A guide to building high-performing teams

Unlock success with our guide to building high-performing teams. From fostering trust to clear goals, discover strategies for progressive organisations.


A guide to building high-performing teams

Unlock success with our guide to building high-performing teams. From fostering trust to clear goals, discover strategies for progressive organisations.


Meet the author

Ola Summersell

Principal Consultant

You’re about to start a great project, an important initiative, and assemble your dream team of high-achievers. You’ve got your LeBrons, Magics, Shaqs, and Kareems – MVPs all working together. On paper, it’s a dream team. However, the team is underperforming, and collaboration issues are hampering results.

What do you do?

Should you apply traditional, hierarchical, and authoritarian management styles? I suspect they will not be very effective. Organisations that rely heavily on micromanagement and punitive measures to drive performance are not setting themselves up for success. Employees who feel coerced into compliance remain disengaged and are unlikely to achieve their full potential.

There is a better way. Every organisation is able to cultivate the optimal conditions for teams to flourish by establishing an environment founded on trust, psychological safety, shared purpose, and human-centred leadership.

The path to building high-performing teams

1. Trust and psychological safety:

At the core of every high-performing team lies an unshakeable foundation of trust. Trust enables openness, vulnerability, and risk-taking, unlocking higher levels of collaboration and innovation. Leaders must model transparency, admit fallibility, and create a psychologically safe space where people feel free to voice ideas and concerns. Reframing any problem as a learning opportunity where all collective skills and experiences are needed to overcome it helps ensure effective inputs and healthy challenges from the team without fear of judgement and negative repercussions.  

What can you do? Encourage open communication, vulnerability, and trust within your team. Create an environment where team members feel safe to share their thoughts and take risks. Celebrate failures as well as successes. Foster genuine connections between team members. Have honest conversations about the level of psychological safety your teams experience.

2. A shared sense of purpose will help teams become high-performing:

A strong sense of purpose provides meaning and emotional energy, intrinsically motivating team members to push themselves for the greater good. When team members feel their work is driven by a purpose rooted in their values, they are more likely to go above and beyond expectations to achieve collective success.

What can you do? Clarify the team’s vision and values. Even better, get the entire team to define and refine them and build a cadence with the team to reflect on the purpose as a group and whether you are working towards it.

3. Set clear goals and focus on results:

Leaders must connect team goals to the shared purpose and values to create a compelling narrative. When objectives are clear, with a strong ‘why’ behind them, individual agendas fade away, and the common goal takes centre stage. Team members begin operating as one, aligning their complementary skills and driving towards collective results with added passion and determination.

What can you do? Establish specific, achievable, and measurable goals that are closely tied to the organisation’s priorities. Regularly review progress and results to keep the team focused. Ensure the goals support the team’s purpose and the values dictate how the team will achieve them.

4. Effective communication and information sharing in high-performing teams:

Facilitating open communication, enabling seamless information sharing, and ensuring access to information play a vital role in cultivating high-performing teams, with each member having a clear understanding of issues and having the required context to make decisions.

What can you do? Promote open and transparent communication. Ensure that team members freely share knowledge, discuss ideas, and maintain a clear understanding of each other’s expertise.

5. Enabling structures to allow teams to operate effectively 

Optimising team structures, roles, and processes is key. This involves defining responsibilities, standardising workflows, streamlining decision-making, and implementing mechanisms for conflict resolution. High-performing teams have clarity on individual roles and autonomy over how to perform them. Team members avoid bottlenecks when making decisions, run effective meetings, and continuously learn and strive to improve. 

What can you do? Run ways of working sessions to ensure clarity on roles and responsibilities, avoid micromanagement, and focus on outcomes instead. Run regular retrospectives focusing on learning and growth rather than evaluation and judgement. 

But what happens when things go wrong? What if the team is not performing or one of the team members is not contributing as expected?

Addressing problems in high-performing teams

Accountability and feedback: 

In high-performing teams, team members hold each other accountable for their responsibilities. Regular reviews, reflection, and feedback sessions help ensure everyone fulfils their roles and contributes to the team’s success.

When significant performance issues arise, taking a developmental approach is a proactive and constructive way to address them. It involves team members in improvement plans focusing on clear expectations, capability building, and self-driven accountability. Through regular collaborative feedback focused objectively on goals and growth areas, leaders can uncover underlying issues early and motivate change through support, not punishment. The key is addressing problems promptly, with the team members involved in solutions tailored to build their skills and engagement.

In this approach, team members facing challenges receive the necessary training, mentoring, or coaching to enhance their skills. They are actively engaged in their own development, setting goals and monitoring progress, which enhances a sense of responsibility and motivation. 

What can you do? Set performance expectations as a team. Agree on rules on immediate and regular feedback. Ensure the team members aim to help and provide actionable feedback to support one another’s growth. Have a mechanism for dealing with conflicts.

Building high-performing teams is not a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment. Leaders must continually nourish and reinforce the foundations of trust and purpose while shaping the optimal conditions for growth. When these pillars are in place, teams transform. Individuals feel valued, empowered, and energised by their peers and leaders. Silos fade away, and collaboration flourishes. 

At Clarasys, we believe that teams are more than a sum of individuals, and the core premise is that any team can become high-performing as long as we create the right environment for our teams to thrive. Hopefully, this quick guide will help you build an empowered team destined for success.

If you need help with people and change management, please contact us and we may be able to help.

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