What It Takes to Build High Performing Teams

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Jan 11, 2019

Effective teamwork is a fundamental building block to creating a thriving business. Just as car engines are defined by their horsepower, a company’s “growth engine” is dependent on its people power. However, creating and elevating an effective team is about more than simply hiring smart and motivated individuals. It’s about positioning people in roles that match their skills and passions and creating adaptable and dynamic teams that foster positive group norms.

Strategically placing individuals to match their strengths and interests to their roles is foundational to business-wide success. Having the right person in the right role ensures that teams can meet their objectives and absorb “organizational shocks” such as large-scale projects, sudden increases in work volume, or other priorities that crop up as organizations attempt to stretch and grow. Being able to effectively role match involves taking a step beyond assessing an individual’s past work experience – instead, placing candidates and employees based on their genuine interest in the problems the team needs to solve and a hunger for achieving these goals.

It’s also critical to build a team and match roles with targeted business objectives in mind. For example, from a marketing perspective, effectively communicating your value and brand requires a consistent, steady stream of tailored messaging across a range of platforms. Consumers expect experiences that are tailored to their needs, which means meeting your customers and prospects where they are, establishing your credibility, and communicating your value across a range of channels: phone, text, email, video, social media and web. Determining which channels are critical to reaching your target audience and how you want to communicate across these channels will inform how to role match within your team.

Once you have secured the right people and have placed them in roles that position them to utilize their strengths to meet the team’s business goals, it is important to establish norms that cultivate a culture of high-impact collaboration. A 10-year study tracking the performance of hundreds of teams at Google pinpointed important norms that promote engaged and high-performing teams. The most critical norm creates “psychological safety,” which empowers all team members to take risks and speak up based on the interpersonal trust and mutual respect established among team members.

Some options for creating psychological safety include: Taking time to coach your teams to ensure they are maintaining a respectful environment, using personality profiling systems to help team members understand the best ways to communicate with their colleagues, structuring meetings so that every team member has an opportunity to speak, and maintaining open communication to quickly resolve any conflicts that arise. Moreover, maintaining a norm of flexibility in which teams can quickly adjust their efforts to meet ever-changing business needs will allow the group to stay nimble, even as they achieve scale.

I played team sports at the collegiate level and what I enjoyed most was that we each had our own unique strengths, yet we were equals. We all contributed in our own way. We couldn’t win if we weren’t both functioning as a team and leveraging our own individual strengths. It’s easy to see how this same dynamic creates an optimal work environment.

Having effective teams in place is at the root of larger success in the business world and beyond. In fact, research suggests that cohesive teams contribute to higher firm productivity, greater returns on investment, and maximized employee retention. By strategically placing the right people in the right roles, maintaining a dynamic team model, and creating the conditions that facilitate effective teamwork, businesses can keep their “growth engines” running smoothly and in high gear.

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