11 Characteristics of High-Performing Teams

A high-performing team represents the gold standard for team leaders hoping to support their company and secure strong business growth. However, great teams don’t appear out of thin air - they’re crafted through strong performance management, a welcoming working environment, and seamless teamwork.

If you’re wondering how to help your team members embrace the characteristics of a high-performing team, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to get you started.

Shared characteristics of a high-performing team

The best teams incorporate all of the following attributes into their skillset:

Effective communication

As more companies embrace hybrid and remote forms of working, strong communication has never been more vital. According to a recent study, around half of the employees surveyed believe that frequent communication helps them feel more connected to their colleagues.

At the same time, 26% noted that enhanced collaboration tools are the most crucial way to stay connected. Ultimately, it’s up to leaders to install clear communication strategies that suit team needs and ensure everyone is aware of their responsibilities.

A sense of purpose

Building a strong sense of purpose ensures team members are aware of the impact they’re making on the world and helps them stay motivated. Teams with clearly defined goals are better able to share ideas, collaborate effectively, and support each other when obstacles arise.

Strong team culture

A team’s culture encompasses its ethos, vision, and day-to-day working practices. If you’re looking to create a positive and productive team culture, you’ll need to facilitate strong bonds between colleagues. People who feel respected and supported by others are more likely to go the extra mile when presented with an exciting new project.

Remote teams thrive when they can get together, connect in person, and create the bonds they’re usually missing in virtual environments. Read how Docker supports their employees to connect >>>

Psychological safety

Workers want to feel comfortable approaching their managers and teammates at work. Without this safety net, they may feel unable to take the risks necessary to create fantastic work that sets your business apart from competitors.

To create psychological safety, managers should encourage team members to bond and spend time talking about non-work-related subjects. Amazingly, recent data shows that women are twice as likely to feel engaged if they have a best friend at work. As such, it’s vital you provide opportunities for team members to get to know each other.

Similarly, managers should consider their management styles very carefully. Did you know, for example, that half of the employees quit their boss rather than their job? To prevent high turnover rates, you must remember to communicate clear expectations to your employees while ensuring they feel safe and supported to pursue their goals.

Adaptability

Adaptable teams are willing to change their working practices at a moment’s notice to ensure they fulfill their priorities. Adaptability requires excellent stress management and organizational skills.

Mutual respect

Mutual respect is all about celebrating each other’s differences and understanding how team members’ competencies complement each other. Employees may feel hurt or disrespected if their colleagues start encroaching on their responsibilities, so it’s vital managers define clear roles and expectations for every team member from the outset.

Drive for continuous learning

Employees love to know they’re improving themselves and furthering their careers while carrying out their day job. Did you know that high-performing team members spend around 10% of their time on the job learning and socializing?

While the benefits of these activities may not seem obvious to employers, continuous learning can create even better employees who bring new knowledge and skills to your team.

A shared vision

According to stats from McKinsey, a whopping 97% of workers and executives believe that a lack of alignment within a team can negatively impact the outcome of a project. Without a shared vision, team members may not know how to collaborate or prioritize effectively. It’s worth reiterating your team’s shared vision regularly to ensure people stay motivated, communicate effectively, and remember why they’re carrying out their day-to-day tasks.

If you work in a physical office, you could post your shared vision on the wall. For hybrid or remote workers, posting your vision on your shared chats or even on social media could be an effective option.

Creativity and problem-solving

Creativity thrives in teams, as team members can bounce ideas off each other and pull together their individual strengths. With around 60% of CEOs citing creativity as the most important quality in leadership, providing teams with opportunities to get creative is also a great way to nurture the business leaders of the future.

Creativity allows employees to think outside the box and come up with new solutions to old problems. When you make creativity a group effort, you could come up with something amazing that changes your sector for the better.

Diverse backgrounds and perspectives

As companies wake up to the benefits of inclusive workplaces, teams are becoming more diverse. Diversity is viewed as a significant benefit for job seekers, with around 75% preferring to work for diverse companies.

At the same time, diversity can help companies with building high-performing teams. Statistics from McKinsey show that gender-diverse teams are around 15% more likely to outperform the national industry average when it comes to financial returns. Why?

Well, groups containing different perspectives are more likely to catch concerns or problems that more homogenous teams would otherwise miss. So, remember to put diversity and inclusion at the heart of your hiring practices, and don’t be afraid to broach the subject openly with your teams.

Hiring for culture add instead of culture fit is a great way to promote diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and points of view in your company. Read more about culture add vs. culture fit >>>

Great leadership

High-performing teams require strong leaders to provide guidance and feedback while mediating any conflicts between team members. However, around 77% of organizationss believe they lack strong leadership, demonstrating how difficult it can be to lead a team. Key characteristics of great leadership include:

  • Honesty and integrity, particularly when it comes to broaching difficult subjects
  • Decision-making abilities
  • Humility and the ability to admit mistakes
  • Attention to detail
  • Willingness to provide helpful feedback and praise
  • Emotional intelligence
  • The ability to stay cool and calm under pressure

When leaders work well, team members will emulate their work and share their passion for a common goal.

