The term “High Performance Team” describes a team that consistently show exceptionally high levels of collaboration and innovation that produce superior results. First described in the 1950’s by the Tavistock Institute, these teams will often achieve a quantum leap in business results within one year. The HPT is usually regarded as a tight-knit group so focused on their goal that they will surmount any barrier to achieve the team’s goals.

Based on a plethora of research, Human Interest has developed a Elite Team Framework comprising of key components necessary for a team to be elite or high-performing.

It is made up of three core elements:

  1. Fundamentals: These are components that are non-negotiable in an elite team. Without these aspects, a team cannot become high-performing.
  2. Team: These are the components that need to be present within the team of individuals, in order for top achievement.
  3. Leadership: Leadership components are a guide to what a team leader needs to have in place in order to effectively guide a high-performing team to success.

Aspects of the core elements are presented below:

Fundamentals

  • Clear & Achievable Goals: Clear and achievable goals are essential. To have multiple people work toward a common goal, objectives must be clearly understood by all team members. Research shows that if goals appear to be unrealistic, the likelihood of individuals simply giving up increases substantially.
  • Clear Roles & Responsibilities: Each team member must have clearly defined responsibilities within the team, and these team roles must be assigned based on strengths and preferred behaviours for working within a team. Each person must know exactly what their responsibilities are in relation to the achievement of the team objectives.
  • Sense of Purpose: A high performing team shares a strong sense of purpose. They are clear about what their work is and why it is important. Their purpose is what focuses energy and drives interdependence and performance. It is from purpose that mutually agreed upon goals are derived, roles defined, and strategies developed. If purpose is not clear, the team will falter.
  • Focus on Delivery: The ability to focus on getting a single project to completion is the key to high performance. There is a commitment to high standards and quality. High performance teams take great pride in meeting deadlines, achieving goals and getting the job done swiftly.
  • Open Communication: Team members need to feel free to express their feelings on the tasks and on the group’s operation, without fear. These communication channels need to be open and constant. A 2012 study by the Harvard Business Review revealed some interesting facts about communication on high-performance teams. By tracking and analysing the interactions of teams in a wide range of workplaces, the researchers found that around 12 communication exchanges per hour between members of the team seems to be the optimal number.

Team

  • Shared Commitment: Commitment of every team member is key — to each other, to the organisation, and to their goals. Leaders can foster this by ensuring everyone understands the importance of their role to the team and how their specific strengths and skills contribute to the success of the organisation. It’s not just about individual impact; it’s also about how each team member positively impacts the group. Shared goals provide the reason for collaboration.
  • Joint Accountability: Being accountable means you are responsible for addressing your problems with others directly with them rather than avoiding them or asking others to handle them for you. Joint accountability also means that you share responsibility for a situation, including the consequences it creates.
  • Psychological Safety: Psychological safety refers to the belief that you will not be punished when you make a mistake. This speaks to trusting others. Studies show that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off — just the types of behaviour that lead to market breakthroughs. It is the ability to be yourself, knowing you have the team’s support.
  • Diversity: Effective teams are composed of members with a wide range of skills, strengths and differences. One such difference that is important is diversity of thinking styles. According to a study by Deloitte, cultivating “diversity of thought” at your business can boost innovation and creative problem-solving and guard against the phenomenon of GroupThink. Elite teams leverage a wide range of backgrounds, experience and perspectives for the potential for unpredictable insights and linkages. High performance teams actively seek out divergent views because of what they offer to the decision-making process.
  • Flexibility: A high performing team needs to be agile in terms of learning quickly from past mistakes and adapting their style according to changing conditions and demands. If a team does not adjust, the same mistakes will continually be made.

Leadership

  • Empowerment: Team members need to be fully empowered through effective delegation. This ensures that individual speciality and strengths are utilised. The team should have unhindered access to relevant information and resources.
  • Recognition: Recognition and appreciation is the responsibility of all team members and the leader. The organisation must recognise and value the team’s contribution. Individual and team accomplishments are recognised and celebrated, in order for team members to feel highly regarded in the team.
  • Talent Optimisation: Team leaders look at individual strengths and place people in roles where they are likely to thrive and provide the most value.
  • Continuous Feedback: Members of the team ask for regular feedback on their work and leaders provide continuous feedback. Feedback aids in two ways: Positive feedback enables the team to learn and engage quickly, while constructive feedback allows for team members to change and optimise their ways of working. This also allows teams to review their objectives and if they are being met timeously.
  • Shared Leadership: The team leader is not one person in charge while the others purely follow. In elite teams, leadership is more than a role; it is an influence process that requires leadership from team members, as well as from the team leader.

References:

Baldoni, J. (2009). How to manage your high-performing team. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2009/08/how-to-manage-your-high-perfor

Boulden, G. (2016). Developing high performance teams. Retrieved from http://www.boulden.net/blog/developing-high-performance-teams/

Catalyst Consulting (n.d.). Building high performance teams. Retrieved from http://www.catalystconsulting.co.za/downloads/consulting-solutions/Intro%20to%20High%20Performance%20Teams.pdf

Delizonna, L. (2017). High-performing teams need psychological safety. here’s how to create it. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/08/high-performing-teams-need-psychological-safety-heres-how-to-create-it

Diaz-Uda, A., Medina, C., & Schill, B. (2013). Diversity of thought and the future of the workforce. Deloitte University Press. Retrieved from https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/topics/talent/diversitys-new-frontier.html

Keller, S., & Meaney, M. (2017) Leading Organization: Ten Timeless Truths. Bloomsbury: New York.

Lencioni, P. (2002). Re-Thinking: High-Performance teamwork: Ten lessons businesses can learn from elite sports teams. Retrieved from https://autopia.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Re-Thinking-High-Performance-Teamwork-Whitepaper.1.pdf

Loew, L. (2015). High-performance teams: A crucial differentiator of business performance. Retrieved from https://trainingmag.com/high-performance-teams-crucial-differentiator-business-performance/

Martin, A, & Bal, V. (2015). The state of teams. Retrieved from https://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/state-of-teams-center-for-creative-leadership.pdf

Moga, B. (2017). High performing teams: What are they and how do I build one? Retrieved from https://activecollab.com/blog/collaboration/high-performing-teams

Paknad, D. (2018). 6 hallmarks of high performing teams. Retrieved from https://www.workboard.com/blog/high-performing-teams.php

Pentland, A. (2012). The Hard Science of Teamwork. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/03/the-new-science-of-building-gr

The Insights Group. (2013). High impact teams. Retrieved from https://www.insights.com/media/1116/high-impact-teams.pdf

Thornton, P.B. (2017). Common characteristics of high-performing teams. Retrieved from https://trainingmag.com/common-characteristics-high-performing-teams/

Walters, R. (2017). Developing high-performing teams to drive business performance and engagement. Retrieved from https://www.robertwalters.com/content/dam/robert-walters/corporate/news-and-pr/files/whitepapers/developing-high-performing-teams-whitepaper.pdf

Wing, L.S. (2005). Leadership in high‐performance teams: A model for superior team performance. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 11(1/2), 4-11.

Wolski, Chris. (n.d.). Characteristics of a High-Performance Team. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/characteristics-high-performance-team-1402.html

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