How to create high peforming teams through collective focus

Organisational culture group of employees

How to create high peforming teams through collective focus

Lots of talent management articles have debated whether organisations are best served by focusing development efforts on its top performers or taking a more inclusive (team) approach. The truth is, both are important – after all, the best teams also often have the best individual players too. But as organisations face heightened competition, changing dynamics in the workplace and different expectations from working generations arguably what’s needed now more than ever is a collective focus. In fact, if you want to create sustainable high performance and drive growth, focusing on team effectiveness could be a prerequisite.

All for one, and one for all!

The modern workplace is about collaborative working, peer-to-peer learning and cross-functional teams. For any of this too work, we need everyone to be ‘on the bus’, and be pulling in the same direction. We need teamwork.

So there’s an onus on organisations to put in place the right infrastructure, tools and training to better enable employees to work in an agile and collaborative way. And, crucially, to look at the culture change needed to really make this stick. These are the building blocks to create high performing teams.

Rise of the team-based organisation

Deloitte, in their latest human capital trends report talk about organisational performance being a team sport. Their global study points to significant performance gains from a team-based approach, with over half (53 percent) of respondents suggesting this was leading to a “significant performance improvement”.

So, who’s doing this well? Naturally large tech firms are among the early adopters – Deloitte pick out Google and Cisco as two in particular that are focusing on ‘teaming’. Despite their size and the presence of so many different business functions, specialists and leaders, this un-hierarchical way of working is allowing them to work at much greater pace, building and disbanding teams as required to meet changing organisational needs.

What does good teamwork look like?

Renowned industry expert and author Dave Ulrich suggests four key components organisations should focus on to create high-performing teams. These are:

1. Purpose

    • – the strategy, the mission, the why that gives meaning to work. Ulrich suggests this is most effective when it is co-created by leaders, their teams and their customers.

2. Governance

    • – this is all about how the team functions, its enablement through having clearly-defined roles, processes and adequate support.

3. Relationships

    • – healthy work relationships require both care and conflict and leaders must set the tone for others in helping to build trust and manage conflict/differing views to get the best outcomes.

4. Learning

    – perhaps what’s most important here is a shared commitment to self-reflection and analysis as this ensures lessons are learned and improvements can be made.

What typifies a high-performing team?

“A high-performing team relentlessly pursues performance excellence through shared goals, open communication, clear role expectations and group operating rules, early conflict resolution, and a strong sense of accountability and trust among its members.”


How are organisations creating high performing teams?

Now, while it’s great to see and learn from what is working well for other organisations, please don’t simply adopt these blindly. Your organisational context, culture, people and strategy are all important considerations when designing and introducing any new people initiatives be it an engagement survey or new perks at work scheme.
Having said that, here are a couple of good examples of how companies are driving stronger performance at a team level.

Large UK retailer: Team-based 360 feedback

This ‘High Performing Teams’ (HPT) programme was designed to support existing and newly-formed teams at this retailer to ensure they are working effectively and identifying possible areas of challenge. The feedback process involved a diagnostic questionnaire to be completed by team members which rates their team against a number of categories corresponding to the HPT model. They used a bespoke 360 feedback platform allowing facilitators to quickly send out questionnaires and then easily collate and summarise the feedback. This was then used to facilitate face to face team sessions to discuss themes and identify anywhere where action was needed.

Global electrical manufacturer: Developmental team surveys

This company has a fundamental belief that measuring employee engagement in a traditional way isn’t effective. Instead, they prefer to measure and review employees’ views at a team level, where change takes place. They used a custom survey platform for their team effectiveness questionnaire. The quarterly process invited all employees to take part in the survey with reports then released to managers. This was the starting point for team dialogue (with managers) focusing solely on team performance. With teams no larger than 20 people, these sessions promoted active participation from all with the goal of collectively agreeing on any interventions needed.

Keith McGrane

Keith has a strong track record in driving business change and has specialist knowledge of leadership, team and talent development through training and coaching. Connect with Keith on LinkedIn