How to Build a High Performance Team

Learning how to build great project teams is a skill like any other business tool. The catch phrase: “great leaders are born, not made” really isn’t all that accurate in today’s business environment. Creating good, effective, high performing teams takes practice.

What is a high performing team?

In today’s business world, it’s not good enough for one person to excel at his or her job. The most valuable employees are those who are able to create teams that get the job done right, quickly and with a minimum of drama. The era of the “lone warrior” in business is over. Today’s successful companies nurture leaders who create high performing teams that know how to get results. A high performing team can deliver a product, report or client solution on time, under budget and anticipating the client’s and the boss’ needs.

Building high performance teams

How do you create these highly-functional, yet positive work groups? It’s as simple (or as complex) as being the best you can be, choosing the right team members and empowering your team members.

1. Create a high-performing you.

As a team leader, you have to first focus on you. In fact, Josh Bersin of Forbes found that the best performing organizations link leadership strategy to business strategy. To be a great leader, you don’t necessarily need to be the tallest or the loudest person in the room, you just need to be the most confident. More than once I’ve seen a five-foot-tall woman hold a room full of grown men at rapt attention because of her confidence and her positive energy.
In many ways a team leader is like a parent. The members of your team will look to you for guidance, to set the tone and to be an example for the group members. If you’re tense and stressed, chances are your team will be stressed and tense also. Conversely, if you start the day with a smile on your face and a calm attitude, your team will follow suit. As team leader, you not only need to be confident, you need to be consistent, trustworthy and fair. Make sure you’re up to the challenge before you start selecting individual team members.

2. Get the right people for the team.

Choosing the right people to work on your team is something of an art and a science. Before you approach the first person, sit down and envision what you’d like the team to look like. It might even be helpful to write down your vision. You’ll want team members whose abilities and personalities all complement one another.

Looking After Your Prized Staff

Of course, team members need to have at least the minimum skills required for the job, but that shouldn’t be the only consideration you look for in choosing your team. Good team members know how to work well together and bring a positive energy to the group. Sometimes, the most qualified person isn’t the best choice for your team, especially if that person thinks he knows everything because of his seniority and isn’t willing to listen to the rest of the group. In an article called, “The New Science of Building Great Teams” by Alex Pentland communication is the key factor in high performing teams.

“… we’ve found patterns of communication to be the most important predictor of a team’s success. Not only that, but they are as significant as all the other factors—individual intelligence, personality, skill, and the substance of discussions—combined.” Harvard Business Review, 2012

Also remember that ego has no place in a good team. Look at professional sports teams. In general, the most successful teams are those without the one or two stellar players. Rather, they are the teams who have a group of players who know how to work together well.

Of course, once you’ve chosen your team, it’s essential that you communicate the team’s goals, client contacts, time line and other critical information with the team members.

3. Empower the team.

A good team isn’t a group of robots. You need to give your project team the authority to make decisions. As team leader, you don’t want every member having to come to you with every little day-to-day decision. Sometimes, you’ll be working with remote teams, where members will have to decide issues without you, because of time differences or other logistic barriers. You may not –and probably won’t–agree with every decision your team makes. However, without empowering the group, you stifle creativity and initiative. What’s more: any decision is better than having time make the decision for your group.

A true high-performing team knows what you’re thinking as team leader and what the group as a whole is thinking. Ideally, individual team members should make decisions based on those parameters, not their own opinions. As team leader, you’re responsible for creating the environment where team members feel comfortable making decisions. It may take some getting used to, but by delegating some of your authority, you’ll have more time to realize your own goals.

Creating great, high power project teams isn’t complicated, but it does take planning and care. To be effective in your team collaboration, make sure that you first create a high-power persona for yourself, one that you’re comfortable with and that will inspire confidence in your team. Next, choose the right team members and lastly, empower those team members to give them the room they need to make fast, accurate decisions.

About the Author

Taylor is a writer and manages a web development team at Project Manager, an online project planning tool.  He has experience working in small businesses and assisting larger businesses with ERP software and project delivery.