How can your team perform better?

High perforning team. images illustrating communication, shared goals and trust

Three areas and one tool to focus on

What is a high performing team?

A high-performing team (HPT) is often described as a group of individuals who work together efficiently, effectively, and cohesively, towards a common goal. This type of team is characterized by mutual respect, trust, and an unwavering commitment to success.

While research shows that a team with a diversity of thought leads to greater innovation and creativity, it can also raise conflict and friction. I wanted to dive into this a bit deeper and explore the characteristics of high-performing teams and how they can be cultivated.

While much has been written, it seems there are three core areas to focus attention on to raise performance: clear communication, shared vision and alignment around goals, and trust.

1. Clear Communication

High performing teams are made up of individuals able to communicate clearly and effectively with one another. They listen actively, ask questions, and provide constructive feedback. As a team lead you could start by establishing (and role modelling) clear communication norms and protocols within the team, so team members are able to communicate their thoughts and ideas in a safe and supportive environment. To work this needs self-awareness as well as an awareness of others.  A two-pronged approach, we use CliftonStrengths, and explore cultural awareness using a cultural orientation framework, (see The Culture Map by Erin Meyer, or Coaching Across Cultures: New Tools for Leveraging National, Corporate and Professional Differences by Phillipe Rosinski) being careful to flag up the dangers of cultural stereotyping.

Central to communication are mature listening skills. And tuning into your own internal Listening Villain, and your own need for detail, and whether you like to think aloud or quietly for example, can affect how you are perceived and come across within your team. For example, some people learn by asking questions and it is their capacity to formulate questions to gather and process information that is their greatest strength. Yet in some places, this can be perceived as the questioner not understanding the issue at hand. In some cultures, students grow up having been taught not to challenge, or question, someone in a more senior position.  And so may remain silent when they don’t understand. Another’s silence might be because they are in deep reflection, examining contributions from others in minute detail. But this might be perceived as being disinterested in the problem, or even not understanding. When the fact is, they are totally engaged and absorbed.

Growing a team that can use coaching style questions, and develop a coaching habit, can facilitate deeper listening. And oftentimes, that means simply being quiet yourself.

2. Trust

Trust is the bedrock of any high performing team. Without trust, individuals are unable to work together effectively, take risks, or innovate. Trust is built over time through consistent behaviours and actions. Leaders can foster trust by creating a psychologically safe space and mutual understanding of what each person brings, but also needs to be their best. Much is written about trust and leadership (see Gallup’s Strengths-based leadership). One of the frameworks we like, and use is Lencioni who expressed trust in the form of this equation:

Trustworthiness = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) ÷ Self-Orientation.

Credibility is related to what people say: the extent to which they demonstrate knowledge and understanding about their subject, speak with conviction and make us feel confident that they are in command of their subject matter and competent in applying their expertise.

Reliability is related to what people do: the extent to which they follow through on promises, meet deadlines, deliver against targets, achieve agreed quality standards and go the extra mile to ensure that they have completed their undertakings.

Intimacy is related to the safety and security we feel in a relationship: the extent to which confidentiality is maintained, the confidence we have in opening up more personal aspects of ourselves and our emotional concerns and the belief that our values will be respected.

These are explained as additive factors, that can all be torpedoed by the denominator, Self-orientation.

Self-orientation refers to a person’s focus. In particular, whether the other person’s focus is primarily on themselves or others. 

Facilitated discussions – either face to face or online – can help teams come to understand each others’ orientations and be aware of what is driving apparent self-interest. Again, CliftonStrengths can help with this dialogue.


“Trust is the bedrock of any high performing team. Without trust, individuals are unable to work together effectively, take risks, or innovate.” – Lencioni

3. Shared Vision and alignment around shared Goals

High performing teams are characterized by a shared sense of purpose. Each person on the team understands how their role contributes to the broader mission. Clarity around goals and objectives, and personal alignment with these goals helps create a sense of accountability and motivation to achieve success as a team. Having space, and a language, that enables each person to interrogate the vison and goals from their own perspective adds creativity and deepens the understanding of how they can contribute to meeting the goal.

Again, CliftonStrengths, a deep understanding of all the 34 themes, helps us appreciate how we each need the others to meet these shared goals. Equally, knowing areas of the team where there may be gaps, helps focus attention on possible blind spots.

