What actually is a high performing team?

Management & HR See all High performing team

Originally published by Hays Canada   . 

It may sound crazy to ask the above question; after all, isn’t the answer obvious? Isn’t high performance just about consistently delivering results? Yes, in part, but I’d call that a performing team, not a high performing team.

Ultimately, a high performing team meets and exceeds its goals, and it does this by ensuring the team’s performance is more than the sum of its parts.

Why are high performing teams so rare?

Only one out of five teams are high performing. Leading a top team to high performance is an art and a craft that can take years to practically learn and then master. Yet, most senior executives find themselves leading teams without the requisite skillset to do so.

Senior team leadership is both the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of a leader’s role. It’s a craft that demands constant refinement and improvement.

High performing top teams pull together to achieve more than the sum of their parts.

As with top athletes, many high performing teams consult with coaches to increase their performance. Coaches assist the team to review and fine-tune their performance and assist in making sure that their energy and focus are being channelled correctly.

Two essential behaviours of a high performing team

Clarity of objectives: You’d be amazed at how many top teams I coach that haven’t set clear goals. Without goal you can’t be clear on what success looks like. If we don’t know where we want to go, we’re unlikely to arrive!

The difference with a high performing team is that they have team goals which move the business towards greater success.

Work as a team to identify the game-changing, transformational goals that the team needs to collectively achieve in the next six to 12 months that will deliver outstanding performance.

Collective focus on objectives: When you focus on goals as a team, you’re leveraging the collective wisdom and talent of everyone; engaging the whole team towards achieving success for both themselves and the organization.

Without shared focus on team goals, it is common for some team members to appear to be ‘high-flyers’ at the expense of those who are ‘low flyers’ – known so only because they are forced into doing work that the ‘high-flyers’ have surrendered themselves responsibility of.

After you set your collective team goals, focus your team’s energy on achieving these goals. To be a high performing team, the whole team needs to be focused on completing the collectively agreed top priorities to a high standard.

If team members are doing other things that aren’t in alignment with the new team goals, how can these lower priority tasks be redistributed, delayed or delegated so that the top team can focus on achieving the new goals? Agree together what success looks like and work together to make it happen.


Georgina Woudstra has spent over 20 years coaching senior executives around authenticity, leadership, self-expression, and transformational personal development.

See also:
8 obvious signs your employee is looking for a new job
5 ways to avoid losing top talent to a higher paycheck

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