10 important high performing team characteristics to know

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 21 April 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.

High-performance teams comprise individuals possessing a set of specialised skills and expertise. Together, these traits work in a complementary way so that the team can work more effectively to achieve goals. High-performance teams often operate with a collaborative and innovative mindset, and understanding what characteristics to foster in a team can be useful in creating this mindset. This article lists 10 key high performing team characteristics and three steps organisations can take to build a successful team.

Defining high performing team characteristics

While every team is different, there are definable high performing team characteristics. By identifying shared traits businesses can better understand why some teams perform better than others and how these teams are set apart from the rest. High performing teams contain a variety of individuals who all bring their specialisations and knowledge to the group. Each person's set of skills complements the other skills within the group to produce a more goal-oriented and focused approach to achieving results.

Developing and nurturing high performing team characteristics is an important step for many businesses. Achieving this is not as simple as putting a group of talented individuals with the right skills together. Instead, businesses can define what they require from a particular team and carefully cultivate the characteristics, behaviours, and best practices that drive the team to get the right results.

Related: How to build a successful team: a step-by-step guide

10 vital characteristics of high performing teams

A high performing team typically shares a series of key characteristics. While a team may not contain every single trait, understanding which particular ones are commonly seen in high performing teams can be an effective way to build teams that perform. Below is a list of 10 characteristics of high-performance teams:

1. Goal-oriented and aligned

Members of a high performing team align on the vision, values and goals they're working towards. Having a collaborative approach and a shared purpose motivates the team to do their best work. Additionally, by measuring everyone against the same criteria, team members can see the impact of their actions concerning how their colleagues are performing both solo and as part of the corporate vision.

2. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities

Understanding who does what within the team and where each team member's responsibilities lie helps reduce the risk of conflict. This is because there is less confusion over project ownership, there is a clear workflow process and everyone has accountability for their duties and activities. Conflict within the team can derail productivity and collaboration. A high-performing team works best when there is little-to-no conflict.

Related: Top strategies to define your team's roles and responsibilities

3. Trust

Trust goes a long way in any business. For a high performing team, being able to trust each other is critical for success. There are several reasons why:

  • It allows each member to work autonomously and without constant micro-management since their leaders trust them to complete their tasks.

  • It builds a strong bond among the team.

  • It promotes creativity and the sharing of ideas.

4. High levels of communication

Free-flowing communication within the team opens a forum to explore new ideas, provide colleagues with constructive feedback and outline clear objectives and expectations. It gives the team an open and transparent space to work within. As a characteristic of a high performing team, good communication is also important to avoid or quickly overcome conflicts.

Related: Team building skills: definition and examples

5. Efficient management of time

Good time management is a top skill for any team member to possess. Most businesses appreciate staff who are conscious of their time and who strive to maintain top standards in timekeeping. As a desirable characteristic of a high performing team, time management focuses everyone to prioritise the most essential activities. This aligns the team to shared goals and provides insight to help build a strategic plan of action.

6. Recognise and appreciate success as a team

High performing teams understand that success stems from colleagues working well together. To build a bond together, the team celebrate wins and take the opportunities to recognise and share contributions and wins for each member. From this bond, the team has a stronger culture of collaboration and everyone feels connected and appreciated for the great work they're doing.

7: Dedication to improving as a team

A team that works well together, grows together through continual personal and professional development. High performing teams are those that make the most out of development opportunities. Expanding the expertise of each team member has wide benefits for the team and allows for cross-functional skills to make the team more efficient and effective in fulfilling their goals. There are several ways for a team to actively improve the skills within it, including classroom or work-based training, external training such as online courses, self-directed learning and coaching and mentoring.

8: Strong leadership

A strong team leader appreciates everyone within their team, values their insights and trusts in the skills, ideas and suggestions they put forward. Strong leadership is also not prescriptive, they're there to guide the team and keep them focused on the right activities rather than micromanage everything they do. Team leaders are responsible for establishing and maintaining the framework for how the team best works.

Goals, priorities, development and reporting to senior staff are all part of a team leader's responsibilities. A good leader enacts these by giving their team the autonomy to achieve the desired results and by encouraging active participation from everyone involved. Everyone on the team has an important role to play, it's down to the team leader to determine this and execute the team's plan.

Related: What are the main responsibilities of a team leader?

9: Focused planning and execution strategy

High performing teams focus on their priorities and manage their time to meet these targets efficiently. To achieve this, top-performing teams are highly skilled at planning and have the resourcefulness to execute their plans effectively. Every member of the team, through the planning stage, understands what their role is and how each performance ultimately impacts the result. Focus then shifts to aligning everyone to the same goals and how best to maximise productivity across the team.

10: High participation and engagement

Ensuring everyone is participating at each level of planning before executing these plans is a critical attribute of high performing teams. It's important for the whole team to work together, as each member has their role to fulfil as part of a wider team strategy. If one member is not working as necessary, this can have an impact on the rest of the team.

Top performing teams have exceptionally high levels of engagement from their members. They often go above and beyond to see their team succeed. In the event of a disengaged team member, or even where members are unable to perform activities due to absence or similar reasons, the rest of the team is there to come together and fill that gap.

3 important steps to building a high performing team

It takes time to build a top team. Understanding the key characteristics of a high-performance team is a great place to start, but the right commitment and investment can ultimately prove the right way to develop a high-performing team. Below are three tips to start with:

1. Align the team to a shared sense of purpose

Having a team that is working towards a shared goal or vision brings everyone together. As a united team, everyone has a connected sense of purpose. This can be a critical trait to instil in the team. Top team leaders are there to evaluate how effective their team is in achieving corporate goals, placing the right people in the right functions and evaluating both individual and team priorities to best hit key milestones. One-on-ones and regular team meetings can prove an effective way to push the team in the same direction and increase performance.

2. Establish clear communication channels

High performing teams are nimble and highly focused. Communication, therefore, is a top priority for them. If the communication channels are unclear, or it's difficult to reach key people, problems may arise. Streamlined communication negates many of these concerns.

There are several possible tools to consider as communication channels:

  • Email and communication or messaging platforms are effective for transparent messages and maintaining a paper trail of what you have discussed.

  • Project management tools are useful for tracking the progress on assignments and who is responsible for delivering each step of the project.

  • Data tools are critical for storing important business data and providing analysis and reporting.

  • Internal communication platforms share important organisational updates, news and content, and provide a platform for employees to have a voice.

Having set communication processes helps ensure the distribution of key information across the organisation to provide clarity on who is working on what.

Related: 8 Effective Leadership Tips

3. Promote a culture of development

Most employees actively looking to grow in their professional careers, so this can help retain staff. Developing and learning new skills is an effective way for teams to enhance what they already do. High performing teams understand that mistakes happen and learn from them by building on their knowledge and adapting to alternative ways of working. Investing in the growth and development of your employees help build motivation, loyalty, trust and empowerment and ultimately equips them to perform in their roles.

Explore more articles