Why high-performing teams are critical for business growth

Teams operating at their highest level can support business growth by:

  • Working together to solve problems as quickly as possible and avoiding unnecessary downtime.
  • Playing to each others’ strengths to ensure every task is completed to the highest of standards. No single individual can carry out every task to perfection.
  • Building strong bonds in a way that ensures everyone stays motivated at work and knows where to turn when worries arise.
  • Using team members’ complementary skills to generate innovative ideas that set their company apart from others in the sector.

Ultimately, siloed employees who lack an effective team are unlikely to possess the strong communication skills they need to do their best work. In the long term, this could create a productivity issue within the company and lead to stunted growth.

5 tips to keep high-performing employees engaged

Even if your team is performing well right now, they’re not guaranteed to stay motivated forever. Maintaining team effectiveness requires work and perseverance and may require a little experimentation. Fortunately, we have a few tried-and-tested tips up our sleeves to help you get started:

Celebrate wins together

Celebrating your team’s success is a great way to keep employees engaged and motivated to do their best work. According to a recent study, recognizing team achievements can boost profits by 29%. So, how should you celebrate without spending too much time and money? Here are just a few ideas:

  • Write hand-written notes to team members and encourage them to do the same for each other.
  • Make an announcement in a meeting room (or a virtual meeting space, if necessary).
  • Send a company-wide email detailing the team’s success.
  • Reward the team with a meal out (or an activity of your choice).
  • Allow the team to take half a day off to celebrate their win.
  • Provide team members with small tokens of your appreciation, such as chocolates or mini trophies.

Need more recognition examples? Here’s a list of 38 employee incentive ideas, with an emphasis on employee recognition >>>

Build a culture of connection

In today’s digitized workplaces, it can be challenging to facilitate a culture of connection among colleagues. We no longer see coworkers on a daily basis, and it’s hard to recreate the personal relationships we used to build through apps and screens.

To prevent workers from feeling disconnected, design your culture around the way of working, and make room for intentional, deliberate connections. For example, organize offsites or company events where remote employees can meet and forge connections or provide workspaces for them to get together on their own accord.

Additionally, integrate elements of your culture into the virtual experience with Zoom happy hours, company swag delivered to employees’ homes, and celebrations for special days like work anniversaries, birthdays, etc.

Read how Gabrielle Lorestani, Head of People at Wheel, scales connects her distributed teams >>>

Deliver feedback

Team members appreciate both positive and constructive feedback, as it makes them feel valued while allowing them to develop their careers and knowledge. Many managers choose to share feedback during one-on-ones, as this provides a safe space to discuss issues surrounding performance, team dynamics, and any other concerns that could be affecting their work.

Remember to encourage team members to share ideas about how to improve current working practices and reach team goals, as they may feel better able to talk openly during private meetings. Other options for delivering feedback could include whole-team meetings, celebratory sessions, or via email. Try to adapt your delivery to suit the news you want to convey and team preferences.

Offer development opportunities

No worker wants to feel stuck in a rut. Companies looking to reduce turnover and improve productivity should provide plenty of development opportunities to help further employees’ careers and encourage them to take productive risks. As well as enrolling staff in training sessions, you may wish to send team members to relevant conferences where they can network and share their knowledge with others in the industry.

Company-wide book clubs or peer mentoring schemes could also play a vital role in staff development. If you’re unsure where to start, it’s worth conducting a skills audit and identifying areas for improvement throughout the team.

Promote work-life balance

Burnout is endemic in today’s workplaces. According to a recent survey, over half of the employees are feeling burned out - a problem that could lead to productivity problems and high turnover.

Promoting work-life balance ensures that workers feel rejuvenated and prepared to produce high-quality work when they’re on the clock. Plus, well-rested colleagues tend to work much better with others and feel more able to pursue team goals.

One simple way to promote work-life balance is to introduce flexible hours, allowing employees to start and finish work at a time that suits their schedule. This initiative is particularly helpful for working parents and can help reduce turnover.

Another option is to allow hybrid work patterns, encouraging teams to work remotely at times that suit their needs. Finally, you may wish to introduce employee perks, such as gym memberships or spa days that allow them to unwind after a hectic work day.

Engage your high-performing teams

As we’ve shown here, high-performing teams are well-connected, flexible, and willing to communicate with their peers. Once you build the foundations of a strong team, all that’s left to do is keep them challenged, engaged, and happy.

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Andrea Rajic