The other day I was doing a coaching session to a management team who has the desire to increase its cohesion and productivity, and thus contributing in a better way for the organization to which it belongs.

This is a team that is learning to enhance dynamic and successful connections for its members. Being with them made me reflect on the characteristics of a High Performance Team.

Hardly can we find organizations without the presence of a team. At the same time there are a variety of them. So we find a team area, department, project team, interdepartmental team, etc.

This article does not delve into the definition of the team or its phases or cycles, but I would like to point out what makes a team really successful. We will allow us to dream of an “Ideal” team.


Characteristics of a High Performance Team


Hopefully we will have had the opportunity to belong to a team where two factors were produced:

  1. We were getting excellent results and providing a valuable contribution to the organization, to the point of being remembered for a long time
  2. We felt very proud and very happy to be members of that team, enjoying and even having fun with all (I repeat: “all”) its members, from personal appreciation and professional admiration.

Getting these two ingredients (only two) on a team is not easy. In fact many variables are required to make these two things occur.

What we know and experience shows us that there are a number of dynamics, processes and team agreements that facilitate their transformation to be considered as high performing teams.


Some basic features to be considered:

  1. Focus on the Headline Goal: Becoming a High Performing Team.

It is often thought that the number one priority of a team is working to achieve a common goal. In my professional life I have seen many teams that met this requirement but they were very dysfunctional. That is, this priority is no guarantee of success. In fact a group of people, without actually considered a team, may work together towards a common purpose.

The key priority in a team that wants to be great is to put the main focus on the desire to be a high performance team. This desire includes working together to achieve a common goal, and also the will to do so from an environment of high productivity and positivity.

  1. Desire of Being Together

I know teams formed by people who do not feel comfortable being part of them, and dream with the day to independence from them, but until that day comes are living a frustrating experience.

One of the referenced authors of Systems Theory, Bert Hellinger, talks about the importance of being integrated and legitimated within a group from the deep desire to belong to it. When this does not happen we feel out of our fishbowl and we began to disconnect us from the common purpose.

  1. Flexible Structure

A highly productive team is one who is used to work in a “open space” where nobody has closed offices and that even its members occupy the workplace that is free that day.

Thus, the team benefits from a more flexible and simple environment where you are given full importance to the content and value of the task, and not so much to the importance of aspects of the status or leverage that can stop productivity in some times. If life is change, we understand that also the market and customer need change. So, why not start boosting the constant change in our way of working?

  1. Management by projects

Work interdependently where goals are divided, and projects are addressed in blocks is the most direct way to enhance synergies between different areas and organizations.

This way of working allows us to increase integrated vision on professional tasks, and at the same time getting align the various needs and value contributions from the different team members.

  1. Rotation of the Fixed Tasks

Although a team works on projects, there are always a number of responsibilities or tasks that the area or department must offer as part of the service provided to the internal or external customers.

These fixed, not susceptible to be integrated in the projects, can be rotated among team members in order to share responsibilities and to boost a common quality impact.

There are always people more receptive or with a natural tendency toward some tasks more than others, but in any case it is necessary that they all understand the meaning and impact of each function, and looking for the right balance between their natural tendencies and preferences and the contributions that must be done.

  1. Compensate as agreed

A highly successful team is one that also tries to balance the other Systemic Law about “Giving and Receiving”, by which people try to “get” from the system in balance with what we “offer” to it.

Teams of business partners speak clearly of their earnings and financial compensation and reach an agreement on how to distribute them.

For granted this is a groundbreaking and unusual concept but that surely help many teams to eliminate many emotional toxicities among its members and with the company.

  1. Consensus Decision Making

In a high performing team the decisions are not taken by voting. When a team votes accept leaving behind the minority and disregard their needs. The worst thing is that this minority usually head down thinking that they “do not deserve” be served.

A successful team is looking eagerly meeting all the needs and concerns present on the team, knowing that everyone will use their generosity to find that middle ground where they do not want to impose everything they have, or having to let go of something they can put aside.

The road to achieve consensus is slow, but the other way can take longer or it might end up in a deadlock.

  1. Shared Leadership

High performance teams have very distributed leadership among its members. All voices have the same weight and the same consideration when making decisions, and also the role of coordinator is to serve the need for the project, and not vice versa.

This means that this role is not for just one person and belongs to all team members simultaneously. In this way, leadership can be rotated depending of the moment of the team and its goal.

This also means that the current coordinator can raise their hand at any time to ask to be relieved, while the rest can also raise their hands when they feel that the team needs (not him, but the team) his/her contribution as leader.

This may seem like science fiction to many; some even considered too naive, but the reality is that society pushes us to work harder in a circle and less in a pyramid. We have examples in different fields of our society (economy, social, organization, etc.).

  1. Co-responsible Team

When the leadership is shared in a team is easier to find members working at all times as if they were the heads, or even the owners of the organization.

At this time all ask each other the maximum contribution to the project since all feel free and giving them full permission to support, while demanding the maximum of each team member.

In this environment is everyone’s success and failures are also distributed. It has never seemed to me very consistent that some leaders are very generous sharing the successes, but when the failures occur they point out others or vice versa.

Without wanting to hold on to a master formula, we can consider all these features as potential drivers of High Performance Teams.

If you have read this article until here, and also you are a leader or member of a team, what if you try, in some level, any of these drivers? Anything you want … Yes, it is need courage and a little swim against the tide…. But what if it works for you, your team, or your organization?


Enric Arola