8 Characteristics of High-Performing Teams (and How to Build One)

characteristics of high-performing teamsWhy do some teams perform better than others? What sets these teams apart from the rest?

High-performing teams are composed of individuals with specialized expertise and complementary skills who are goal-oriented and hyper-focused on achieving clear, outstanding results. With the right approach to performance management, you'll empower them to collaborate, innovate, and produce work at the highest levels.


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But building a high-performing team requires more than just pulling together a group of talented people with the right skills. It requires careful development and the nurturing of key characteristics, behaviors, and best practices.

We will share 8 characteristics of high-performing teams and how to cultivate them in your own teams. High-performing teams:

  • Have clear goals tied closely to team and organizational priorities
  • Understand how their work fits into the organizational mission
  • Have defined roles and responsibilities
  • Communicate clearly and respectfully
  • Manage work and deadlines based on priorities
  • Trust and respect each other
  • Celebrate success together and recognize contributions
  • Practice continuous learning


Characteristics of a high-performing team


While every team is different, there are common characteristics that high-performing teams share.


1. They have clear goals tied closely to team and organizational priorities.

High-performing teams are aligned in their focus, purpose, and priorities. They set team and individual goals that support this shared vision so that their work drives achievement. Goals are not only aligned, but they are clearly defined so everyone knows exactly what they need to do and how to get there.


2. They understand how their work fits into the organizational mission.

When employees understand how their job fits into the context of the overall goals and mission of the organization, they are more engaged and productive. High-performing teams know their “why” and work together to support a shared vision.


3. They have defined roles and responsibilities.

Conflict can quickly derail an otherwise talented and productive team. High-performing teams minimize unnecessary conflict by defining each person’s role and responsibilities clearly. This prevents confusion over project ownership, keeps workflows and deadlines organized, and ensures accountability across the board.


4. They communicate clearly and respectfully.

When communication breaks down, conflict arises and performance suffers. High-performing teams set clear expectations and channels for communication so everyone knows when and where to communicate and who they need to connect with. Conflict is normal, but high-performing teams know how to navigate it in a healthy way that doesn't create more obstacles.


5. They manage work and deadlines based on priorities.

High-performing teams focus on what matters most and spend their time accordingly. They understand that not all work has equal importance or urgency and they manage projects based on what tasks have the highest priority and highest impact. This keeps work aligned with organizational goals and ensures everyone is focused on work that drives growth.


6. They trust and respect each other.

The level of collaboration and teamwork required for high achievement depends on trust and mutual respect. Employees on high-performing teams value each other and trust each person to do their job. They respect diversity of thought and experience and recognize those differences make them stronger. This culture of trust helps everyone:

  • Bring their full selves to the job
  • Take risks
  • Share ideas
  • Innovate together


7. They celebrate success together and recognize contributions.

High-performing teams understand that success results from team effort. They celebrate wins together and take opportunities to recognize and show appreciation for each employee’s contributions. This builds a strong culture of collaboration and helps everyone feel valued and connected.


8. They practice continuous learning.

Even the best teams have room to grow. High-performing teams value feedback and learn from their mistakes. They look for opportunities to grow by nurturing a feedback culture and investing in ongoing employee development. Continuous learning propels growth and keeps teams striving for higher achievement.


Building a high-performing team


Building a high-performing team doesn’t happen overnight. It takes commitment and an investment in continuous growth and development. Use the following tips to get started:


Create a shared sense of purpose.

In order for employees to feel connected to a team, they need a unified purpose. This is where clear goals and team alignment come into play.

Managers of high-performing teams are always evaluating priorities and team goals to ensure they are effective and aligned. Keep organizational goals top-of-mind by regularly communicating and connecting those goals to the team’s work.

Take advantage of one-on-ones to check in with team members on their progress, identify key priorities, and ensure their work aligns with the overall team goals. This helps create a shared sense of purpose and ensures the team is pulling together in the same direction to drive performance.


Streamline communication.

High-performing teams have to be nimble and focused—so clear, streamlined communication is essential. Keep everyone on the same page by establishing clear processes and expectations for communication.

For example, teams might use Slack channels for water cooler chats and team updates but rely on project management tools like Asana to house project data, define responsibilities, and track progress and assignments.

Having set communication processes helps prevent conflict and ensures key information is shared with the right people, assignments and responsibilities are clear, and nothing falls through the cracks.


Invest in employee development.

If you want consistent outstanding results, build a culture of continual learning and improvement. High-performing teams are curious. They ask questions, explore possibilities, and adapt based on what they learn. When teams are continually building on their knowledge and learning from past mistakes, they are more effective, efficient, and innovative.

Drive team performance by investing in your employees’ growth and development. Identify relevant development opportunities that focus on team needs and priorities, as well as individual goals. Employee development opportunities help employees feel motivated, empowered, and better equipped to do their job.


Building a high-performing team is a marathon, not a sprint. But when you bring together the right mix of skills and experience and nurture these fundamental characteristics of a high-performing team, the payoff will be worth it.



High-performing teams are made of highly skilled employees who feel supported by their managers and have a unified purpose to drive team and business success. Learn how to ensure your managers are Coaching Employees for High Performance in this ebook.

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Published October 8, 2020 | Written By Kristin Ryba