Why is it that some teams succeed and others fail, even when abilities in each team seam to be about the same?

Research has shown that most high-performing teams have several things in common.

High-Performing Teams Have

  • A mission or purpose statement – The mission statement is understood and accepted by all team members.  In addition, it is supported by management and key stakeholders.
  • A clear definition of their internal and external customers – Knowing who the customers are, along with their needs and expectations, are central factors contributing to success.
  • Well defined goals and priorities – Goals provide a sense of direction; priorities create excitement.
  • A plan with achievable milestones – Plans define and help guide action.  Milestones offer opportunities to measure progress and experience successes along the way.
  • Clear roles and responsibilities – If individuals are going to contribute to the overall success of the team, they need to understand their roles and responsibilities.  If the expectations of one another are to be met, they need to be clear and understood by all team members from the beginning.
  • Good communication – The leading cause of problems in most situations is ineffective or non-existent communication.  Communication need to be clear, specific, and timely.  This includes communication among members of the team, as well as with others outside the team.
  • A plan for linking with other teams – All teams have interdependent relationships with teams inside and outside the organization.  The nature of those links needs to be clarified and managed appropriately.
  • Regular effective meetings – There are two key elements here.  One is regular meetings and the other is effective meetings.  Both are important.


High-Performing Teams Value

  • Diversity – The most successful teams tend to be those that have members with complementary skills, work preferences, and ideas.
  • Quality and continuous improvement – Quality is no longer a luxury, it is expected.  High-performing teams put a high value on the quality of their work and their efforts to look for opportunities to improve their processes and the results of their efforts.
  • Celebrate individual and team success – The most meaningful recognition often comes from teams affirming their own successes and acknowledging the special contributions or efforts of individuals.  Just taking the time to reflect and openly confirm that “we really are doing a good job” can do wonders for morale and motivation.
  • Accountability – Accountability to one another is often associated with trust and credibility.  This is not a forced issue for high-performing teams, but instead is something that is expected as a common courtesy.  When accountability falters, it is addressed openly and in a non-threatening manner.

So, what do you think about your team?

How do you stack up to these characteristics?

This may be a good time to have a discussion around each of your feelings on these issues and the two questions above.

Make sure that you focus on your strengths first.  Capitalize on what you are doing well.  Then you can focus your attention on identifying and taking action on those areas that need improvement.