Blue Beyond Consulting

8 Attributes of High-Performing Teams

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” We love this quote by author and motivational speaker Ken Blanchard because it sums up perfectly why it’s so critical to build effective, high-performing teams — the outcomes are exponentially better!

Few things are more energizing at work than being part of an incredible team – one that works seamlessly together, challenges each other to think in new and creative ways, and delivers fantastic results. 

But what exactly makes a high-performing team? What does it look and feel like? In this article, we share the top eight characteristics that high-performing teams embody, plus tips to improve team performance in your organization. 

The Case for High-Performance Teams

The benefits of peak employee performance are fairly self-evident at the individual level. Top performers are typically also an organization’s most productive, engaged, and innovative contributors. But a body of individual high performers does not necessarily equate to a high-performing team. For that, you’ll need team members who communicate, collaborate, and trust one another — and are committed to building toward their objectives as one. 

Fostering these traits in your team may not come easy, but the results are almost always worth the effort. That’s because team effectiveness is one of the most crucial elements of organizational success.

  • Business units and teams with high employee engagement are 23% more profitable than teams with low engagement.
  • Enboarder’s Human Connectivity report found that 94% of respondents are more productive when they feel connected to their coworkers. 
  • Teams that rank in the top quartile for engagement see an 81% improvement in absenteeism compared to organizations in the bottom quartile.


8 Characteristics of High-Performing Teams

Based on our own experience and time spent working with global teams from Fortune 500 companies every day, we’ve identified eight of the most notable attributes of high-performing teams.

1. Appreciating Team Members as Individuals

Everyone sees and appreciates one another for their unique qualities, and this recognition of the individual scaffolds into a deeper sense of trust across the team. Team leaders also value individual strengths and leverage them to achieve success.

2. Fostering Psychological Safety

Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, who is largely credited for popularizing the term psychological safety in work contexts, describes psychological safety as “a climate in which people are comfortable expressing and being themselves. More specifically, when people have psychological safety at work, they feel comfortable sharing concerns and mistakes without fear of embarrassment or retribution.”

In other words, everyone is encouraged to bring their whole selves to work, and individuals are empowered to show up, speak up, contribute, and ultimately do their best work. People know and care for each other. Empathy and compassion are visibly demonstrated, and your people take actions that are always in the best interest of the team, the organization, and the work

3. Giving and Receiving Appreciation and Constructive Feedback

Everyone engages in constructive dialogue, including authentic recognition of achievements. Your team celebrates success – individually and together. Public appreciation for people is the norm — both among colleagues and from team leaders.

At the same time, people on your team view constructive, candid input from others as an opportunity to learn. Feedback circulates freely among team members with the intention of helping people show up at their best, deliver their best, and be successful together. Being accurately seen by others during both times of accomplishment and struggle further deepens and amplifies trust.

4. Encouraging Dialogue and Debate

Everyone keeps each other informed, shares information, provides updates and context, and alerts team members if something has changed. Your team has analyzed the best channels for communication — including when to have a meeting, how to leverage IM/email, and who to include in which conversations.

Your team understands that differing opinions are a part of working together and will help make the team more successful, and courageous conversations replace gossip.

5. Clarifying Your Team’s Purpose

Everyone understands the company’s purpose and values and is focused on achieving them. Your team is familiar with the business’s strategies and embodies the values and behaviors that will drive everyone toward desired outcomes. Having this clear, directional sense of ambition activates a growth mindset at both the individual and team levels.

6. Crafting Compelling Goals

In our experience, teams see the biggest performance breakthroughs when leaders create goals that require a whole greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, the targets you assign your team and individuals should require learning and teamwork with others to achieve.

7. Valuing diverse perspectives and collaboration

Everyone acknowledges differing perspectives as opportunities to think outside the box and elicit new ideas. Different opinions help expand thinking, develop a wider array of solutions and ideas, and improve deliverables.

Everyone believes in the power of group genius, leverages each other’s strengths, and partners effectively — all with the larger goals and purpose in mind.

8. Upholding High-Performance Standards

People hold and trust each other to be accountable to exceptional standards of performance, and the organization as a whole upholds Deep Trust and High Expectations® principles.

There’s a shared understanding of the team’s broader impact on the organization, and everyone takes the time necessary to reflect and learn based on the results of their work — where they were successful and where they missed the mark — to inform future strategies and tactics.


3 Pieces of Advice To Grow High-Functioning Teams

If you feel your team lacks some or all of the characteristics above, below are three things to keep in mind:

1. High-Performance Leadership Creates High-Performance Teams

It’s not surprising that well-managed and well-led teams have a higher propensity to achieve top performance, yet organizations fail when selecting managerial talent 82% of the time. Organizations that choose the right managerial talent — or invest in the manager training necessary to reach proficiency — are more likely to retain key players, boost engagement across the team, and improve overall profitability. 

Our manager training programs give mid-level managers the tools and know-how they need to communicate effectively, manage performance expectations, and elicit trust with their direct reports.

2. Performance Models Can Get Everyone on the Same Page

A high-performing teams model is a template through which leaders can better understand the current state of performance and pinpoint the specific levers they need to pull (such as trust, teaming, process, or communication) for optimal team results. 

In our experience working with clients, we’ve learned that high-performing company cultures rely on two critical factors — “deep trust” and “high expectations” — to be successful. If one or both of these attributes are not present, then your teams may be disjointed, dysfunctional, or disengaged from the work.

Our Deep Trust and High Expectations® model helps organizations find the ideal balance between the trust they bolster and the expectations they set — and this intersection is where organizations and people are at their very best.

3. There Is No One-Size-Fits-All Approach to High Performance

Although high-performance teams tend to share the traits we identified above, the methods that leaders use to draw out these attributes are contingent on the talents their teams already exhibit, the relationships between team members, and the culture at large.

As part of our high-performance team consulting services, we work closely with your team to assess current-state performance at the individual and group levels, develop bespoke strategies based on your team’s particular needs, and develop customized engagement tools and a go-forward plan for optimized performance going forward.

Level Up Your Team’s Performance

Looking at our list above, how would you rate your team? Where do you perform well, and where are there opportunities to grow?

Our High-Performing Team Self-Assessment can help you identify areas where you’re successful, where there’s room to improve, and the key steps you can take to get to where you want to be.

Ready to transform team culture and elevate productivity with a collaborative, adaptable team development program?

Why invest in team development?

Because high-performing teams move your organization forward. Top Teams™ is designed to help you establish new patterns of engagement and connection that build trust, enhance team performance, and create a culture of collaboration and feedback that drives your organization’s success.


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