What is a high performance team

What defines a high-performance team and how you build one

Trust is the foundation of every high-performance team
Group members need to trust each other (Solis, Sinfield, & Abraham, 2013). Trust comes from building relationships - not necessarily friendships, but relationships built on the premise of professionalism and mutual respect (Savage, 2009). To build trust, employees should spend part of their working day helping others. They should take care of their team members and support those who need help. (Savage, 2009).

Another way management can create a trustworthy environment is to ensure that the same standards, e.g. those set out in company guidelines, apply to all team members (Savage, 2009). For example, treating team members differently in terms of punctuality and being late can have serious consequences for trust and cohesion within the team. In other words, you shouldn't favor any. However, it can often happen that you personally find an employee more sympathetic than others - so you should be careful of subconscious expressions of these differences.

Trust promotes the exchange of knowledge and experience
Sharing knowledge and experience is essential for business success, especially in a team environment. Employees may think that they are diminishing their own competitive advantage by sharing their knowledge with others. A study in the public sector has shown that trust in the supervisor influences the level of knowledge sharing between employees (Kim & Ko, 2014). Employees should feel that knowledge sharing is beneficial both for themselves and for the organization. Superiors should openly show the appreciation of their employees, as this in turn promotes trust and the exchange of knowledge (Kim & Ko, 2014).

A high-performance team has common values ​​and goals
High-performance teams have common values ​​and goals (Solis et al. 2013). Every team member should have a clear understanding of the company philosophy and the goals of the project before the start of the project. Without well-formulated and ideally measurable performance standards, one cannot expect outstanding performance. These standards should be transparent and fair so that every employee understands why there may be different incentives for different team members (Rastogi, 2010). Why should there be different incentives? At first glance, this may seem unfair, but incentives should always be customized - more about that later.
Employees need to express themselves professionally in a way that is consistent with their personal values ​​and goals. For example, suppose there are two ways to solve a problem. Perhaps one of the opportunities is in an area in which the employee would like to develop. Unnecessarily rigid work regulations would suppress his personal development. Team members should be able to work autonomously in their own way, as long as this does not conflict with the project goal (Taylor, 2012).

High-performance teams are characterized by good communication
In marriage, friendship, or any form of interpersonal relationship, communication is always the foundation of success. Although professional relationship dynamics can differ from personal relationships, communication is always of central importance in order to ensure smooth cooperation in a team. In high-performance teams, the members communicate well with one another (Solis et al. 2013). You should regularly ask your environment for feedback and be open to new suggestions, recommends Kevin Mehok, co-editor of the Auto Body Repair Network (Mehok, 2013). This is useful advice for all industries, not just the automotive industry.

High-performance teams are selected, built and developed

Personnel selection: The ability to work in a team is key
Perhaps you've been hired to build a team from scratch. This is the right time to approach people who would fit in well with the team. Raj Kanaya, CEO of Infineta Systems suggests that high-performance teams are the result of careful selection and that the course is therefore already set in the recruitment phase (Kanaya, 2011). Kanaya warns against selecting experienced candidates with a long list of impressive achievements but no actual successful team experiences. These employees may have a bad opinion of teamwork and see it as the norm not to use their full potential as part of a team. People who have had successful experiences in the past are likely to have the confidence to support future projects, and this positive attitude spreads across the company (Kanaya, 2011).

Formation: Positive team experiences weld the members together
If the team is not created from scratch, management can still enable a positive team experience. Social activities and business trips are just a few examples of how to build trust between team members. There are important management implications here too. Managers should get to know their members better. These are good reasons for personalized management, which we will discuss in more detail later. With such relaxed or exciting experiences in a context far from work, employees have the opportunity to learn how to best communicate with one another, even before the actual project begins. Then the basis for trust can be created. In fact, a study with employees of the Chinese IT, manufacturing, design and electronics industry (Huo, Zhang, & Guo, 2016) showed that open and smooth communication between team members is an important factor in reducing conflicts. Nonetheless, caution should be exercised when dealing with conflicts. Some conflicts can be beneficial if they are constructive and challenge flawed or misguided theories and practices. Above all, however, you should pay attention to negative conflicts such as disrespectful interaction between employees.
When assigning tasks, one should consider the strengths and weaknesses of the respective employees. An important aspect of the leadership role is knowing about the knowledge and skills of each individual employee. If there is a specific client or a specific project that is highly dependent on a specific skill, staff should be assigned accordingly, or at least a person with the necessary skills should be appointed as the project manager.

