Leading High-Performance Teams: Best Practices and Strategies

There are few feelings better than leading a high-performance team. Knowing that the people in your group are well-qualified to do their jobs and have a high level of expertise, as well as a willingness to demonstrate creativity and innovation when approaching solutions, can be incredibly rewarding. 

However, you need to be careful when you are at the head of a high-performance team, because they’ll need more from you than a regular group of employees might. Here are some of the best practices and strategies for leading a high-performance team.

What do we mean by “high-performance team”?

First, it’s important to define what we mean by a high-performance team. These are individuals who are likely highly qualified to do their jobs; they either have high-level educational qualifications or a huge amount of experience in their field. They’re people who have demonstrated reliability, skill, and intelligence time and time again, and now they’re ready to take on more demanding and involving projects. As you can imagine, these types of teams will need a different approach to others.

Embrace agile work

It stands to reason that if you want to enhance a high-performance team’s potential and output, you’re going to need to embrace agile work. In short, agile work means letting your team find whatever solutions they can for projects, no matter how outre they might seem. Agile work means minimal oversight, too, so your team has the freedom to get things done without being constrained by constant micromanagement. As a leader, you may need to step back to a certain degree if you want to implement an agile working policy, but it’ll be worth it.

Create an environment where feedback is the norm

Many employees might be used to working without being able to provide regular feedback, or, indeed, without receiving it themselves. If you’re going to lead a high-performance team, then fostering an environment in which feedback is encouraged will be critical. During working hours, always try to be available to your team if they need you. Don’t crowd them; setting up regular meetings might just annoy a high-performance team, who will want the freedom to get things done as they see fit. Just be available and you’ll be doing your job.

Implement a flat hierarchy

An agile, high-performance team wants to work without knowing there’s an authority figure breathing down their necks. That’s why you should implement a flat hierarchy for a high-performance team. If everyone is working as an equal, then nobody gets “final say”, and that should hopefully encourage the team to find more collaborative solutions to problems. It also shows that nobody’s job is “more important” than anybody else’s on the team, which should also lead to solutions that are more team-focused in nature.

Make sure to resolve tensions collaboratively

In any team, tensions are bound to arise. If everyone got along with everyone else perfectly, there would never be any friction in business, and while that would make things a lot easier, it’s simply not realistic. Eventually, tensions in your team may well arise. If they do, it’s important to address them quickly and succinctly. Don’t patronise your team; these are intelligent individuals, and they deserve to be given the chance to work things out for themselves. If oversight is required, make sure to keep it minimal; play the mediator, but don’t play the arbiter.

Make sure your deadlines are transparent

While an agile team should be given the freedom to pursue projects however they see fit, a high-performance team will also appreciate working to a deadline. If your project has a tight timeline, it’s important to let your team know so that they’re aware of exactly what needs to be done and when. Letting your team work for themselves has many benefits, of course, but in the end, they are still working towards your organisation’s goals, so it’s important to communicate those goals clearly and effectively. Not doing so could lead to a disorganised team that isn’t working to its fullest potential.

Play the puppetmaster

This isn’t anywhere near as sinister as it might sound. As a leader of a high-performance team, the best thing you can do is to play the role of the puppetmaster. That means guiding your team from the shadows with a light touch. Know your team’s strengths and weaknesses; each employee will have them, and it’s your job as an employer to emphasise the strengths while minimising the weaknesses. Of course, a high-performance team won’t feel good about being directly told what to do, which is why you need to make sure you’re not giving orders, but rather making clever suggestions about the direction of the project.

Accept all ideas

Of course, as a leader, you don’t need to take every idea your team gives you on board. Despite that, you should still make sure that you’re creating an environment in which your team feels safe to express those ideas, even if they’re not necessarily constructive ones. Being able to air an idea will give everyone the chance to discuss it and analyse it from every angle; you’d be surprised at just how much better an idea can seem after discussion, even if it doesn’t feel like the right direction at first. Making sure your employees feel safe to express themselves is essential.

Respect your team

This should go without saying for any self-respecting business leader, but it’s important to make sure you have respect for your team. While they are your employees, they’re still human beings first and foremost, and they’ll appreciate you showing them respect and emotional intelligence. Whatever you do, you should make absolutely sure that you don’t fly off the handle at any stage; keep your communications with your team calm, measured, and respectful, no matter what.

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