A guide to building high-performing teams (plus benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Teamwork can be an integral part of getting work done. For team leaders, building an effective team is, therefore, a high priority task. If you're a team leader or responsible for hiring and training them, knowing how to build a high-performance team is very important. In this article, we explain what a high-performance team is, including the steps for building them, their characteristics and their benefits.

What is a high-performing team?

A high-performing team is a group of individuals who are capable of working collaboratively and producing consistently good results. Depending on the context, this often requires them to have lots of skills and a shared commitment to their vision and values. A high-performing team typically has good resilience and problem-solving ability and is consistent in their results.

5 steps for building high-performing teams

Here are some steps to consider if you're interested in building high-performing teams:

1. Create stability

A key prerequisite for a high-performing team is stability among its members. Creating stability is often easier when the teams are smaller. Although size also depends on the work context, having only the necessary amount of people is typically beneficial. This is because there are few surplus individuals or skills, so the likelihood of high turnover or wasted efforts is lower.

Stability, over time, allows the team members to become used to each other and be able to depend on one another. Also, a stable team gives its members a sense of security in their job and environment, allowing them to focus on their important work tasks.

2. Encourage positive team values

A team which has common, positive values is more likely to be cohesive and perform well. A lot of this derives from the values of their team leader and the organisation as a whole. Shared values help team members work in unison and know what to expect from each other. An important factor is the positivity of these values, such as transparency, respect, accountability, collaboration, teamwork and being goal-oriented. A key aspect of this is ensuring that common team values still allow individual team members to embrace and utilise their unique skill sets.

Read more: 10 types of core values (plus ways to identify your own)

3. Focus on learning and development

Once you have a cohesive team with common values, encouraging continual learning and professional development can help merge their strengths and make them more effective over time. Since a smaller team is typically more cohesive and effective, it's crucial to identify any skills gaps and seek training or learning opportunities to address them. This can be an integral part of the team's culture, whereby the team leader and its members appreciate and facilitate learning and skills acquisition. If the team does acquire new members, there's a greater pool of available skills that existing members can pass on to the new.

4. Encourage communication

Even if you have a capable team of skilled individuals with common values, their effectiveness may become somewhat limited in the absence of open and regular communication. If you're a team leader, you can encourage open communication by leading by example. You can also ask questions frequently which encourages team members to speak their minds and voice any issues they have.

A key aspect of this is when a team member is unsure of something or requires assistance. Try to encourage this and make sure that the workplace culture doesn't make individuals feel bad for admitting to gaps in their skills or knowledge. A good contributor to encouraging open communication is understanding your team members and their respective personalities. This can help you arrange learning programmes or workshops which encourage them to be open and communicate regularly.

Read more: Why is communication important? (And how to improve it)

5. Set goals and objectives

A high-performing team is one which regularly meets or exceeds its objectives and goals. This becomes more likely when everyone understands the short, medium and long-term goals of the team. The difference between a goal and an objective is that a goal is something you want to reach, such as developing a high-performing team or reaching certain long-term targets. Objectives tend to be short or medium-term and involve steps and measurable targets, such as the completion of certain tasks or a specific increase in output.

Objectives are therefore useful for guiding the work and decision making of your team, in addition to contributing to long-term goals. Team members can therefore understand the context of their tasks and responsibilities. With a team culture focused on development and collaboration, clear objectives can make them more efficient and capable.

Characteristics of a high-performing team

A good way of determining if you have a high-performing team is to look for the characteristics which indicate this. If you find your team displays several of these, it probably means that you're succeeding at building high-performance teams. Here are some characteristics to look for:

Positivity and confidence

An effective group of individuals typically knows that they're capable and, therefore, have confidence in their abilities. This can be due to their collective set of skills, a history of success and positive team culture. An essential distinction is the one between a positive, happy environment and an overly relaxed one. They may appear similar in terms of the working environment, but a relaxed one can be less productive. Instead, look for motivation and cooperation.

Read more: Positive thinking benefits and 15 tips to achieve them

Resilience

Being resilient is the ability to rapidly recover from unforeseen or negative circumstances. In the context of work, this is crucial for overcoming unexpected challenges without adverse effects on team performance. A high-performing team has the skills, experience and leadership to be resilient when facing such challenges. This is because the team has a comprehensive set of skills that allows it to address these challenges, sufficient trust in each other and leaders who can make the right decisions to overcome any issues.

Read more: How to build resilience (7 techniques and examples)

Consistent outputs

Almost any team is capable of producing good outputs, but a high-performing team is able to do so consistently. They're also typically able to produce better outputs than others. This is due to their mutual collaboration, skills and effective leadership.

Efficiency

A high-performing team is typically an efficient one. This is where they produce a high amount of outputs relative to their inputs. They typically waste minimal time and resources in performing their duties. A key contributor to this is their ability to communicate with each other, which reduces the likelihood of duplicate work.

Related: Effective vs efficient: Definitions, differences and tips

Good integration

Effective teams are well-integrated into the broader organisation. This means they're aware of the organisation's various goals and objectives. They understand how their work contributes to these targets and can therefore concentrate their efforts on the achievement of organisational goals.

Benefits of high-performing teams

Having high-performing teams in an organisation brings benefits to it, to team members and leaders. Some key benefits include:

Organisational benefits

An organisation which has high-performing teams is able to depend upon them, especially in challenging circumstances. Teams like these are able to take over important tasks and ensure client satisfaction. They're also able to positively contribute to the organisation's culture.

Team member benefits

Being part of an effective team brings a lot of benefits to its members. There are often plentiful opportunities for learning, professional development and additional responsibilities. These teams also tend to have capable leaders who are able to mentor team members to help them also become effective leaders. They also benefit from a positive, supportive and collaborative working environment, in addition to stability.

Leader benefits

Leading a high-performance team can be a rewarding and positive experience. Leaders of teams like these have dependable personnel and the opportunities to take on demanding tasks and responsibilities. This can also offer the chance to coach and mentor talented individuals and contribute to the success of the broader organisation.

Explore more articles