The greatest achievements of modern humanity have been the result of teamwork, rather than individual effort. But high performing teams don’t form by chance. They aren’t the result of simply pulling together incredibly talented people who possess the skills you need.
So why is it that some teams perform better than others? What is it that sets high performing teams apart from the rest?
While there is no simple measure for performance effectiveness for teams, and no teams are identical, there does seem to be a common understanding of what makes a team high performing: management behaviours.
High performing teams require careful development and nurturing by management in order to elicit their best work.
An engaged leader possesses the necessary qualities and behaviours that focus on purpose, goals, and relationships.
They have an unwavering commitment to achieving results that benefit the company and each team member. They don’t micromanage - they enable their team to achieve success.
So how can you develop key management behaviours in your leaders? And what management behaviours should you nurture?
In this article we’ll explore what makes a high performing team, before delving into 7 management behaviours proven to drive high performing teams.
What is a high-performing team?
High performing teams meet their goals, consistently. They work together as a collaborative unit. They’re engaged in their work. They push each other on and learn from one another.
There are 5 characteristics that are typical of a high performing team:
- Clearly defined roles
- Engaged leadership
- Collective goals
7 management behaviours that drive high-performing teams
1. Effective communication
One of the top qualities of a good leader is understanding the importance of communication in a team. Yet, research suggests it’s one of the top five skills that managers lack.
It’s one thing knowing what the vision for the team and the organization is, but for a team to function at the top of their game, the manager needs to communicate that vision and plan to the team, regularly.
Clear and regular communication are key for ensuring the team knows what is required and expected of them, and when.
Regular communications also ensures an understanding between team members, which in turn helps build trust and deepen commitment to team and organizational goals.
2. An understanding of their employees
Managers need to take time to get to know their employees. To pay attention to them, not just in the workplace, but outside too, and demonstrate genuine appreciation for everyone’s efforts.
In other words, they need to demonstrate empathetic leadership.
The quickest and most effective way to get to know employees is through regular one-to-ones.
Treating employees as valued individuals and members of the team, learning how they like to communicate, how they prefer to give and receive feedback, helps build their self esteem and creates a psychological safe work environment in which outstanding performance thrives.
If meetings are the lifeblood of an organization then the one to one meeting is the foundation of a high performing team. In a well structured meeting, information is shared, new ideas are bounced around and peer reviewed - it’s a basic principle of collaboration.
Even in the hybrid model of working, managers can still get to know employees. In fact, in the hybrid model, it’s even more imperative that managers engage with employees - from quick check-ins to deeper conversations about career aspirations and personal growth.
3. Clear on purpose
One of the seven habits of highly effective teams is being clear on your purpose and embedding it in your work.
Good managers are not just clear on purpose, they also know how to communicate this purpose to the rest of the team. In doing so, employees feel inspired and find meaning in their work, and see the value and the impact that their work has on those around them.
When team members believe in the common purpose they’re naturally more engaged, they strive for innovation and they’re more productive.
But which management behaviours can help the team find a common purpose together?
By being extremely clear on what needs to be achieved. Don’t assume that every team member understands their exact purpose. Aligning everyone on a common purpose requires regular communications, not a one off discussion.
One way managers can encourage team members to connect with the purpose is by creating a team ritual, for example:
- Book an hour together with the team.
- Discuss your intention. Let the team members know that you want to create a ritual that will bring your team purpose statement to life. (Your purpose should be crystal clear before you begin this exercise).
- Design your ritual.
- Find a trigger around which you’ll develop the ritual, for example setting time aside in a regular internal meeting.
- Figure out what ritual might bring your purpose statement to life i.e. using your own product or service to step into the shoes of your customers.
- Enrich ideas with a magic prop, for instance spend time with the team at a special restaurant to discuss purpose.
- Develop a beginning, middle and end of the ritual.
- Deploy your ritual. Try to find a way to introduce the ritual that doesn’t make it feel forced or weird. Don’t worry if your ritual doesn’t stick, it’s just the first one.
