of people (who likely have different ideas about the best way to work and get things done), it’s crucial to hire individuals with an “understanding of interpersonal styles of teammates to improve relationships and manage conflict,” advised Goldberg.

4. High-performing teams have clear direction.

You can assemble a team with the potential to perform at a high level. But it doesn’t matter how much potential they have — if you don’t give them the clarity, structure, and direction they need, they’re not going to be successful.

For teams to perform at the highest level, they need “clear roles and responsibilities [and an] agreed upon approach for problem-solving and decision-making,” Goldberg said. Key attributes of high-performing teams also include a “well-defined vision [or] purpose and specific, measurable goals,” she continued. And when it comes to setting goals for high-performing teams, the more ambitious, the better.

“When teams are formed with the right set of expertise and are given lofty goals, they can fuel innovation and create the next big business opportunity for a company, or help the company over a hurdle that has been limiting their performance,” Goldberg noted.

Why High-Performing Teams Are Critical for Business Growth

To assemble high-performing teams, there are characteristics you need to look for during the hiring process — like a team mentality, diverse skillset, strong work ethic, and commitment and dedication to a job well done. But why is putting together high-performing teams so important? And what role do high-performing teams play in an organization’s growth and success?

“In the absence of teams...organizations end up relying only on individual contributors,” said Devero. “[In that kind of environment], unhealthy competition and undermining behavior can grow.”

Not only can the “every person for themselves” attitude have a negative impact on company culture, but because employees don’t get the benefit of working collaboratively on ideas and projects, work can quickly become stagnant, and progress and innovation can trail off or come to a halt — both at an individual and organizational level. “Without high-performing teams, only individuals work to solve problems,” Devero said. “That misses out on the value of a vibrant network of [workers].”

These issues can be solved, though, by bringing employees together in teams. “When organizations foster high-performing teams, they get better-tested ideas, a more cohesive culture, and a spirit of cooperation,” said Devero. “They get the benefit of multiple minds working together and improving upon each other’s ideas. That compounds [over time] — just like interest in a savings account. Everyone’s thinking improves.”

The Secret to Keeping High-Performers Engaged

High-performing teams are critical to a company’s success. As a leader, it’s your job to not only assemble those teams, but to continue to keep them engaged and support their performance. Here’s how to keep your teams performing at the highest level.

1. Create space for healthy conflict.

You may think that high-performing teams are without conflict, and that you immediately need to intervene if you sense conflict brewing. But the truth is, in order to perform at the highest level, team members need to feel safe to share ideas, disagree, and challenge each other.

“A silent team isn't a healthy team,” cautioned Eber. “The healthiest teams are messy. They build ideas on each other. They constructively challenge each other and debate. They leave time for debate and invite it.”

As a manager, creating the space where your employees feel comfortable hashing things out falls on your shoulders. “The manager sets the tone by reinforcing that everyone on the team has value and a voice,” Eber said. “The manager can help bring ideas forward, tee up the debate, [and] celebrate the healthy behaviors. Anyone can do these things — but they are most meaningful when coming from the manager.”

A caveat: You don’t want conflict to escalate to a point that it gets personal or hinders your team’s ability to work together. But if you want your team to continually perform at a high level, do allow team members the freedom to hash things out, disagree, debate, and challenge each other when necessary.

2. Celebrate wins.

Your team may be performing at a high level now — but if they’re not recognized and rewarded for that performance, it’s going to drop off.

Recognizing your team for the things that they’re doing well is an important part of keeping them engaged — and keeping them at your organization. According to research from O.C. Tanner Learning Group, 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite “lack of appreciation” as a reason behind their exit.

To motivate your team to perform at their highest level and do their best work, it’s essential that you celebrate their wins. Schedule a time every week to highlight what they’re doing well. When you work to make your team feel appreciated, recognized, and valued, they’ll feel more engaged with their work — and be more successful as a result.

Recognition from the leader creates motivation to work harder and overcome obstacles,” Goldberg pointed out.

3. Make feedback a cornerstone of your culture.

Celebrating your team’s wins is a huge part of empowering a high level of performance. But you also need to acknowledge the things that aren’t working well — and give your team feedback on how they can improve.

If you deliver the right kind of feedback, it will help your team get their performance back on track. But poorly delivered feedback can be confusing, frustrating, or offensive for your team — and can actually have the opposite effect on performance.

According to Eber, in order for feedback to be effective in inspiring and nurturing high-performing teams, it needs to adhere to the following three guidelines:

  • The feedback is about the work, not the person — and is coming from a place of wanting to help the individual and team evolve, not harping on a personal issue.
  • The feedback is given in a timely manner.
  • The feedback is specific: Here’s what I observed, here’s the impact it had, and here’s what you might consider doing in the future.

To optimally support your team’s performance, make sure you’re delivering feedback that checks all these boxes — and that you’re giving that feedback on a regular basis (for example, by scheduling weekly or biweekly one-on-ones with individual employees).

Giving your team helpful, constructive feedback is important. But you also have to be willing to receive feedback from your staff.

“[Feedback] needs to exist within every team — but also across all dimensions of the organization,” said Devero. “This only works when there’s respect in every direction and all feedback is equally regarded. Leaders respect the critical feedback they receive as much as their team members respect…[leadership’s] feedback.”

How Lattice Fosters High-Performing Teams

Understanding the characteristics of high-performing teams is a must for managers. But assembling high-performing teams is only the first step of the process; if you want them to keep excelling, you need to manage them in a way that supports a high level of performance over time. 

Lattice
makes it easy to develop high-performing teams with a suite of performance management tools that allow you to set goals, celebrate wins, and deliver the feedback your team needs to reach their full potential — all from one easy-to-use platform. With Lattice, you can schedule one-on-ones; set and collaborate on team goals; and gather, deliver, and receive feedback — everything you need to empower your team’s highest level of performance.

To learn more about how Lattice can help you develop and support high-performing teams,
schedule a product tour today.