high performing teams

6 Ways You Can Build High Performing Teams for Better Productivity

Teams in current workplaces are more diverse and dispersed than ever before. Managers have had to adapt quickly to lead hybrid teams. But the fundamentals of effective teamwork remain as important as ever – knowing how to build a high performing team is essential.

We all want to work somewhere with good team dynamics. A good team environment can make a big difference to our job satisfaction and the success of the entire organisation. 

As managers, a key part of our role is creating and leading high-performance teams. But what is a high performing team? Do we understand what makes a high performing team tick?

In today’s blog, we discuss the attributes of high performing teams and share our top tips for leaders on how to manage high performing teams. 

What does a high performing team look like?

In order to build a high performing team, we first need to understand what a high performing team looks like. What are the attributes of high performing teams?

Research has shown us that even though teams face different challenges, a relatively small number of factors drive team effectiveness. The characteristics of high performing sales teams are the same as the characteristics of high performing finance teams.

Google spent two years studying 180 teams and found that the most successful ones shared the following five characteristics:

  1. Impact – the group believes in the purpose of their work.
  2. Meaning – work has personal importance to each team member.
  3. Structure and clarity – high performing teams having clear goals and well-defined roles for each team member.
  4. Dependability – team members meet expectations.
  5. Psychological safety – a team where everyone feels safe to take risks and voice their opinions – this is the most essential characteristic that defines successful teams.

The key lesson that Google learnt is that it’s not about having the smartest people on the team but about having effective group norms. Group norms are the behaviours and unwritten rules that govern how teams function. Creating effective teams required setting up the right group norms. Effective group behaviours magnified collective intelligence and made the team work better together. 

Now that we understand what a high performing team looks like, let’s dive into building one. 

1. Define purpose and impact

The foundation of creating high performing teams is having a clear sense of purpose and direction. Team members need to know what they’re working towards and why. 

Purpose is our desire to do work that matters. Having a strong sense of purpose is highly motivating. When your team believes in the purpose of the organisation and the purpose of their work, they will be more engaged and more productive. Having a shared purpose helps bring a team together.

Managers of high performing teams make sure that everyone understands the purpose of their work and how the impact is defined. They regularly remind the team of agreed goals and how it aligns to their purpose. 

2. Provide structure and clarity

team structure

Once team members are clear about the purpose of the work, they need to have clear goals that are tied to that purpose. High performing teams are aligned in their priorities. This will help keep the team focused on the highest-value tasks and say no to things that don’t add value

Managers of high performing teams are constantly evaluating priorities to ensure they are aligned with team goals. Managers help the team keep goals top-of-mind by regularly connecting the team’s work to organisational goals.

High performing teams also commonly include members with a balance of skills that complement each other. Set aside time as a team to understand each member’s strengths and make sure that roles are clearly defined so everyone knows what they need to do and how to get there. 

Managing high-performance teams requires setting clear expectations for the outcome or end result and giving autonomy on achieving that result. This gives team members a sense of ownership over a task or project, a powerful motivator. 

Use regular one-on-ones to check in with each team member about their progress and determine if they need additional clarification or support. 

3. Set team norms

As managers, we set cultural and behavioural norms for the team. For example, when managers show active listening during team meetings, it sets the tone for the rest of the team. 

Set aside time as a team to explicitly agree on behavioural norms that support good team dynamics and facilitate collaboration. These norms can be simple but powerful, such as always arriving at meetings on time and not interrupting someone who is talking. Managers can also set a good example for effective email management, such as having a clear subject line that tells the recipient what action they need to take.

Effective teamwork relies on clear and open communication. It helps to establish clear processes and expectations for communication. Agree on what communication channels will be used by the team and for what purpose. For example, important team or organisational updates go on the team intranet so that everyone can access them.

For a hybrid team, make sure that any decisions made by team members working in the office are communicated to remote workers as soon as possible to keep everyone on the same page.

Another essential team norm is deciding how to store and share information effectively. For example, as a team, agree on a file structure for how to store shared data. This will then allow everyone in the team to access the correct information at the right time.  

4. Build trust and safety

Effective teamwork requires trust and mutual respect. This is the basis for psychological safety. Employees in high performing teams value each other and trust each person to do their bit. They respect different opinions and perspectives.

A diversity of views and experiences is beneficial for coming up with more creative solutions to problems and avoiding groupthink. As the manager, actively encourage different perspectives by asking quieter individuals for their views and acknowledging their contributions.

A culture of trust allows team members to share ideas openly and take risks. If something doesn’t work out, do not apportion blame but focus on improving and getting back on track. 

Good managers also regularly celebrate successes and show appreciation for individual and team contributions. This builds a culture of collaboration and helps everyone feel valued.

5. Give feedback and support 

high performing teams

Every team and individual has room to improve. High performing teams are continuous learners; they value feedback and growth. An effective manager supports ongoing employee development and continuous learning.  

Good managers give timely and actionable feedback to team members. Take advantage of regular one-on-ones to provide feedback on what has been going well and what could be further improved. 

If a team member needs extra support, formal or informal training could be a worthwhile investment. For example, employees may need additional support on working effectively as part of a hybrid team. Investing in skills development shows employees that you care about their personal and professional growth. 

6. Review progress

Team-building takes time and effort. How will you know if your team-building efforts are working? Set aside some time every quarter to review how your team is going.

Ask yourself – is the team delivering on agreed outputs? How well are team members working together? Are individual team members happy with their personal development?

Improving team effectiveness requires commitment from the whole team. Ask your team members for suggestions and feedback. Don’t be afraid to try new things and make adjustments where needed. Innovative leaders understand the importance of teamwork and are willing to invest time into creating high-performance teams. 

Effective teamwork is essential for business success. Managers can achieve significant returns if they understand the key factors for effective teamwork and focus on getting them right.

At PEPworldwide, we support teams and individuals to increase their effectiveness and achieve their goals. We will show you practical ways to work better as a team and individually. Find out more about how we can help you create a more productive and engaged team.  

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