“High-performing teams are made up of individuals who are not just committed to their own success, but to the success of their teammates as well.”

– Simon Sinek

CliftonStrengths - the number one tool to choose?

So where to start? We always start with Clifton Strengths. One of the challenges all teams face is people’s past experiences where blame and suspicion, perhaps with justification, have been the default positions for many who feel let down by organisations and people in whom they have invested their trust. For some people once trust is violated it can never be reinstated. While for others, understanding more about the incident that broke our trust or caused hurt. can help heal burning resentment and fury. Using CliftonStrengths alongside other tools and insights gained through facilitated deeper discussions and analysis promotesbetter conversations that helps grow personal alignment to goals and deepening trust.

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Strengths based teams

strengths based teams

In today’s workplace, collaboration is more important than ever. Companies and organizations rely on teams to accomplish goals, solve problems, and innovate. While many still use Tuckman’s ‘form, norm, storm, and perform’ to describe the stages of team formation, others have added ‘reform’. Not…

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Group Coaching – The Benefits

group coaching

Finding a coach is one of those things that seems to be reserved for high achievers. We often don’t feel worthy of investing the time, or money, in ourselves. Increasingly I’ve noticed that universities are offering coaching as part of their staff development programme. …

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Creating Confidence and Credibility as a Future Leader Starts Now

Inclusive Leadership blog

Leadership is not a position; it’s a mindset. Anyone can be a leader, regardless of their job title or seniority level. However, being an effective leader requires more than just the willingness to lead. It demands a combination of skills, traits, and behaviours that inspire, motivate, and guide others towards a common goal.

If you aspire to become a leader, it’s essential to start building your leadership skills today. The earlier you start, the better equipped you’ll be to take on leadership roles in the future. In this webinar, we’ll explore some critical insights into what makes a good leader, what we mean by an inclusive leader, and how a strengths-based approach can provide a solid foundation for your leadership journey.

What Makes a Good Leader?

Leadership is a multifaceted concept that can mean different things to different people. However, most people agree that a good leader possesses some essential traits that distinguish them from the rest. Here are some of the key traits that make a good leader.


A good leader has a clear vision of where they want to go and how to get there. They can communicate their vision to others and inspire them to follow. How does your vision form, and in what time frame?


A good leader understands the needs and feelings of others and can put themselves in their shoes. They are compassionate, caring, and respectful towards others.


A good leader can make tough decisions quickly and confidently. They analyse the situation, consider the options, and choose the best course of action. What forms the basis of your decisionmaking? DO you analyse all teh risks before ou commit, gatherin gas much data as possible? or do you perhpas talk and explore with others? 


A good leader can communicate effectively with others. They listen actively, speak clearly, and convey their ideas with confidence and clarity. HOw much do you talk, compared ot how much you listen? And what techniques do you employ to help you listen more deeply?


A good leader is honest, reliable, and dependable. They keep their promises, act with integrity, and earn the trust of others. Some people trust easily and implicitily, while others build trust mroe slowly. Do you differentiate and appreicate how others come to trust?

What is an Inclusive Leader?

Inclusive leadership is the ability to create a safe and inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of their background. Inclusive leaders understand that diversity is a strength and can leverage it to foster innovation, creativity, and high performance.

Inclusive leaders recognize the importance of listening to diverse perspectives and involving everyone in decision-making. They encourage open communication, feedback, and constructive criticism. They also promote a culture of respect, fairness, and equity. The space created by inclusive leaders is a space in which people feel safe to be themselves.

While some people have an instinctive way of feeling others’ pain or joy, some don’t. Recgonising  your empathetic tendencies helps develop an appreciation of  the unique challenges and experiences of minority or marginalised groups. And as a leader you can cretae opportunities for people in these groups to grow and develop.

How Does a Strengths-Based Approach Provide a Solid Foundation?

A strengths-based approach to leadership focuses on building on individuals’ strengths and talents to foster personal and professional growth. Instead of fixing weaknesses, this approach emphasizes identifying and leveraging strengths to maximize potential.

By identifying your unique strengths and talents, you can develop a sense of confidence and self-awareness that can help you navigate the challenges of leadership. You can also use your strengths to build strong relationships, inspire others, and achieve your goals.
Moreover, a strengths-based approach can help you develop a growth mindset that encourages continuous learning and improvement. You can identify areas where you need to develop new skills or knowledge and seek opportunities to learn and grow. And above all, it shines a light on your blindspots and a sensitivty to how others might perceive you and your intentions.

