5 Characteristics of high performing teams

5 Characteristics of high performing teams

5 Characteristics of high performing teams

Traditionally, high performing teams were designed with profit and productivity at the center. The goal was to achieve superior business results. This team management concept kicked off in the 80s when project management and performance management was becoming popular, and a handful of high-profile companies embraced the concept. But, times have changed and a high performing team has quite different characteristics, today.

What does a high performing team look like today?

The drivers and indications of “high performance” have had a shake up. There have been too many reports of burnout, poor mental health and discrimination at work, with Forbes reporting that 53% of millennials were burnt out pre-pandemic – and that number has only risen since. People are re-evaluating what’s important in a job and speaking up for a healthy balance between their work lives and personal priorities: Family, friends, health, hobbies and happiness.

Profit and productivity have welcomed a new friend into the heart of high performance: Psychological safety.

Psychological safety in the workplace is the belief that the environment is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. It is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

Amy Edmundson

Author and Professor at Harvard Business School

RELATED: 7 Ways to foster psychological safety in the workplace

Today, high performance can’t come at the cost of employees’ mental and physical health. We’ve seen what happens when companies do this. Their people find new jobs where their wellbeing is prioritized. Not to mention, Gallup research reveals that lack of engagement at work costs the global economy US$8.1 trillion. Looking after your people; tuning into their needs and building a healthy workplace culture, is moving up the corporate agenda.

Looking at high performing teams through a new lens

Let’s look at how to create a high performing team through a new lens; combining performance with wellbeing. Some of the foundation principles of high performing teams include defined roles, effective communication, goal setting and tracking. This is a great starting point. If you want to equip your high performance team with the tools to thrive in today’s environment, we’ve uncovered five traits that will embed wellbeing and high performance into your team:

  1. Take a tailored, human approach to managing your team
  2. Protect psychological safety within your team culture
  3. Highlight relevance to the bigger vision
  4. Embrace diversity at every level
  5. Facilitate equal turn-taking in conversation

1. Take a tailored, human approach to managing your team

We hire people based on their CV and interview. These are features of a person that don’t change from week-to-week or month-to-month. They feel constant, stable. But what we can sometimes forget is that peoples’ lives are always changing in the background. Be it struggles with family, friends, living situation, mental health fluctuations, even how many parking fines they’re frustratingly paying off. Take a moment every week to check in with your team members. You can lean on a performance management system like intelliHR to support this cultural shift within large teams, but it’s important to also carve out one-on-one time with your direct reports. See what’s new, what might be holding them back, or propelling them forward. And then adjust expectations so they can put their best foot forward. This will build a deeper level of trust with your team and you’ll start to see the flow-on effect; where they start to do this for each other.

RELATED: 4 examples of feedback questions to ask in your employee check-ins

2. Protect psychological safety within your team culture

Psychological safety is the comfort to be yourself, trust, and mutual respect within your workplace. Team performance increases when all members feel that they can contribute, challenge ideas and make mistakes. Building psychological safety into your team breeds a sense of belonging, which according to evolutionary psychology, is just about the best feeling in the world. When you create a safe environment for your team, they’ll benefit from micro-learning moments, opportunities to reflect, and more diverse thoughts in discussion.

RELATED: Conduct our psychological safety exercise with your team

3. Highlight relevance to the bigger vision

There’s nothing worse than working super hard on a project that seems irrelevant to the company’s vision. Creating clarity around ‘why’ your team is working on a project and ‘how’ it links in with the greater mission, is crucial to give people a sense of purpose. Gone are the days where people are happy to come to work and be kept in silos. Create transparency across teams, share wins, and show connection to the rest of the goals in the company.

DOWNLOAD: Free goal setting template for creating SMART, flexible goals that align with the company’s vision

4. Embrace diversity at every level

Diverse teams perform better. Harvard research famously showed gender diversity increases profitability by 15%, cognitive diversity drives innovation by up to 20% (Quantum Workplace) and racially diverse teams outperform their competitors by 35% (Sage). But the cherry on the top is that diverse teams attract top talent. When you build diverse teams, you attract the best in the business, ultimately improving the DNA of your team.

DOWNLOAD: Free guide to diversity in the workplace for tactical ideas for building diverse and inclusive teams

5. Facilitate equal turn-taking in conversation

Google has spent many years and millions of dollars to crack the code of the perfect team. They studied how their employees ate, how they were recruited, where they collaborated with each other… and they struggled to find any patterns. Years later, they stumbled across a key finding that indicates how to increase the collective IQ of a team. Google’s research has shown that groups who have “equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking” during a project (essentially, sharing the talking stick) outperformed teams where only a handful of people spoke most of the time. Holding space for each other, listening and sharing talking time is key to raising the collective IQ of your team.

RELATED: Shape constructive feedback using the SAIL model

There’s a lot of research going into understanding high performing teams, people management and what’s driving employee engagement. Communication, leadership, talent, and clear goals; these consistently come up as important foundations for a team. But, gaining an edge in the current work landscape; a world where employees are finding their voice and speaking truth to power, we’re going to need an extended toolkit: A tailored approach, psychological safety, relevance, diversity and equal conversation – these are the values to take forward. Remember: If you look after your team, they’ll look after the business.

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