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The need for building high-performing teams has never been as critical in today’s dynamic and ever-changing environment. The last two years have been a real challenge for every organization and leader. Navigating a global pandemic, managing constant supply-chain disruptions and increasing talent attrition in the job market created an unprecedented challenge for many leaders.
But building a high-performing team requires more than just pulling together a group of talented people with the right skills. It requires careful development and nurturing of key traits, behaviors and best practices.
Let’s dive into the seven key aspects of building and leading a high-performing team and how to cultivate them in your organization.
- Are led by example; be a high-performing leader first
- Establish clear goals, roles, and responsibilities
- Embrace diversity of thought and wide-ranging skill sets
- Follow a clear vision and mission
- Create an efficient infrastructure and automate repetitive work
- Empower team members with decision-making authority
- Encourage ongoing personal and professional development
- Let’s talk about these requirements and how you can get on the road to establishing your high-performing team.
1. Lead by example and show the way
To build and lead a high-performing team, you must become a high-performing leader. High-performing leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. They are highly self-aware and competent, both emotionally and intellectually. High-performing leaders have the unique ability to communicate a big-picture strategy and vision and simultaneously understand the details entailed in executing it.
A high-performing leader is a great listener, can ask powerful questions and is committed to bringing the best out of his team and members. Creating accountability and effective delegating are vital skills a high-performing leader masters well. A high-performing leader dares to be vulnerable to build trust and strengthen relationships.
2. High-performing teams have clear goals, roles and responsibilities
High-performing teams have clearly defined goals and understand their role in achieving them. Goals are not only aligned but clearly defined, so everyone knows exactly what they need to do and how to get there. Generally speaking, a company’s goals take two forms: quantitative goals (e.g., Growth by X%, Revenue/Profit, New Product Launches, etc.) and qualitative goals (particular leadership traits and values, communication guidelines, etc.). In an ideal world, these corporate-level macro goals are broken down into department-level micro-goals and measured through regular performance reviews.
Conflict and inefficiencies can quickly derail a talented and productive team. A leader of a high-performing team eliminates unnecessary conflict by clearly defining each person’s role and responsibilities. This prevents confusion over project ownership, keeps workflows and deadlines organized and ensures accountability across the board.
3. Embrace diversity of thought and wide-ranging skill sets
Diversity should matter to a company for various reasons, but one is that more diverse companies are more successful. According to research by Mckinsey, “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians” and “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
Diversity of thought helps teams to minimize blindspots and empowers individuals to challenge the status quo. As David Rock, cofounder of the Neuroleadership Institute, and Heidi Grant, a social psychologist, note at the Harvard Business Review, “Working with people who are different from you may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpen its performance.”
If you want your team to be as innovative as possible, then integrating individuals with diverse backgrounds and skill sets is the way to get there.
4. High-performing teams follow a clear vision and mission
In a 2016 LinkedIn study, 64.7% of job seekers said that not knowing, or disagreeing with, a company’s mission, values or purpose is a deal-breaker when considering a future employer. The study also found that 52% of professionals want to work for a company whose mission and vision match their values.
These findings mean that you must have a clear mission that you consistently convey to your team members from the moment they are hired. Post your mission on your website, reiterate it on your social pages and reward employees for exemplifying your company’s values.
Teams perform best when their actions impact the “greater good” beyond their individual goals. They are also more likely to stay at your company and become high performers.
5. Establish an efficient infrastructure and automate repetitive work
One of the keys to building a high-performing team is establishing a consistent reporting cadence (weekly or monthly). You want to do this in a digestible format with highlights (significant accomplishments, wins, and progress towards goals) and lowlights (significant challenges, corrective actions, owners, and due dates) that are easily shareable with all key stakeholders. This will help you to measure current progress against long-term goals, keeping you and your team accountable.
Establishing an efficient infrastructure dovetails with another critical consideration: the importance of automating repetitive work. We spend 28% of each workday reading and responding to emails. That’s a hefty chunk of time we could be spending on other, more mission-critical tasks. Rote and mundane tasks such as payroll, lead tracking, email marketing and social media management can and should be automated. Many apps and tools at your disposal can leave you time to focus on what matters, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of them.
6. High-performing leaders empower team members with decision-making authority
To supercharge your team and make them as effective as possible, you want to empower your team members to make the necessary decisions to achieve their goals.
Decision-making authority also increases an employee’s sense of ownership and drives accountability. As Casey Anderson says in the Small Business Chronicle, “When employees are involved in making decisions, they gain a professional and personal stake in the organization and its overall success. This commitment leads to increased productivity as employees actively participate in various aspects of the company and wish to see their efforts succeed. “
7. Encourage ongoing personal and professional development.
A recent survey by TalentLMS found that 91% of companies and 81% of employees say up-skilling and re-skilling training boosted work productivity. In comparison, 80% of employees say such training boosted their confidence.
Give employees opportunities for growth and reward them for attending conferences and enrolling in special training programs. Millennials and Gen Zers expect employers to provide opportunities for up-skilling on the job, so if you want to recruit (and retain) future innovators, you need to invest in learning opportunities for your team. Create a culture of learning, and you will see the returns.