Becoming a leader requires more than just ambition: it demands a willingness to learn, grow, and develop. By understanding what makes a good leader, what we mean by an inclusive leader, and how a strengths-based approach can provide a solid foundation, you can start building your leadership skills today.

Remember that leadership is not a destination; it’s a journey. It’s an ongoing process of self-discovery, learning, and growth. With dedication, commitment, and a willingness to learn, you can become an effective and inclusive leader who inspires. Be open, listen and appreicate how others can be useful in their unique way.

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Regaining Team Balance

Blog headers

Sometimes a team can go off balance. A bit like the washing machine spin cycle when the towels start to separate out from lighter items. The spin crescendos. If you’re lucky it wobbles itself back to balance. Otherwise, your attention is called to hit pause, rummage around and restart it.

When it’s your team that goes off balance some critical thinking is needed. Pondering the reasons for the conflict between the activities of the team compared to the people dynamics offers insights, according to Sandahl and Phillips (2019) in Teams Unleashed: How to Release the Power and Human Potential of Work Teams. Questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is it functional conflict?: conflict about the current timeline and general agreement about unrealistic goals and delivery? Strong disagreement about how to get the schedule back on track and polar versions of solutions/sequence.
  • Is it relational/behavioural conflict?: the same scenario as above, but people blame others for the mess, recycling old issues, from previously delayed projects, name-calling, rank issues, or expertise, and arguments that can criticise others’ fundamental talents/values. Who is right? This then descends into attacks, fault assigning and poor behaviours and fiery tempers.

We are all collaborating in some way. With our colleagues within our business, our clients or customers and on multi-partner projects with peers in other organisations.  Data from Gallup lay the facts bare. Organizations, teams and people all suffer when people aren’t engaged. Take a look:

  • 7/10 employees are struggling or suffering rather than thriving in their overall lives
  • 79% of people are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work costing the global economy US$7.8 trillion, nearly 11% of GDP, in lost productivity each year. (State of the Global Workplace Report)
  • 30% of U.S. employees experience burnout on the job very often or always. (Gallup Q1 2022 Workforce Standards data)
  • Only 24% of employees perceive their organization cares about their overall wellbeing. Q1 2022 Gallup Workforce Standards data)
  • Gallup finds that 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores is due to the employee’s direct manager.

In a world of unprecedented business complexities, leaders, besides explicit knowledge, need an inner compass of self-awareness to walk the tightrope of leadership.

What can you do?

Slow down to reflect on who we are, and what we do and learning from our past experiences informs our current practice. Ask yourself:

  • What are some of the frustrations you have seen in a team – in the past or currently?
  • What makes a team effective?
  • What are the impacts of a team with mutual respect?
  • Why do we need to ensure each team member is engaged and how can we activate them on this?

And then turn the mirror on yourself. How can you gain alignment around the things that are important to you?

  1. Understand who you are – what you bring, what you need (to be your best)
  2. Be aware of others and what they need affects you and think about how you can adjust to give them space
  3. Build a culture that allows each person to be their best

Where do you fit?

Are you driven to spend time with people, do you have a pragmatism and drive to spend time getting to know, support or understand people?

Are you driven to connect/engage and energise others?

Are you driven to get things done – in whatever way – your focus is execution?

Does your head – and more specifically – your thinking and analysis – lead you?

And when you cross paths with others – are you frustrated, energised or empowered? Knowing who energises or frustrates you can help you identify the ways in which you can adapt your own behaviours to others and rebuild the relationship.

Think about a time when someone frustrated you. Do you frustrate them and what action or approach can you take to enable them to be their best? Ask them.

Get to know and appreciate the positive characteristics of other members.

Adopt a process of asking strong non-confrontational questions and practising deep listening.

Try starting your questions with “what..” and ask how they feel, what energises them, what they feel about something and what they might do if they did it again. And then ask, And what else.

And of course a strengths-based team workshop that builds insights and alignment can facilitate new conversations. Give us a call.

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Returners and Re-entrants


Some women, and increasingly men, take a career break and use it to their advantage to publish papers, write a book or acquire a new qualification. Others struggle. Technology gaps are not the biggest barrier to returning, it’s confidence. Employers and managers can help…

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