Beat underperformance: how to achieve high performing teams

Beat underperformance: the way to achieve high performing teams

The future of work is about harnessing collaboration and connection so as to fire on all engines. Your people must be able to work together effectively, efficiently and energetically.


Teamwork brings incredible advantages to businesses. Effective teams work productively, through high levels of commitment and engagement. Effective teams are resilient, due to their strong relationships and good communication skills, enabling flexibility and agility in the face of difficult circumstances. Effective teams can boost innovation: groups are better than the best individuals at solving complex problems.


However perhaps noticed that groups of diverse individuals can be difficult to build together into an effective team – even when the situation is critical.


The reality is that only one out of five teams is high performing and teamwork issues are critical, for example 86% of employees cite lack of collaboration as the cause of workplace failures.


How can team leaders develop high-performing teams?


High performing teams have eight elements in common. These are a combination of practices, processes and skills, which together create the capacity for high performance.


It is widely understood that trust is foundational to the model of an effective team – both high performing teams and ‘normal’ teams. Trust enables teams to engage in open debate. Trust saves time. Trust increases interdependence and collaboration. Trust creates freedom and autonomy. Trust enables learning. Trust is integral to the critical functions of a team.


Trust alone is not enough, despite the fact that it can be difficult to achieve. Many teams and their leaders have never learned or developed a focus on the other key ingredients that create a high-performing team.


There are three critical elements that create the foundations for great teamwork:


1. A clear, inspiring vision and an agreed sense of purpose;
2. The capacity, strengths and skills, collectively, to do the work;
3. Systems, processes and technologies that support the team, rather than detract from their work;


With these foundations addressed, team leaders and team members can together focus on the other five aspects which create a strong team dynamic and a team that can deliver incredible results. These are trust, healthy debate, individual responsibility, accountability and team focus.


High performing teams need all of these elements:

Transformed Teams model

In practice, this means that teams often require one or more of the following:

  • Training in non-conflict communication, so that they can be clear, respectful and assertive.
  • Team members usually benefit from developing a stronger understanding of each other’s thinking and communication styles.
  • There is a need to establish a clear results-based management system, for transparency and accountability.
  • Project management tools and communication systems are needed to support information flow across the team.
  • Team meeting protocols play an important role in maximising communication.
  • Collaboration training can help team members to understand the dynamics of collaboration so that it proceeds effectively.


All in all, leaders have a special responsibility to develop high performing teams but team members have a high degree of influence. Teams can only become high performing when they pay attention to both the foundations and dynamics of teamwork.


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