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Two Key Factors in a High-Performing Team

As leaders, we all aspire to build a high-performing team. We want our peers and boss to perceive our team as such. We want our team to be more than average. We want them to be a group that others aspire to join and a team that delivers extraordinary business results.

We know there’s a lot at stake. We know team performance is an indicator of how well we’re doing as leaders. We know it reflects engagement, efficiency, productivity, and other aspects that make a great team. 

Building A High-Performing Team

Getting this right, building a high-performing team can make or break us as leaders. But what does such a team look like and how do I intentionally build one?

“What does such a team look like and how do I build one?”

Building a high-performing team requires time and effort. There has to be an intentional investment and cultivation of the team. Extraordinary teams don’t happen by accident.

At the foundation of every high-performing team are two commitments. You can discern a great, good, or bad team based on how the leader is cultivating and driving these two things. Without these, your efforts to build a high-performing team will be straight uphill, challenging, and most likely impossible.

The two key factors in a high-performing team are Clarity and Trust.

“Trust and Clarity are the foundation of every high-performing team”

Clarity In A High-Performing Team

Your team needs clarity from their leader. They need for you to remove the ambiguity that leads to confusion or misalignment and commit to the continuous driving of more and more clarity. If your team is confused, you’ll lose. You’ll lose them and you’ll lose in your pursuit to build a high-performing team. There are very few teams that are extraordinary but unclear. 

So, what does clarity look like and where do I start? Here are a few aspects where the leader needs to drive clarity. Use this to check yourself and do a quick leadership inventory. Ask your team about these areas and how they feel about clarity. They will give you a great indication of 

how things are going.

Clarity of: 

  • vision and purpose
  • each person’s personal connection and contribution to the vision
  • strategy and direction
  • expectations — performance, behavioral, cultural 
  • the BIG WIN — Success Definition
  • today’s WIN — What’s Important Now
  • where each person stands regarding performance — Healthy feedback conversations
  • roles and expectations
  • the path to getting work done effectively and efficiently

There are others but these give you an idea of how important clarity is. Think about that list and the impacts if your team is confused or unclear. The implications are significant. That’s why clarity is at the foundation of every high-performing team.

Reality is, we follow clarity. Clarity is magnetic. Clarity results in influence, which is the essence of leadership. Clarity helps leaders articulate their “why” so they can then turn their attention to the “what” and “how”.

Start with Vision — The “Why”. Have you articulated a vision of what “could be”? Vision needs to be repeated regularly so it sticks and people can understand it well enough to see how they fit into the bigger picture. They can then make an informed decision to get on or off your bus.

“A vision not frequently discussed is a vision quickly forgotten.”

I love this quote from Andy Stanley. He says, 

“As a leader, you rarely have certainty, but you should always have clarity.” Start today to mine your team to see where a little clarity might go a long way towards aligning your team for ultra-success.”

Trust In A High-Performing Team

Trust is the second core component at the foundation of every high-performing team. If trust is absent, good luck. There’s never been a team who performed at extraordinary levels but didn’t trust each other. I think that’s impossible. 

Trust is about creating a safe environment where people on your team feel they can bring their best selves to work every day.

Trust is the confidence that people believe your and their teammate’s intentions are good and they work in a safe environment.

Trust breeds an environment of vulnerability where people feel safe that their vulnerabilities will not be used against them in the future

When a team operates in an environment where trust is present and prominent, they look like this:

  • admit weaknesses
  • ask for help
  • accept challenges or questions about the areas they own
  • give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion (Trust vs. Suspicion)
  • offer feedback and assistance
  • allow the best ideas to win
  • focus time and energy on important issues vs. politics 
  • seek to understand the humans they’re working with

The opposite is true when teams don’t trust each other. Take the opposite of the list above and ask yourself if that’s a team you’d want to work on. It’s probably a big fat NO. 

Here are some additional attributes of what it looks like to invest in cultivating trust within your team:

  • Create a safe environment where people feel they can bring their best selves every day
  • The team shares ideas and believes other’s intentions are good — They create more and consume less
  •  There is a high level of emotional intelligence — Adapt behaviors to bring out the best in their teammates — Empathy
  • Strengths-based environment
  • Deliver results together — No silos
  • The best idea wins and a growth mindset persists
  • Personal accountability and extreme ownership define the team
  • Teammates have each other’s back
  • Great performance is recognized and rewarded

Bonus resource: Do you leverage the DISC assessment with your team? If so, Wildsparq created a free guide to help you build trust based on your primary DISC Behavioral Style. To better understand how to communicate with others and how they can best build trust with you and the same for them, access the free guide

This quote from Reggie McNeal sums up nicely how trust is a critical leadership strategy.

“Teams use trust as currency. If it is in short supply, then the team is poor. If trust abounds, the members of the team have purchased power with each other to access each other’s gifts, talents, energy, creativity, and love. The development of trust then becomes a significant leadership strategy. Trust creates the load limits on the relationship bridges among team members.”

Trust and clarity are the building blocks of a high-performing team. They’re the DNA, and you need both. Focus your attention on driving actions that increase clarity and cultivate trust. On this foundation, you’ll be able to build the type of team you want to lead and participate in.

Here are two questions you can ask to help with your self-assessment regarding clarity and trust.

Clarity — Are people on my team clear on what success looks like, how success will be measured, and how we’re moving towards success?

Trust — Do people on my team feel safe to bring their best selves to work every day? Do they trust me and trust each other?

For more resources to build trust in your teams, connect with us.