5 Things High-Performing Teams Do Differently

CoffeePals Team
CoffeePals Team
April 12, 2024
5 Things High-Performing Teams Do Differently

What’s the secret to building high-performing teams?

Today’s dynamic workplace requires building a team that doesn’t just meet expectations but consistently exceeds them. Whether you're a team leader striving for excellence or a team member eager to contribute to a thriving collective, this article is your guide to understanding the key ingredients that set high-performing teams apart.

Let's explore the practices that transform ordinary teams into extraordinary ones. Here are five things that high-performing teams do differently.

1. They embrace conflict

Conflict is often viewed through a negative lens, synonymous with discord and disruption. However, embracing conflict can be a powerful catalyst for growth and improved performance within high-performing teams.

85% of employees experience conflict at work, and managers spend 15% of their time resolving these conflicts. It’s the way that high-performing teams handle these conflicts that sets them apart. 

What role does conflict play in terms of performance improvement?

  • Stimulates creativity and innovation: Conflict introduces differing viewpoints and challenges the status quo, sparking creativity and innovation within the team. It prompts members to consider alternative solutions and think outside the box.
  • Strengthens problem-solving skills: Addressing conflicts head-on requires analytical thinking and effective problem-solving. Teams that navigate conflicts develop sharper problem-solving skills, enhancing their ability to tackle complex challenges.
  • Builds trust and resilience: Successfully navigating conflicts fosters a sense of trust and resilience among team members. Open communication during conflicts establishes a foundation for honest collaboration, ultimately strengthening the team's bond.
  • Encourages continuous improvement: Conflict acts as a mirror, reflecting areas that need improvement. Teams that embrace conflict see it as an opportunity for growth, prompting a continuous improvement mindset that propels them toward excellence.

Of course, conflict can also be destructive, meaning there must be a few boundaries.

Leaders need to identify warning signs when conflicts are escalating into dangerous territory and should intervene immediately. Team members should also be mindful of maintaining a respectful tone during conflicts. Personal attacks or disrespectful behavior should be recognized as crossing the line, and boundaries should be set to ensure a healthy team environment.

“Excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude.” — Ralph Marston

2. They break down silos

When it comes to team dynamics, breaking down silos is akin to dismantling invisible barriers that hinder collaboration and communication. Silos, or isolated pockets of information and expertise within an organization, can stifle creativity, impede information flow, and limit a team's overall effectiveness.

What benefits do high-performing teams enjoy when they break down silos?

  • Optimizing resource utilization: Silos often result in redundant efforts and underutilization of resources. By breaking down silos, teams can pool their collective skills and knowledge, optimizing resource allocation and fostering a more efficient working environment.
  • Enhancing problem-solving capabilities: Siloed teams approach problem-solving from a narrow perspective. Breaking down silos allows for a cross-pollination of ideas, diverse viewpoints, and expertise, strengthening the team's ability to tackle complex challenges from multiple angles.
  • Facilitating information flow: Silos obstruct the free flow of information across different departments or team units. When barriers are removed, information circulates more freely, enabling team members to stay informed, make better-informed decisions, and respond more effectively to changing circumstances.
  • Building a cohesive team culture: Silos can create a sense of "us versus them," fostering a fragmented team culture. Breaking down silos encourages a unified approach, promoting a shared sense of purpose and fostering a culture of mutual support and collaboration.
  • Strengthening interpersonal relationships: Siloed structures can lead to limited interaction between team members. Breaking down silos promotes interpersonal relationships, creating opportunities for team members to connect, share ideas, and build trust.
  • Increasing accountability and responsibility: Silos can inadvertently create a lack of accountability, as team members may primarily focus on their specific roles. Breaking down silos encourages a more holistic understanding of team objectives, fostering a sense of shared responsibility for overall performance.

Breaking down silos is not just about restructuring organizational charts; it's about unleashing the full potential of a team by promoting collaboration, communication, and innovation. By embracing a more interconnected and open approach, teams can significantly enhance their overall performance and navigate the complexities of the modern workplace with agility and resilience.

3. They bond outside of work

High-performing teams are not solely defined by their professional competencies; instead, they derive strength from the depth of personal connections among their members. Bonding outside work is a crucial ingredient that elevates a team beyond its functional roles and responsibilities.

Studies show that employees who have strong connections with their colleagues are happier at work. Of course, happier employees would mean better performance.

What do high-performing teams get out of bonding outside work?

  • Building trust beyond professional roles: Team members who bond outside work gain insights into each other's personalities, values, and interests. This deeper understanding fosters a sense of trust that extends beyond professional capabilities, creating a solid foundation for collaboration.
  • Fostering camaraderie: Shared experiences outside of work, whether through team-building activities, social events, or informal gatherings, contribute to the development of camaraderie. This camaraderie forms the bedrock of a positive team culture where members genuinely care about each other's well-being.
  • Breaking down communication barriers: Informal settings provide a more relaxed atmosphere for team members to communicate. Breaking away from the formality of the workplace encourages open and honest dialogue, helping to overcome communication barriers that may exist during professional interactions.
  • Promoting collaboration: Bonds formed outside of work naturally spill into professional collaborations. Team members who are comfortable with each other are more likely to share ideas, seek assistance, and work collaboratively toward common goals, contributing to overall team success.
  • Providing a supportive network: Knowing that one is part of a team that cares about professional success and personal well-being creates a supportive network. This network becomes a source of encouragement during challenging times, contributing to team members' mental resilience.
  • Balancing work and life: Socializing outside work promotes a healthier work-life balance. Team members who can unwind and connect on a personal level are better equipped to manage stress, prevent burnout, and maintain overall well-being.

