The Secret of High-Performing Teams

By: Ellen Hubin, Project Manager

Have you ever experienced that true “one team” feeling? That “one plus one equals three (or more)” feeling whereby the team in its entirety is stronger than the sum of the individual contributions?

Research and team statistics consistently show that collaboration positively impacts productivity. Higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels, and higher success rates are reported.

  • Improved communication and collaboration (via social technologies) could raise productivity by 20 to 25%
  • 37% of employees say “working with a great team” is their primary reason for staying with a company
  • 97% of employees believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project

The question is, what are the success factors underlying such high-performing teams? How can you harness the power of collaboration?

The secret to developing your team’s superpowers according to Stefano Mastrogiacomo, author of “High-impact tools for teams”, comes down to two critical elements: creating common ground and psychological safety.

Let’s start with common ground.

First, it’s essential for a team to have a joint mission and to have alignment – from the start – on what needs to be achieved (scope/objectives) and what will be considered success in terms of team outcomes. Equally important is a mutual understanding of what will be done, by whom, and by when. Interdependencies between activities should be mapped out to prevent ineffective silo work. Every team member needs to understand how their piece of the puzzle fits into the overall picture. Do not make the mistake to only map this out once, but regularly revisit the team’s priorities and direction.

Second, Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 habits of highly effective people”, emphasizes that the essence of synergy is to value and respect differences, and to build on strengths and compensate for weaknesses: “synergy is better than my way or your way, it’s our way”. How to lift your team to the next level?  Leverage personal experiences and expertise. Innovate and problem solve with those who have a different point of view.

Third, key to creating (and maintaining) common ground is effective communication. Carefully determine the appropriate level of information sharing and tailor your communication (style) as needed.

And what about psychological safety?

A psychologically safe team is considered an environment where each individual has the ability to speak up and where there is room for learning and making mistakes (Edmondson, 1999). At the core of psychological safety lies a mutual feeling of trust and respect, a sense of belonging, and the ability to be vulnerable and to have constructive conflicts.

But how do you create and nurture trust-based relationships?

It starts with connecting on a human level. Do not limit yourself to showing interest from a professional point of view but get to know your team members on a personal level. Compile a ‘book of faces’ of the team sharing both professional and personal facts about each member. Ask if your colleague did something fun during the weekend, or where their next vacation destination is.

Discuss what team members value in a collaboration and which attitudes are desirable (versus unacceptable). Make team values and ways of working explicit, and regularly reflect – as a team – on what is going well and what should be done differently. Strive for a growth mindset and nurture a feedback culture.

Agree on how decisions will be taken (and transparently communicated) and how conflicts will be (constructively) managed.

Moreover, support your team members in times of hardship, you are in it together. Celebrate achievements and recognize contributions.

And finally, do not “command and control” but empower.


Interested in learning more about how to enable high-performing teams? In need of a practical and easy-to-implement set of tools and methodologies to engage and align your stakeholders – right from the start of your partnership? Contact us for more information on training/coaching opportunities and tailored team performance interventions.