Blue Beyond Consulting

Team Effectiveness: Best Practices for Top Performance

Have you ever been a part of a rockstar team? 

What did it feel like?

Was it fun? Collaborative? Engaging? Did everyone understand their roles and know what was expected of each other? Did you consistently meet or exceed your goals? Did you feel like you were making a difference? Did you feel valued and appreciated? Were you able to be your authentic self?

If you answered yes, then you likely already have a good sense of what makes up an effective team, how it can improve your day-to-day work, and how it can lead to outcomes that are exciting to be a part of. 

As a leader, you may already know how to spot the differences between a highly effective team and one that is lagging. Like many areas of business, team performance is easy to identify and an exciting piece of the employee experience, but at the same time, it’s difficult to build and improve upon — especially without a plan in place.

In this article, we share a few opportunities to develop and nurture team effectiveness.

What Is an Effective Team?

Team effectiveness, also referred to as team performance, is the capacity of a group of people, usually with complementary skills, to work together to achieve its goals and objectives. Team effectiveness means that people work better together. Their collective, combined efforts far outweigh the individual contributions that any one person brings to the table. Leaders of highly effective teams understand and play into the strengths each person brings to the table, foster growth mindsets and smart risk-taking, and help everyone see the big picture.

High-performing teams have a culture rooted in deep trust and high expectations. Building a Deep Trust and High Expectations® environment creates the conditions for people to do their best work and for the entire team to thrive.



Why Is Team Effectiveness Important?

Team effectiveness is important because high-performing teams deliver results, and it’s what your employees want. 86% of knowledge workers surveyed in our employee expectations survey answered that effective collaboration with their team was important to the organization’s culture. When deep trust and high expectations work together, businesses see higher employee engagement, better business outcomes, and significant boosts in ROI. 

Research shows that businesses in the top quartile for employee engagement are 23% more profitable than businesses in the bottom quartile.

In their book Teams that Work—The Seven Drivers of Effectiveness, authors Scott Tannenbaum and Eduardo Salas tell us that creating effective teams unlocks the following:

  • Sustained team performance: The team generates positive results over time.
  • Team resilience: The team works through challenges and bounces back from adversity.
  • Vitality: The team maintains energy, vibrancy, and resources needed for future success.

How Deep Trust and High Expectations® Cultures Create Effective Teams 

High-performing teams don’t just appear, and you can’t throw a bunch of star performers together and automatically hope the team wins.

Team effectiveness has to be nurtured and developed, with vision from leaders and motivated employees. 

Our deep trust and high expectations essential practices are the foundation of the team effectiveness models that we develop for our clients. When both deep trust and high expectations work in tandem, organizations build teams that strive, learn, support, challenge, and achieve more together. Compare these best practices with how you currently define effective teams in your business. What’s missing, and where can you improve?

Deep Trust

  • Team members know and appreciate each other as individuals.
  • Each person can show up, speak up, and contribute without fear of punishment, humiliation, or manipulation.
  • Everyone receives authentic appreciation and constructive, candid feedback.
  • The team fosters productive and respectful dialogue and debate.

High Expectations

    • Team purpose is explicit, consequential, strengthening, and aligning.
    • Team and individual goals are compelling and require learning and teamwork to achieve.
    • Team practices cultivate and value diverse perspectives, effective collaboration, and “group genius.”
    • The team is committed to a high standard of excellence and the ongoing learning required to achieve it. 

Blue Beyond’s eight essential practices for creating and sustaining high-performing teams.


When the elements of both deep trust and high expectations are present, you end up with a virtuous cycle of meaning, learning, impact, and motivation across the team and organization.

1. Develop Your Leadership Skills

The right leadership enhances a team’s success; however, far too often, people are placed in leadership roles without any proper leadership development training. A team is only as good as the person coaching it. It’s vital to take advantage of every opportunity to uplevel your people management team’s leadership skills when building effective teams.  

Request regular feedback from each of your direct reports, as well as your manager, to determine areas of opportunity. Identify your leadership strengths and weaknesses and work to develop strong communication skills with active listening. Learn how to lead with empathy and ask pertinent questions to understand and be able to disseminate organizational strategy and objectives. 

Our clients have continuously told us how important it is to skill up their people managers, but many of them indicated that they had a hard time finding the right program for their unique organization. Recognizing their deep need, we developed Best Boss™, an immersive, facilitated learning experience for people managers that equips them with the mindset and capabilities to unleash their people’s potential and lead engaged, high-performing teams.

The key to developing your leadership skills is to focus on skills that every manager, regardless of personality, needs to have, including:

2. Set SMART Goals

Team effectiveness depends on achieving goals, and the SMART framework can help. “SMART” stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Utilizing this approach can help your team stay accountable, eliminate generalities and guesswork, set a clear timeline, and make it easier to track progress and identify missed milestones.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific: Well-defined, clear, and unambiguous.
  • Measurable: With specific criteria that measure your progress toward the accomplishment of the goal.
  • Achievable: Attainable and not impossible to achieve.
  • Realistic: Within reach, realistic, and relevant to your purpose.
  • Timely: With a clearly defined timeline, including starting and target dates, that creates urgency around the project and keeps everyone on track.

