What makes for high performance team building?

My sons will begin school in a few weeks, and, as usual I expect to receive a list of school supplies of which I will only partially comprehend the requirements. There will be items on the list to which
I have never heard of and others that possess such detail that it will require numerous calls and trips to the store before finding the precise item the teacher requires.

It is the same of teams. There are requirements for creating necessary high performance teams, some of which will require extra effort to understand, to develop and acquire, but in the end, there will be a sense of accomplishment that the team is now ready to achieve great things, just as the beginning of the school year promises for my well-prepared sons.

Questions about high performance teams have been around for a while, but recently, organizations are increasingly inquiring more about them. “What is the difference in a high performance team and a say, a “regular” team? What makes for a high performance team? The questions continue to be asked, and as such, we advance the following towards a possible answer.

Following are some of the requirements (supply list) for a high performance team based on direct experience and in with working with successful teams in client organizations during the course of the past decade. I can appreciate that there are many more tools or elements which might serve to get the job done, but for now, I suggest the following are elements which would warrant developing in any organization seeking to perform at a higher level.


  • A shared goal, mission, or intent – a cause. A cause in which each of the team members share a vested interest. Perhaps differing motivations, but a clear expectation of the outcome. Simply stated, everyone understands ‘what success will look like when the goal is complete’.
  • A shared sense of urgency, a time frame or limit in which the goal must be achieved. This shared sense of urgency causes team members to operate on the heightened level with similar degrees of urgency. Perhaps it is a timeline in which qualifying for an event must occur, or a timeframe in which a sales quota must be met or the date in which an undesired closure is to occur. Regardless of the type of urgency, a call to action is present and felt, and respected, by all members.
  • Accountability. An agreed upon view of the outcome, the rewards of achieving the outcome, and a shared understanding of the repercussions of failure. The team and each individual have complete realization and acceptance of their role and their accountability to the team’s success and failure. Team members also experience a sense of accountability for their role in achieving the team’s goals through the use of their individual talent and unique skills. Words like, “if it is to be, it is up to me (we)”, are internalized and govern the team and individual’s mode of operation.
  • The fourth characteristic or element is not so much a requirement as it is an attempt to discard a common misnomer. A high performance team does not necessarily require the existence of a group of high performance individuals, but rather, requires a collection of individuals with the potential to be high performance players and team members; those that understand they are a part of something larger than themselves. A high performance team does not necessarily require the existence of a group of high performance individuals, but rather a team comprised of individuals with sufficient skills to accomplish their goal and a collective belief system of extraordinary possibilities. America’s Olympic Hockey team in 1980 – characterized by many at the time as anything but America’s Dream Team – even so, a collection of talented individuals who came together to become a high performance team.
  • The last requirement, but not least, is inspiration. Leader led, and team supported inspiration. Every individual, including the leader, is ready to perform any act, which they feel will move the team forward and help the team succeed. Members share in the exuberation, excitement, heartache and sometimes disappointment. For those that have been a part of high performance team, they know, they remember how it felt to be part of something greater than themselves. They remember the excitement of working, of performing, of contributing, and of celebrating. They recall gathering together to revel in individual and team victories, and of working jointly on problems that required solutions. The members recall gathering to lick wounds and learn from setbacks; they see setbacks as issues to be dealt with, not obstacles preventing success.

These defined elements sound so simple yet are so profoundly impactful. Focus to developing these elements on your team and begin realizing the success of which your team is capable.

Charlie SelcerAbout the author: Charlie Selcer has provided organizations with employee training and development through Strictly Success Inc. for over 15 years. Strictly Success is a U.S. based employee training company for both the public and private sectors including some of America’s Fortune 1000 companies. Strictly Success specializes in high performance teams and teambuilding, employee motivation, employee accountability and change management. Interactive training include events, workshops and keynotes ranging in duration from 1 hour to 2 days.

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