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Motivation: The invisible force that drives a high-performance team
The implementation of motivational methods should be combined with an appropriate assignment of tasks to create an organization that promotes high performing teams (Rastogi, 2010). There is no such thing as a “one-fits-all” approach to motivation. Each employee must be considered individually here. For example, one employee may prefer attention while another employee seeks recognition and a higher status within the organization (Rastogi, 2010). Keep in mind that not everyone aspires to be promoted. Some may be satisfied with their current role and responsibilities. In addition, a new role could also lead to changed working hours. This could be seen as problematic by some employees if, for example, it affects their work-life balance. Managers should always keep in mind that it is not the organization that thinks, but its employees (Rastogi, 2010). So-called “soft skills” are indispensable for management and team building is no exception here either.

Continuous improvement: coaching and critical thinking drive further development
Even if the team achieves its set goals, it shouldn't become complacent. High-performing teams are always looking for a way to improve. You are future-oriented and reflect on how past achievements have led to successful projects. So how can we achieve this state of continuous improvement? The most productive team members in a group should show team members who are less productive the right way and support them (Kautt, 2016). As mentioned at the beginning, this strengthens trust among the team members and ensures that knowledge and experience are exchanged. The ability to think critically has a major influence on continuous improvement. Only those who work on themselves can improve. This applies to every team member in the same way as it does to the team.

Maintenance: high-performance teams are not "sure-fire"
The work does not stop once you have built and developed a high-performance team. Managers should be constantly involved in motivating their employees and creating incentives for further development. Immediate reward for excellence is one possibility (Kautt, 2016). Tangible rewards such as fuel cards, cinema tickets or gift certificates are generally well received by employees. You can ask your employees to list their three most popular rewards so that you can make a preselection - all within budget, of course. This can help motivate employees from the start, as they already know what additional benefits they can get through outstanding performance. However, caution is advised here too: some studies (e.g. Weibel et al. 2009) show that extrinsic incentives such as performance-related salary components can undermine intrinsic motivation under certain conditions.

It is now evident that effective leadership is a huge part of building high-performance teams. In addition, the composition of high-performance teams is a continuous, cyclical process consisting of selection, establishment, formation and constant improvement. Of course, technical knowledge is also important, but interpersonal dynamics should be a primary focus. Close contact with team members plays an important role in building high-performance teams. High-performing teams cannot be created or maintained from the ivory tower. Get to know your team members. Familiarize yourself with their professional strengths, weaknesses, and goals. It is also useful to know their likes and dislikes in order to be able to motivate them optimally. Use your social skills and you will experience how your team takes off!

Huo, X., Zhang, L., & Guo, H. (2016). Antecedents of relationship conflict in cross-functional project teams. Project Management Journal, 52–69.
Kanaya, R. (2011, May 1). The calm, confident organization. Siliconindia, pp. 6-7.
Kautt, G. G. (2016, February). Building high-performance teams. Financial Planning, pp. 25-26.
Kim, Y. W., & Ko, J. (2014). HR practices and knowledge sharing behavior: Focusing on the moderating effect of trust in supervisor. Public Personnel Management, 586-607.
Mehok, K. (2013, July). Strength in team building. Auto Body Repair Network, pp. 21-22.
Rastogi, P. (2010, January). Are you motivating your team for winning performance? Paintindia, pp. 87-90.
Savage, R. R. (2009, October). The secrets of successful teamwork: trust & accountability. Supervision, pp. 16-18.
Solis, F., Sinfield, J.V., & Abraham, op. D. (2013). Hybrid Approach to the Study of Inter-Organization High Performance Teams. Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 379-393.
Taylor, H. K. (2012, May 1). Career masterclass: Building a team. Management Today.
Weibel, A., Rost, K., & Osterloh, M. (2010, April). Pay for Performance in the Public Sector Benefits and (Hidden) Costs. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 20, Issue 2, pp. 387-412

Tags:Critical thinking, high performance team, team building, team dynamics, trust, collaboration