Industry Insights

Characteristics of High-performing Teams

Posted by John Wills on Apr 27, 2023 10:34:32 AM

In the world of business, effective teamwork is critical in order to achieve business and operational success. As such, the importance of cultivating high-performing teams simply cannot be overstated. That being said, with the rise of hybrid working models and the ensuing challenges of team cohesion and morale, the task of building and maintaining successful teams has become increasingly complex.

Considering the evolving workplace and workforce, what are the secrets to building a high-performing team that is driven and motivated? In this article, we explore key characteristics of such teams and provide actionable insights on how to build and sustain a high-performance team of your own.

The New Challenges that Teams Must Face

As we navigate continued uncertainity in markets and the evolving landscape of remote and hybrid work, building and maintaining high-performing teams is becoming increasingly more challenging. Combine that with “the great resignation” and a workforce that is increasingly demanding more work-life balance, team morale, engagement, and productivity have become even more pressing concerns. Smart leadership is needed. Turnover is high and team longevity is constantly at risk. In this context, cultivating a growth mindset and a positive approach to work can help us build resilient teams that can thrive in the face of adversity.

What are the key characteristics of high-performing teams that can help us navigate these challenges and build effective teams?

Clear and Shared Goals

High-performing teams have a clear understanding of their shared goals and how each team member contributes to them. This means that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART). When everyone knows what they are working towards, it is easier to prioritize tasks and collaborate effectively. Additionally, sharing goals promotes a sense of empowerment, ownership and accountability, as everyone understands their individual and collective roles in achieving them.

Open Communication

Effective communication is essential to team success. High-performing teams prioritize open and honest communication to foster trust and collaboration. This means being transparent about successes and failures, providing constructive feedback, and listening actively to others. It also means creating an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their opinions, asking questions, and raising concerns without fear of judgment or retribution.

Defined Roles and Responsibilities

Each team member has a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities, which helps to minimize confusion and foster accountability. This means defining job descriptions, key roles and responsibilities, identifying key deliverables, and outlining expectations for individual and team performance. When everyone is absolutely sure of what is expected of them, it is easier to measure project progress and address any performance issues that may arise. In effect, when your team knows what they’re doing, it allows leaders to lead.

Complementary Skills and Expertise

High-performing teams comprise members with complementary skills and expertise, which generally fosters a sense of mutual respect and trust. Collectively valuing diversity and inclusivity in team composition allows each member to recognize the value that other members bring to the table. By leveraging everyone's strengths, teams can achieve outstanding results and foster a culture of learning and growth.

Strong Leadership

Effective leadership is critical to building high-performing teams. At the very least, leaders should be able to provide direction, support, and motivation to team members. Creating a vision for success, setting clear expectations, providing resources, removing barriers, and empowering team members to make decisions are additional requisites that will make for an effective leader. On top of these qualities, strong leaders should be able to recognize and celebrate team successes, whilst having the courage to provide constructive feedback and coaching to address areas for improvement.


In today's fast-paced and unpredictable business environment, adaptability is critical to team success. High-performing teams are able to pivot quickly and respond to changing circumstances, being agile, flexible, and resilient in the face of challenges. Adaptability also includes having the nous to spot and embrace new opportunities for growth and innovation. Leaders must be able to help their teams to learn from failures and use them as opportunities to improve their processes and performance, rather allowing such situations to have a negative effect on morale.

Continuous Learning

Finally, high-performing teams are committed to continuous learning and improvement. A growth mindset allows team members to be bold and embrace challenges, learn from failures, and continuously develop their skills and knowledge. For leaders, this means fostering a culture of curiosity, innovation, and creativity, and providing opportunities for training, mentoring, and feedback. By investing in personal and professional development, teams can improve their performance and achieve outstanding results over time.

One way teams can unlock extraordinary results individually and as a collective is through business simulations. At StratX ExL, we’ve helped thousands of participants achieve incredible personal growth and find new ways to collaborate with their teams, helping to realize major leaps of progress on projects.

Trust the Process & the Process Will Trust You

Wondering how to start building a high-performing team? As a team leader or manager, it's important to understand the most valuable characteristics of high-performing teams and how to enhance them.

One of the keys to building a high-performing team is to establish high levels of trust and clarity of purpose and vision. When employees have a clear understanding of their purpose and goals within the organization, they are more likely to work effectively and efficiently. In general, people like to have a clear target to aim for and work towards, rather than feeling like a ship without a rudder.

In addition to clarity of purpose and vision, employees must also trust their leader and their peers (of course, trust has to be earned). High levels of trust lead to a strong sense of confidence - I know my teammate will do the best job possible - and vice versa. To build a high-performing team, you must focus on enhancing trust and clarity, which are two of the most significant principles of high-performing teams.

Action Steps After Reading This Article

  1. Learn the basics: Take a training program, workshop, or online course about how to build a high-performing team
  2. Seek stability: Determine the ideal number of team members for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. Avoid having too few or too many people, which can negatively affect productivity. Knowing critical mass is a great trick to high performance.
  3. Align a purpose: Establish a clear vision, purpose, and goals to give team members a collective bond and something to work towards together. You can try asking them about their values to get the ball rolling.
  4. Encourage open and brave conversations: Create a working environment that fosters risk-taking and encourages innovation. Mistakes should not be frowned upon, and team members should feel comfortable having honest conversations. When team members can’t be open, they can’t innovate.
  5. Foster a culture of continuous learning: Encourage your team to stay up-to-date with industry changes and upskill by taking online training courses. Make use of business simulations as a secret weapon in the mission towards building your high-performing team.

Final Thoughts & Advice

Building and maintaining high-performing teams in today's rapidly evolving work environment is no easy task. However, by prioritizing clear and shared goals, open communication, defined roles and responsibilities, complementary skills and expertise, strong leadership, adaptability, and continuous learning, we can create teams that can thrive in the face of adversity and achieve outstanding results.

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