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High Performing Teams

I can clearly remember where I was watching the rugby world cup in 2003 when Jonny Wilkinson took that now famous drop goal to beat Australia and win the Rugby World Cup. I remember jumping up with elation and then hearing the shouts resounding in the neighbourhood as others watched the last minute win too. It was a team of great players, but most importantly it was team of high performance, led by an excellent coach and leader in Clive Woodward.

Who are your high performing teams that you admire? May be the Man Utd team with Beckham, Giggs & Scoles. Maybe the Tennis Davis Cup team of 2015, or the British Cycling team of 2012 and the Olympic haul of medals? Outside of sport, maybe it is the high revenue reapers of Apple, Mobil, Samsung or Amazon?

We can look with admiration at the achievement of these teams, but how do you create and manage a high performance team? As a leader in an organisation, it is crucial to get your team to be a high performing team if you want your company to be high performing.

Huffington Post lists ten key aspects of a high performing team. Core to these is a clear sense of alignment. There needs to be an alignment of the same goals and that the team is first above individuality and a clear way of working towards that purpose where everyone knows what is expected and contributes towards it. In my training I highlight with leaders that

When everyone is clear on the goal and work together towards it, you can get great movement and success. There needs to be a culture where the team is free enough to tackle difficult issues, discuss them openly, diffuse tension and carry forward a team decision and then share their weight in the decision. Underpinning all of this is creating a seedbed of trust, to enable everyone to share responsibility for the goal and tackling anything that gets in the way of it.

Patrick Lencione, in his brilliant book ‘The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team’, highlights the 5 areas that pull a team down from being efficient and the importance of having trust and the ability to discuss issues amongst each other. A weak team will have an absence of trust, fear conflict and discussion of difficult issues, often resulting in back room gossip. They will not be committed to the goal and avoid holding each other to account, and lack focus on results. Therefore by default, a high performing team will be the exact opposite of this. They will have develop trust and support of one another that enables them to have a clear collective commitment to the goal and sharing accountability to it. They have a clear focus on the results and are able to have healthy conflict to discuss issues that hold them back from achieving it.

It all sounds so beautiful, like a well-oiled machine. But how does a leader achieve this? What do they need to do to establish the cogs correctly and oil them for smooth running?

I spoke to business leaders in Shrewsbury recently about the need to have 5D leadership to create and maintain high performing teams.


Have a clear purpose to what you are doing. As a leader get clear on your ‘why’ or purpose and find ways to resonate or align this to core beliefs or ‘why’ in those that are part of your team. Get clear on what success will look like and paint that picture for the team


Get the right people and put them in the right roles. Patrick Lencione talks about finding people who are Humble, Hungry and Smart. A humble person is not a weak quivering person. It is someone who has a heart for others and the goal first, rather than themselves. Hungry and smart means they want to find creative ways to make it work. Jim Collins talks about putting your best people on your best opportunities. Take Jonny Wilkinson and Martin Johnson. Both brilliant rugby players of their day. Both of them in their correct roles. Hence why Jonny was best to take the drop goal in 2003 and why Martin was leading and driving the rucks and mauls.


You can have the best practitioners, but if they are not clear on their role, the processes you are working on and how they all fit together for the goal, it can all get very frustrating and messy. Pep Guardiola, the brilliant football manager of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City, says “A team’s culture is about the conduct and behaviour of everyone involved, it’s working together towards shared objectives and, as such, is an immediately identifiable part of the group’s identity.”


As a leader, our role is to impassion people towards the goal. At the Shrewsbury business leaders event, I spoke alongside Simon Timson, Performance Director of the LTA. He talked about the importance of doing the basics well, using evidence to increase performance and having a transformational, supportive leadership approach to create a high performance culture. Having a clear view of what high performance is, reminding the team of what that is, where they are on the curve towards it and sharing and celebrating success is a key part of our role as leaders.


The fifth dimension to our leadership has listening at the heart of it. To develop others we need to listen to our team, what are they telling us about the situation and their situation. Creating a culture where we can then review together how things are going and what one thing needs to change to have the greatest impact, helps make those calculated marginal gain improvements.

So how are you doing as a leader in this? To help you, there is a simple series of questions that you can RAG rate yourself to consider the area you need to develop. (RAG – Red (bad), Amber (neutral), Green (Good)).

If you need further help to develop your team, then we have a practical engaging workshops and coaching that can help you develop you and your team to raise your performance as a team. High performance does not come about by accident, it needs to be purposefully planned for and invested in. It needs focus and money spent on it. It is worth investing in, as Purpose + Alignment = Shift.

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