3. Establish Meaning and Purpose

Finding meaning in work isn’t just a way to survive a crisis or avoid employee burnoutit’s about making sure your teams are motivated to innovate, create, and propel the organization forward. People who are passionate and motivated help fuel team effectiveness because they deeply understand how their work contributes to the organization’s overall success and objectives.  

As a leader, it’s your job to help your employees and teams find meaning in their work. To uplevel productivity and motivation, have discussions around the “why” of your team’s tasks. Have them meet with customers (both internal and external) and learn how their work affects their lives or jobs. Extend a helping hand and become a positive “force for good” in your workplace and among your team. Look for areas of opportunity to increase skill sets, and recognize when team members are improving. Pair people together so they can build relationships, create trust, and deepen connections.

4. Define Roles and Responsibilities

Teams function most efficiently when members share a common understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities. When roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, team members are more productive. There is less duplication of effort, confusion, disappointment, and frustration, and more productivity. 

Understanding roles and responsibilities can also help build trust and respect among team members because they learn to value the contributions of their colleagues, and everyone has greater transparency into the overall process. Don’t just focus on individual achievementsrecognize the overall success of the team to heighten shared responsibility and ownership. 

5. Embrace Diversity

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) matters to your employees, and it should matter to you. DEI is a key cornerstone of team effectiveness and performance. Organizations with strong diversity climates are more likely to have employees with increased job satisfaction, higher levels of trust, and more engagement.

However, in our recent study, we found that 81% of knowledge workers believe DEI is important, but just 65% of business leaders shared their view. This disconnect will show in your team’s productivity, engagement, and effectiveness if you don’t take steps to mitigate it.

Building a Deep Trust and High Expectations® culture requires psychological safety before your team will show up authentically, and a lack of diversity can significantly diminish that. Be curious and humble about cultural differences and, if you don’t know, ask politely. Learn about conscious and unconscious biases, and take steps to eliminate them. Take any opportunity you have to mix up your teams so that employees learn from different voices, experiences, values, and cultures. Review roles and salaries to ensure pay equity and develop a strategic DEI program that’s relevant to your specific organization. Take a hard look at organizational policies and develop a feedback loop so employees feel seen, heard, and valued. 

6. Make Hiring a Team Effort

Current employees can be outstanding organizational ambassadors, and potential candidates are more likely to view a current employee’s perspective as authentic. A current employee also knows the company culture and can spot people with the qualities and skills that will complement the team. It’s also important to tap star employees’ networks. Look for employee referrals, and don’t be afraid to inquire if someone knows someone. Ask for the team’s input on potential candidates, or set up panel interviews so they can get to know them. 

Allowing your team to participate in the hiring process can lead to better hires, faster hires, and more productive hires. 

7. Communicate Effectively

Good communication is a core leadership function and a key characteristic of a good leader. Effective communication and effective leadership are closely intertwined, and they can make, or break, teams. Be purposeful and intentional about your communication strategy, and tailor your style to meet the needs of your team. Be authentic and sincere, and get rid of the corporate robot. Have an open door policy (or Zoom policy, for those who communicate remotely), and be visible.

Before sending another email, ask yourself if there’s a more engaging way to communicate. Practice active listening, and allow people to give you constructive feedback without fear of reprisal or judgment. Ask questions and don’t be defensive. Focus on what you’re contributing to conversations to help you learn more about your team’s work and how you can help. Keep it simple, and follow through with actions. 

8. Focus on Relationships

Strong professional relationships drive high performance. Investing time and energy in building strong professional relationships is critical to developing Deep Trust and High Expectations® cultures in team environments. Building relationships allows you to begin to create your organization’s values and behaviors, and, ultimately, your culture. Once you and your team genuinely trust and respect each other, regular, honest dialogue about individual and team performance increases team effectiveness. 

Focus on connecting deeply with your employees and teams to ensure outstanding performance by leading with empathy and emotional intelligence. This allows you to engage and inspire your people by creating bonds that are authentic and reliable. Model collaborative behavior and use feedback to continuously improve. Build a relationship model that is memorable, unique to your organization, and suited to your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Adapt a coaching and community mindset and seek out opportunities to break down barriers and obstacles that stand in the way of your team’s success. 

9. Invest in Team Development

It goes without saying (but we’re saying it anyway) that the best investment your organization will ever make is in your employees and teams. Investing in team development helps improve manager and employee relationships, and helps team members connect to one another. It will also help strengthen communication and nurture your future leaders. Potential candidates are drawn to high-performing teams, and seeing an earnest commitment to team development can help retain the top talent you already have. And, let’s not forget that a highly effective team is a competitive advantage. 

Create Effective Teams With Experts on the People Side of Business 

Much of the advice surrounding high-performing teams and team effectiveness may seem trite and easy to achieve, but our research tells us otherwise76% of employees regard collaboration and teamwork as important, but 30% of employees don’t believe their organization is doing enough in that area

If you’re not sure where to start, a good first step is to engage with experts who can help you equip your teams with the skills necessary to navigate and meet increasingly complex business challenges. Start building a top-performing team with our help.

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Build Deep Trust and High Expectations® Cultures 

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