TwentyOne Principles of High Performing Teams

High Performing Teams

11th February, 2014

Being the great reflector that I am, I recently set myself the challenge of making sense of  my experience so that I could more easily use and share what I have learned. Our TwentyOne guiding principles of High Performing Teams are the results of this exercise.

I have just one request as you read through the list which is this:

Read through the full list and then read it again a second time.  As you read the list again, pause and ask how well your current team measures up against each principle.  If you are committed to helping your team be the best it can possibly be then I recommend working on one principle at a time.  The teams that I have seen make the most significant transformations have done exactly this.

Finally, if you are leading a team and feel that many of these principles are missing please do not worry. This simply means that you are leading a team that is capable of achieving so much more.  I’d love to help you access this untapped potential.


  1. Get clear on the reason that your team exists.  Ask yourself this question – as a team, what is your central purpose and why should anybody care.
  2. Identify the teams Main Effort.  This is the single most important goal that the team must achieve in a set period of time if you are to consider yourselves successful.
  3. Ensure that team members are working inter-dependently (not independently) towards a collective goal.  If they are not, you don’t have a team.
  4. Create an environment of trust.  Teams that have high levels of trust are comfortable sharing vulnerabilities and weaknesses, which creates an environment for open communication.
  5. Create a Team Charter.  How will the team work together and what will you fall back upon when under pressure?
  6. Be ready to share leadership.  Team members will have different areas of expertise: the best leaders are comfortable sharing their responsibility.
  7. Engage in constructive confrontation.  The best teams are not afraid to engage in passionate conversations around issues that are key to the teams’ success.
  8. Agree on your conflict norms.  What behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable when discussing challenging issues?
  9. Make it is a key responsibility of every team member to know and understand their colleagues personally.
  10. Celebrate success – big and small.  It creates an environment of positivity, energy and leads to further victories.
  11. Build a culture of feedback.  Create a monthly forum for providing one another with specific and actionable feedback about how their behaviour can improve the performance of the team.
  12. Ensure that improving communication is always on every team members personal development plan.
  13. Challenge the Status-Quo.  The environment within which you operate will not remain the same so you must be agile and ready to do things differently.
  14. Focus on Personal Development.  Challenge every team member to seek out continual improvement and total mastery in their role.  Hundreds of small improvements added together creates game changing victories.
  15. Cross train.  If you lost a team member tomorrow could somebody else cover their work as an emergency measure?
  16. Make it explicitly clear that everybody has two roles, being a team member and performing a specific functional task.  Being a team member always takes priority.
  17. Make expectations explicitly clear.  What does the leader expect of the team members? What do team members expect of their leader?  What do team members expect of each other?
  18. Ensure that you end every meeting by asking “What have we agreed upon?” and then allow everybody to answer.  This builds commitment and accountability.
  19. Create a mix of goals for the team.  Combine small step targets or objectives that are quickly achievable with bold and audacious long-term goals.  This will create positive tension that compels people to action.
  20. Create and display a team dashboard.  This provides a clear means of assessing performance so that meetings and discussions can take place with laser-like focus.
  21. Make work fun.  Research from Harvard University found that at positive, your brain is 31% more productive than at neutral or negative.


Talent Boot Camps


Boot Camps I’ve developed an approach to simplify both assessing and developing high potential talent. This has taken the form of taking the principles of a “Boot Camp” and applying them in a way that […]

Talent Boot CampsMORE

4 reasons your New Year’s Resolutions will fail


The turn of the year is a perfectly natural time to reflect on our desires and aspirations for the year ahead. In fact I discovered recently that during times of rest, our neurology automatically makes […]

4 reasons your New Year’s Resolutions will failMORE