10 Tips for leading a high-performing team

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‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’
– Aristotle

High-performing teams are groups who work towards a common goal and are able to achieve exceptional results. They generally exceed expectations and show remarkable resilience when confronted with obstacles. They accomplish this through productive communication, innovation, problem solving and delivering. Conversely, a poor team culture results in constant conflict and disagreement, members being afraid to speak up and low levels of enjoyment at work.

In order to produce a high-performing team, you have to build a strong team culture through leadership. Here are ten tips for building and maintaining a high-performing team:

1. Behaviour Breeds Behaviour

In order to get the results we want from the team we lead, we have to begin with ourselves. Are we modelling the behaviour we would like to see from our team? Are we taking responsibility and holding ourselves accountable? Are we communicating a positive vision? Ensure your behaviour as a leader is in line with what you hope to foster in your team. When you take charge and change your own behaviour you will win a lot of respect from those you lead and inspire them to do the same.

2. Set Clear Expectations

When teams are clear on their purpose, roles and responsibilities there is greater direction, ownership and fewer conflicts. Team leaders need to stay on message and constantly communicate to keep their team focused on the vision and what is needed to bring it to fruition. When you say you are going to do something, do it. Being consistent and walking your talk is paramount to inspiring others and building trust.

3. Pull, Don’t Push

Leaders will get better results from inspiring team members rather than pushing them. Leaders of high-performance teams create enthusiasm and energy among team members by inspiring them and making them feel that their work is of great importance. A great way to do this is to ask questions and get answers that will guide your leadership by understanding what motivates team members, listening to their ideas and learning how to lead them.

4. Open & Honest Communication

Transparency, honesty and openness are hallmark traits of high-performing teams. When honesty and transparency are lacking there is no trust and fear can take hold, creating a negative team culture. When trust is absent and fear is present it hinders a teams ability to problem solve, overcome obstacles and make decisions. In order to prevent this crippling effect, high-performing teams must have open communication lines. High-performing teams are able to communicate and tackle all kinds of topics, even sensitive ones.

5. Supportive Environment

High-performing teams regularly meet to discuss their progress, concerns and ideas. As a leader, you can foster a supportive culture by meeting with individual members of your team to discuss their objectives, development and performance. Focus on creating a culture of acceptance, encouraging one another’s strengths and supporting members in times of personal or professional challenges. High-performing teams coach and motivate individuals and create a sense of belonging.

6. Know Your Team

In order to bring a team to their optimal performance, you must know the strengths and weaknesses of each member as well as the synergies between team members. Members have been selected for their specific skills and strengths and teams are at their best when members complement one another. The team should understand what each person has to offer and how they can work together to achieve shared objectives.

7. Celebrate Success

Make lots of noise about team wins as well as individual successes. When a team member does something exceptional, ensure everyone knows and genuinely celebrate the win.

8. Encourage Team Bonding

Plan activities outside the office to provide opportunities for team members to form closer relationships, build mutual trust and forge friendships. This can be in the form of team lunches, retreats or learning sessions. Fun activities that involve a wellbeing aspect are highly recommended.

9. Resolve Conflicts

Even members of high-performing teams have conflicts from time to time. Conflicts are a serious detriment to team culture and should be addressed as soon as possible. Many leaders mistakenly assume that their team members should be able to dissolve conflicts on their own, they are mature adults after all. This is far from the truth. Team leaders need to focus on working collaboratively to ensure differences are dealt with quickly, directly and compassionately.

10. Leave Room for Creativity

While it is important for teams to be disciplined and adhere to policy, you don’t want to discourage creativity. Challenge your teams to think outside the box and voice their ideas. Sometimes there are better ways to do things. Teams need to be given the space they need to achieve.

Although a high-performing team often operates with a high degree of self-organisation and self-management, they still need a leader. By acting as facilitators and enablers, leaders bring out the best in their team. It is important to remember that building and maintaining a  high-performing team requires continuous improvement and is never complete nor perfected. Teams evolve over time and new members join while old members may move onto other things, making them full of opportunities for a fresh perspective, innovation and growth.