Tips for Building a High Performing Team

Most of my career, I’ve had the great opportunity to grow departments and build new teams. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned along the way is this: Building a team is more than just finding people to fill the roles and do the work. Building a high performing team takes a little more magic!

So what exactly is a high performing team? A team that gets the job done, right? Well, yes, but there’s more to it. A high performing team shares a clear, common goal and works together to achieve not only a great product, but incredible results. In my experience, high performing teams take ownership of projects, have open communication, trust each other, and produce outcomes that consistently drive the company forward.

You might have heard the saying “Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.” I’ve always believed that if you hire good, smart people, you can accomplish the tasks at hand. As I’ve progressed through my career, however, I’ve tweaked my perspective on this.

If you hire “smart people” and leave them to fend for themselves, then the whole system could fall apart. They may be capable of doing the work, but to go far, you need more than just smart people to build your dream team.

Here are a few tips for building a high performing team:

Hire the right people.

You know those smart people I mentioned? You might want to consider having some of them on your team. Also, don’t overlook individuals with a positive attitude, good work ethic and willingness to learn. These individuals usually become your “utility” players later on, meaning they may be able to move around your organization to take on nearly any project or role.

Trust your employees to do the job they were hired to do.

One thing I experienced while moving up through my career was the lack of trust some managers had for their employees. It wasn’t that trust was ever lost, but rather, the manager was always suspicious of the work being produced. This made the environment uncomfortable and difficult for employees to complete work. Not only did it hurt productivity – it hurt morale as well. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure you’ve hired the right people for the job and that you’ve provided them the right training and guidance along the way. From there, let them do the job you hired them to do, and the results will come.

Believe in your people and the work they are doing.

Without the support of their manager, employees will continue to question the work they are being asked to do and over time become less efficient. It’s important to make it known that you believe in the work they are doing and that it is making a difference for the company.

Give direction, but let your team decide how to get it done.

You can’t be everywhere all the time. Make sure your employees understand the expected outcome of an assignment, give a little direction, and then allow them to dive in and “figure it out.” As managers, it may be hard for us to sit back and watch our employees spend “unproductive” time doing this. In the long run, though, it will benefit the both of you. For them, they will learn to problem solve, and for you, you won’t be that nagging micromanager who pulls down the team morale.

Realize that not everything will get done “your way.”

You want things done your way, right? I learned quickly that each person will have a slightly different take on a project but, in the end, get the same result. Your way isn’t always the best way, so be flexible and receptive to alternative paths to completion.

Coach and guide your employees every day.

Don’t be afraid to provide feedback. You can do your team a real injustice by not being open and honest about their performance. It may hurt to hear some of the feedback but if delivered in a professional and caring way, it actually builds trust in your organization.

If you say you have your team’s back, be sure you actually have their back. The worst thing you can do for high performers is say you support them and then turn on them when something doesn’t go right. Be there for the good and not-so-good outcomes.

Recognize your employees.

I make sure I recognize my employees in ways that will motivate them as individuals. I thank my team for a job well done. I put them individually in front of other senior level executives and showcase the work they did to move the business forward.

Career pathing is important to some but not others.

I completely understand that some people are motivated by titles and moving up through an organization. Heck, for a long time, I was that way, too, because I felt a sense of accomplishment and achievement as I moved into new roles. As time went on, contribution and responsibility became even more important to me. Remember, it’s not always about the title. A high performer just wants to know “what’s next” for them in the organization.

Building – and maintaining – a high performing team takes effort, patience and persistence. Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back. If you follow these tips, however, over time you’ll find yourself surrounded by a cadre of competent, energized and successful team members. And then it’ll be three huge leaps forward!