4. The ability to resolve team conflict
Every team has conflicts. Conflict in teams isn’t something that should be avoided. If anything, according to Lindoerfer:
“One of the most reliable indicators of teams that are learning is the visible and effective conflict of ideas. In great teams, conflict is frequent and productive.”
For Patrick Lencioni, the fear of conflict is usually the bigger issue than the conflict itself. The absence of team conflict is one of the main indicators of a dysfunctional team.
Teams that fear conflict and avoid it have boring meetings. They fail to tap into the opinions and perspectives of all the team members. Teams that engage in conflict solve real problems fast, and extract ideas from all team members.
A key management behaviour is knowing how to resolve team conflicts—how to look for the cause of the conflict rather than try and tackle the symptoms:
- Understand the underlying assumptions
- Understand each other better
- Clarify everyone’s role
- Establish decision making criteria
- Set good ground rules for creating team culture
Great leaders are also able to consider team composition. In other words, they're able to to understand (and improve on) the make up of a team, in order to maximize its performance and continually improve team dynamics.
5. The ability to give genuinely constructive feedback
Feedback is essential for growth. Giving and receiving regular genuinely constructive feedback has a hugely positive impact on team performance. Regular feedback allows team members to learn from one another, supports growth and can build trust and a culture of openness in the team.
While timely and constructive feedback allows us to improve our performance, criticism, no matter how well intended it is, will always put us in a defensive mindset.
In order to give genuinely constructive feedback, there are several routes managers can take.
- Explain why you’re giving the feedback, that way, rather than feeling attacked, the recipient will feel like you have their back and you want them to succeed. If you can show you care deeply, employees will accept being challenged directly.
- When delivering feedback, say it in a way that sends a clear message - I’ve been in your shoes, I’m not perfect, I’m learning to improve too.
- You could open by asking if the person actually wants feedback. Once someone takes the decision to accept feedback, they tend to be much less defensive about receiving it.
- Make sure the conversation is a two way transparent dialogue, not a manipulative one way send.
- Take the time to praise a job well done—it promotes good energy in the team. Try and do it as close to the event as possible.
- Help develop resilience.
We've put together a list of the different feedback models your managers can use when providing their teams with feedback. Take a look at them here.
6. The ability to motivate their teams to develop
Managers of high performing teams understand that learning is important and strive to instill this thirst for knowledge in their teams. Teams that can learn and adapt can handle ever increasingly complex and ambiguous tasks.
To create a high learning team, managers need to take a role in sharing the learning with the rest of the team. The team needs to understand and recognize that learning opportunities can come from many places:
- One to ones
- Asking questions
- Progress review meetings
Because learning can take place at any time, if there are any blockers, managers need to be able to identify whether the blocker is happening at the level of the individual, the team or the organization.
And then seek to remove the blockage.
The secret to high performing teams is psychological safety. A stable team is the product of a psychologically safe work environment. Managers need to ensure:
- That people feel comfortable speaking up.
- That they can challenge the status quo with fear of repercussions.
- That they’re not afraid to make mistakes.
- That they’re happy sharing their ideas no matter how half baked they are.
Team members need to have complete trust and belief that they can take risks without fear of blowback.
How Saberr creates high performing teams
At Saberr, we believe that the greatest feats of humanity are the result of teamwork, not individual brilliance. As such, our mission is to help organizations build and support high performing teams.
To do this, we focus on helping your managers develop not only the leadership behaviors that will help them lead their teams to success, but also the habits and routines.
We do this in multiple ways.
Firstly, we offer experiential coaching, such as masterclasses, live sessions, one-to-one coaching, peer group coaching, and team coaching. These sessions are designed to motivate, educate, and ultimately inspire your managers to change their mindsets and acquire new leadership skills.
Then, we offer digital coaching, enabling them to put these newly acquired skills into practice, in a real world setting.
More specifically, we deliver timely nudges and contextually relevant learning resources at the precise moments they're needed, helping them develop on-the-job.
Want to learn more? See for yourself how we develop bespoke leadership programs or schedule a chat with us at a time that suits you best.