Kickstart 2020: How to Build High-Performing Teams

If you’re looking to improve output and grow your business this year, a high-performing team should be top of your list. In this blog, I’ll discuss what is meant by high-performing teams and how to achieve this in practice.

What is a High-Performing Team?

A high-performing team does more than meet expectations. It consistently delivers above expectations, working together more effectively than other teams in a seemingly effortless way. These teams are often proactive in their work rather than reactive. Together they can create better products, processes or services compared to what an individual can achieve alone.

The key factor in a high-performing team is trust. This is linked directly to openness, and the ability to be vulnerable about how each team member is feeling. Be honest but constructive when you’re having difficult conversations. This kind of environment naturally brings with it a type of conflict. Yet teams mustn’t shy away from conflict but instead, deal with it effectively.

I often talk about the Lencioni model, describing the 5 dysfunctions of a team that will stand in the way of leaders getting the most out of their people. Factors such as the absence of trust and fear of conflict are an anathema to a high-performing team. It’s not about avoiding any friction or challenges. It’s about approaching them with building trust and positive conflict in mind. Through taking time to understand individuals members of the team, how they prefer to work and flexing styles accordingly, differences in opinion, or ways of working can be constructively dealt with, and even increase innovation and creativity –  which is exactly what tools like Emergenetics® are all about.

How Leaders Build High-performing Teams

The first step is understanding what trust means for different people. Brené Brown has a great system, called the BRAVING inventory which she discusses in her book called Dare to Lead.

During a session, I might ask team members to use this model to score 1-10 for different elements of trust. We then share answers in the group. This starts a valuable and honest conversation about the perceptions and values of the team. I can facilitate that discussion to give employees the tools to practice in their day-to-day life.

how to build high-performing teams trust fearless edge

In any communication, we should be aware of things that may negatively trigger others. David Rock’s SCARF model is another fantastic resource on this.

The idea is that five things trigger a negative response in members of your team:

  • Challenges to Status
  • Attacks on Certainty
  • A loss of Accountability and control over decisions
  • A feeling of not being Related to the rest of the team
  • And whether an individual feels they’ve been treated with Fairness


Using this model can be very powerful for leaders because it ensures that you’re creating an environment that your team leans into, rather than one that activated a fight or flight response.

Building Trust is Crucial for Leading Teams

If you want to grow your business, there will come a time when you can’t do it all. Particularly for business founders and business owners there can be a tough transition from ‘I can do it all’, to ‘I need to delegate effectively to my people.’

Here are 5 top tips to make your teams more effective:

  • Get to know your team and understand them, their aspirations and what they can bring to the team.
  • Build trust. Facilitate good team conversations that are open and honest. Demonstrate that yourself as a leader, and don’t be afraid to show that vulnerability.
  • Align objectives. What is the common purpose of the team as a unit? Why are they a team rather than a group of people reporting to the same person?
  • Clarity of expectations. This is especially important in larger organisations where there are several business units and back-office functions. For example, a finance officer and a business executive might not be aligned and could be pulled in different directions.
  • Assign accountability. Where does decision making accountability lie? Who is responsible for what? This can reduce friction when there is conflict happening.

If you’re looking to maximise the potential of your existing teams, get in touch. I work with businesses to understand and drive performance in teams through Emergenetics® and through Lego® Serious Play®

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