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Building and Maintaining a High-Performance Team Culture

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Excited diverse colleagues giving high five for performance, goal achievement

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High performance teams can have a significant impact on your company’s profitability and longevity. The better a team performs, the better the company performs—and the more successful the organization is as a result.

High-performance work teams have long been studied and recognized for their value. They can execute more quickly, make better decisions, solve more complex problems, and do more to enhance creativity and build skills than an individual can. Research also shows high-performing teams are happier, more engaged, and help improve business results.

So, what separates a high-performing team from others? Based on extensive research and our years of experience helping organizations build engaged, high-performing team cultures as part of their overall talent strategy, we know that high-performance teams are aligned to the company’s strategy and business goals, understand their roles and responsibilities, trust (and feel trusted by) their teams, and engage in meaningful conversations to share ideas, feedback, and information.

But building (and maintaining) a high-performance team requires more than just recruiting talented people with the right mix of skills and putting them together. The performance of a team depends not only on the individuals on the team but the leaders behind them. Without strong leadership, even the most skilled employees will not perform to their highest potential on a team.

How Leaders Foster High-Performance Teams

Leadership lays the groundwork for high-performing teams through the careful development and fostering of key team characteristics, behaviors and best practices.  For a team to be successful, they need a clear vision of where they are going and what they need to do to get there. This up-front work by leadership is a determining factor on why some teams work to the best of their abilities while others without a clear vision and purpose may struggle to gain momentum. Additionally, team leaders must continually provide support, inspiration, and guidance to keep the team engaged, motivated and on track.

While team leaders are typically individuals who know the most about the project, they might not have extensive leadership experience—or even be the person with the most “senior” rank in the room. That is why building leadership training into your talent strategy is so important.

There are essential skills and qualities leaders need to embody in order to build and maintain a high-performing team, including integrity, emotional intelligence, active listening, effective feedback, and strong communication and problem-solving skills. It is the qualities of an effective leader that inspire trust and respect and drive performance within the team.

Team leaders must understand the characteristics of high-performing teams and model a culture where all team members feel connected, valued, and that they can speak up freely.

Here are our tips for building and maintaining a high-performance team culture within your organization.

1. Identify a Clear Vision and Purpose for the Team

As mentioned earlier, this is crucial step for numerous reasons. You can assemble a group of talented individuals with great potential, but if they don’t have clarity, structure, and direction, they are not going to be successful as a team.

To avoid your team from feeling lost, they need to have clear roles and responsibilities and an agreed upon approach to problem-solving and decision-making. The vision and purpose should be embedded into everything you do as a leader so that motivation and engagement are kept high, even during challenging times.

2. Promote Open Communication

Trust is the basis of any great relationship and it stems from communication. Become an over communicator of information and encourage team members to speak to each other whenever they need to. Individuals that understand their role and why what they do matters will be empowered to take ownership and collaborate more effectively within the team.

You should also schedule daily or weekly check-ins with the team to discuss where everyone currently stands in terms of goal achievement & what they need to do next.

3. Give and Ask for Feedback Often

Feedback is essential to assuring any team is staying on track and helps drive a high level of performance. Recognizing your team’s wins as well as acknowledging the things that aren’t working well and providing feedback on how they can improve can all help motivate team members, boost their level of engagement, and increase the team’s effectiveness.

The way in which you provide feedback to employees has a tremendous impact on its effect. The following principles from our Quick Guide to Giving Effective Performance Feedback can help you deliver feedback that is both powerful and productive.

  • Frequent – Provide feedback on an ongoing basis so that team members have an accurate and up-to-date understanding of their performance strengths and development areas.
  • Actionable – Feedback should help the team do their current jobs better or recognize actions or work that was ideal for the current position. Ensure that recommended actions or behaviors are within the control of each team member in his or her current position.
  • Specific – Identify specific actions the team can take or specific things that were appropriate or inappropriate. Specific and targeted feedback has up to a 6.6% positive impact on employee performance.
  • Timely – Provide the feedback as soon as possible to the action or event. This will maximize the impact of feedback on the team’s performance and minimize the chances of resentment.

To optimally support your team’s performance, make sure you’re delivering feedback that follows these four principles. Additionally, you can set an example by asking for feedback from team members regularly, responding positively, and integrating their feedback into your work behaviors.

4. Invest in Training and Development

Investing in your employees’ growth and development is another key to driving team performance. Identify relevant development opportunities that focus not only on the team’s needs and priorities but also on individual goals. Employee development opportunities help employees feel motivated, empowered, and better equipped to do their job. Additionally, when team members are continually building on their knowledge and learning from past mistakes, they are more effective, efficient, and innovative.

Leadership training should also be part of your team’s development plan. By investing in a compelling team leadership development strategy, you’ll help the team sow the seeds for strong team leadership today and into the future.

5. Assess Effectiveness

Creating and maintaining high performing teams is hard work. The most successful team leaders know that to keep a high-performing team on track they must continually measure their performance and more importantly, their effectiveness.

Although informal assessments can be helpful, team assessment tools apply principles from organizational theory and human resource management and can better gauge the team dynamics, level of alignment, strengths, challenges that are impacting the team, and fault lines where future problems might emerge.  By measuring multiple facets of team performance, the team or group assessment can help define a clear roadmap for improvement.

Unfortunately, team assessments are often done only after things go wrong. By regularly conducting assessments, you can avoid or mitigate problems as well as potentially save time and money.

Building a high-performing team does not happen overnight.  It takes intention, commitment, and an investment in continuous growth and development.

To review, effective leaders can create and maintain a high-performance team culture by clarifying and communicating goals, encouraging open communications, collecting feedback, reinforcing positive behaviors, and empowering team members by giving them opportunities to stretch and grow.


Kimberlee Beck
Director of Marketing
CCI Consulting

Download our white paper, The Post-Pandemic Culture Dance, for more guidance on building a workplace culture where your people and business thrive.


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