High Performance Teams: 9 Essential Ingredients for Team Building

“Nothing is so infectious as example.” Francois de La Rochefoucauld

In conducting team building training and management skills training all over the world since 1995, I’ve discovered there are nine essential ingredients that consistently crop up in creating high performance teams. Listed below are the top nine beginning with communication.

High Performance Teams: 9 Things a Leader Can Do To Energize and Motivate Employees To Extraordinary Performance:

1) Communication: Open, honest communication between team members and the team leader about an organization’s vision and clearly defined goals. Not to mention a team leader needs training in people skills and how to manage people effectively. Most team leaders are promoted based on their “hard skills” or technical skills, but it doesn’t mean they can create high performance teams. They must become effective at communicating, listening and resolving conflict. And everyone on the team needs training in conflict resolution and how to be an effective communicator. Each team member has been raised differently from childhood in terms of what’s acceptable communication. So training helps to keep the team leader and team members on the same page. The key is in becoming tactfully direct.

2) High performance teams possess purpose and direction. They have clearly defined goals, objectives and responsibilities. When I go into an organization and conduct team building training, team leaders tell me all the time how important it is for teams to understand their roles, expectations, and responsibilities. Team members want to know what specific goals and objectives they’re being evaluated on. Make sure the performance objectives are measurable, quantifiable, and in writing for accountability. Have goals and objectives for the team as a whole as well as for each team member and include everyone on these goals. For example, if team members are in sales, a goal states in writing that each of them are to develop ten new accounts representing gross sales of at least $20,000 by December 31 of this year.

3) A key component to high performance teams is active participation, accountability and sense of ownership on the team leader’s end as well as from the team members. Being a more powerful leader means being an involved leader. Participation and ownership also sets a precedent for what’s expected of each team player – teamwork. One contributor to low team morale is when one or two team members hide out in the success of the rest of the team. Everyone else is doing the work. I guarantee you this is not going unnoticed. Hold everyone to the same high standards. Start taking progressive disciplinary action if a team member is not doing his or her job. If you don’t take progressive disciplinary action you’ll lose credibility as a team leader who enables poor performance.

Effective Team Leaders Are Listeners

4) Trust between team members and the team leader. Effective team leaders are listeners. They solicit feedback truly be productive if there isn’t trust between the team members and the team leader. Always do and listen to employees’ suggestions and concerns. It’s difficult for a team to be productive if there isn’t trust between the team members and team leader. Always do what you say you are going to do. That one thing you promise your team that you can’t deliver on will be the one thing they remember. Many employees don’t quit their jobs. They quit their team leaders and managers.

5) Strong, effective leadership filtering down is essential to effective team building and creating high performance teams. A team leader must possess the ability to coach. Having a “coach mentality” and helping team members to grow, develop and mature is a necessary skill. It’s part of your job! Don’t do everything for your team members otherwise they never learn to do things themselves. Even if you’re thinking, “Well, if I want it done right I might as well do it myself.” Look at the word “team leader.” You are there to lead.

6) Proper resources, funding and training necessary to get the job done. Do you have the right people for the job? Your people are your most important resource. Have they been properly trained? Do they have the right equipment to do the job effectively? Training is an important part of team building and leadership. Employees tell me all the time they want additional training to sharpen their skills. They want to be given essential tools that will develop their skill set. It makes them feel valued and important. As if their organization is willing to invest in them for the long term.

7) High performance teams believe in equality and a shared vision, shared sense of purpose. Everyone has a sense of inclusion. Everyone treats each other equally, fairly and objectively. The whole team is included in goals and even social events.

8) Respect. The team leader has respect for the team. This boosts the confidence of the team members. They have respect for each other which leads to increased morale, productivity and a high performing team.

9) Willingness to share job knowledge, skills, and ideas. The team leader is the role model. If you’re willing to share knowledge and ideas, you’re training your team to do the same. Better yet, include “willingness to share job knowledge, skills and ideas” in team members’ performance reviews. If they know they’re being evaluated on these factors, they’re more likely to perform.

Another ingredient central to creating high performance teams: it’s imperative that both the team leader and the team have a positive attitude. As one group of team leaders told me, “A key element of any successful team is no bad attitudes allowed!”