The importance of team bonding outside of work lies in recognizing that professional success is profoundly intertwined with personal connections. High-performing teams are not just collections of skilled individuals; they are communities where trust, camaraderie, and genuine care for each other's success create a fertile ground for excellence.

By investing in these connections, teams lay the groundwork for sustained high performance and resilience in the face of challenges.

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out.” — Robert Collier

4. They promote psychological safety

Psychological safety is a concept that describes a team or workplace environment where individuals feel comfortable taking interpersonal risks, such as speaking up, sharing ideas, and expressing their opinions without fear of negative consequences. It is a fundamental aspect of team dynamics that empowers individuals to be authentic, fostering open communication, collaboration, and a sense of trust.

In high-performing teams, psychological safety is pivotal in creating an atmosphere where innovation thrives, ideas flourish, and team members feel valued and supported.

What role does psychological safety play in high-performing teams?

  • Risk-taking and adaptability: High-performing teams often need to navigate uncertainties and take calculated risks. Psychological safety encourages team members to embrace change, share new ideas, and adapt to evolving circumstances without fear of negative repercussions.
  • Inclusive decision-making: Inclusive decision-making is a hallmark of high-performing teams. Psychological safety ensures that every team member feels comfortable contributing to discussions, leading to well-rounded decisions drawn from diverse perspectives.
  • Continuous learning and improvement: High-performing teams have a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Psychological safety supports this by creating an environment where feedback is constructive, mistakes are seen as learning opportunities, and team members are motivated to enhance their skills and capabilities.
  • Employee engagement and retention: Teams prioritizing psychological safety tend to experience higher levels of employee engagement and retention. When individuals feel secure and supported, they are more likely to invest in their work, contribute to the team's success, and remain committed to the organization.

Psychological safety is not just a desirable trait but a foundational element that distinguishes high-performing teams. By fostering an environment where individuals feel safe to express themselves and take risks, teams unlock their full potential, leading to increased innovation, collaboration, and overall excellence.

5. They have a shared purpose

A shared purpose acts as the North Star guiding a team's collective efforts, providing a unifying vision that transcends individual tasks and roles. It is the glue that binds team members together, aligning their energies toward a common goal.

What happens when teams have a shared purpose?

  • Inspiring excellence: High-performing teams are often driven by a shared desire for excellence. A well-defined purpose inspires team members to strive for greatness, pushing them to surpass expectations and continuously improve their performance.
  • Focus on impactful priorities: A shared purpose helps teams prioritize their efforts. By focusing on what truly matters to the common goal, high-performing teams avoid unnecessary distractions and allocate resources efficiently, ensuring maximum impact.
  • Building a positive team culture: A shared purpose contributes to developing a positive team culture. When individuals work towards a common mission, it fosters a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect, creating an environment where high performance is not only expected but celebrated.
  • Encouraging innovation: High-performing teams often excel in innovation. A shared purpose stimulates creative thinking and problem-solving, as team members are motivated to find novel solutions that align with the overall mission and contribute to the team's success.
  • Continuous learning and adaptation: A shared purpose encourages a culture of continuous learning. Teams committed to a common goal are more likely to adapt to changing circumstances, learn from experiences, and proactively seek ways to improve and evolve.

A shared purpose serves as the driving force behind high-performing teams. It aligns individual efforts, inspires motivation, fosters collaboration, and provides a resilient foundation that enables teams to achieve their goals and consistently excel. 

Without a shared purpose, teams may struggle to find cohesion, direction, and the intrinsic motivation necessary to sustain a high level of performance over the long term.

The Secret to Producing High-Performing Teams

The biggest secret to producing high-performing teams lies in cultivating a positive and inclusive team culture. While various factors contribute to team success, the overarching culture within a team sets the tone for collaboration, innovation, and sustained excellence.

It all starts with clear and effective communication. Teams that prioritize transparent communication, both vertically and horizontally, minimize misunderstandings, ensure everyone is on the same page, and foster an environment of trust.

Trust is a foundational and indispensable element in the dynamics of high-performing teams. It serves as the bedrock upon which effective collaboration, open communication, and sustained excellence are built.

You need the right communication channels to build trust and promote effective team communication. While formal communication in team meetings, focus groups, and performance evaluations are beneficial, informal communication is just as important.

Virtual coffee chats, for example, can help build strong personal relationships among team members. The relaxed environment allows them to bond and better understand each person’s personality, preferences, and background.

CoffeePals is a virtual coffee chat platform where teams can have these casual conversations. Add CoffeePals to Microsoft Teams now and start improving communication within your team, leading to high performance.

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