Developing High-Performing Teams

When it comes to building a successful team, there are a variety of approaches and advice you might come across. Common themes include setting clear goals, assigning roles and responsibilities, fostering open communication, promoting collaboration and continual professional development, and utilizing effective conflict resolution techniques. However, while these are all important factors, a few additional elements are often overlooked but critical to building a high-performance team.

While the preceding tips are important, building a high-performing team requires three critical elements that must be included in the pursuit: building trust, fostering a sense of belonging, and promoting proximity and likeness among team members. Although it may seem like a tall order, it doesn’t have to be too difficult.

Building trust between team members involves several key strategies, such as open and honest communication, transparency and accountability in all actions and decisions, showing respect for each team member’s skills, contributions, and opinions, providing mutual support, treating everyone fairly, recognition efforts, being dependable, showing empathy, and having a high degree of integrity. However, all of these require at least some level of “care.” The team must care about what they do and about each other.

To get the team to care, you need to bring them together. This is called “proximity.” Team members who are closer in proximity are usually able to communicate and collaborate more effectively, as they can meet in person and build stronger relationships. The more they converse, the more stories are shared, and the more attached people become.

However, being close and conversing in a work setting is very different from being close and conversing in a non-work environment. The bond that teammates need is not forged over the copier. Authentic relationships are developed over a dinner table, at the park, over a drink, or on the golf course (etc.). When the team begins to see each other as real people (not just workers) with real lives, they begin to care. This is especially true as team members begin to share more personal stories.

In many ways, leaders should view their teams like any other professional team, such as the military. While the military serves a common purpose, it is broken down into various branches, units, and so on. Each level is unique and distinct, yet also uniform. This is called “likeness.” Their culture, logos, and approaches separate them and make them unique while still being a part of the greater whole. Private organizations are not too dissimilar.

Likeness refers to the similarities between team members. When building an organization, the team’s common bond should be pursuing the organization’s vision. A logo can be affixed to the organization or individual teams to solidify this unique and common pursuit. Remember that teams composed of different individuals who come together for a common purpose must keep that larger purpose in mind. Therefore, the common purpose (organizational vision) should be constantly showcased throughout the organization, and the vision should saturate organizational life.

Imagine a financial institution named “Turbo Credit Union” whose common purpose is to “provide the highest level of personal financial services to teachers in a friendly, professional manner.” The I.T. division of this institution may have an additional vision of “creating, organizing, and communicating information quickly and efficiently.” As a result, while all employees may have Turbo Credit Union swag and vision, the I.T. department may have additional Turbo Credit Union I.T. swag and a more precise role in pursuing that bigger vision.

In this example, the I.T. department is separate and unique, but its primary function remains to provide teachers with the highest level of personal financial services. However, this team merely creates, organizes, and communicates information to help make that happen. Now, imagine getting this I.T. team together regularly outside of work, with the only real requirement being that they wear their Turbo Credit Union I.T. swag. This is just one example of how this can be done.

When team members can see each other as real people with real lives, they begin to care about each other and the team’s goals. They will care about each other’s families, pets, goals, etc. When they care, trust builds, and all other elements of a high-performance team begin to fall into place. Therefore, by promoting trust, fostering a sense of belonging, and promoting proximity and likeness among team members, you can create a cohesive and effective team driven by a shared vision and purpose.

Yes. Developing a high-performing team takes time and effort, but with the right strategies in place, you can create a team that is united, productive, and able to achieve great things together. Remember, the key is to build trust, foster a sense of belonging, and promote proximity and likeness among team members while always keeping the organization’s vision in mind. Help your team members to see each other as teammates, encourage relaxation, conversation, and fun, and repeat the process often to see amazing results.