6 Traits of Top Performing Teams

by Greg Skloot
Management   |   3 Min Read
high performing teams

While many leaders strive to make their teams “top performing,” the reality is that such a label only belongs to a coveted few. Many researchers, from Google to McKinsey have studied what combination of characteristics, from team dynamics to phycological safety, are ideal for creating a top performing team. Consider cultivating the following 6 traits on your team to achieve “top performing” status:

1. Radical honesty

Top performing teams don’t hold back the truth. If something is broken, you call it out and work together to fix it. You don’t play politics to appease feelings. At meetings, everyone is open with their opinions and respectfully questions ideas to validate feasibility. You balance radical honesty with fostering an environment that is respectful and supportive of each person’s point of view.

2. Extreme accountability

Peers on your teams hold each other accountable for results, and respectfully raise a concern when someone fails to deliver. You rely on weekly team meetings and written status updates to understand everyone’s top objectives and progress. If something doesn’t get done, you address it head on and never sweep it under the rug. You set goals and frequently measure progress against achieving them. If you miss a goal, you have an open discussion about what went wrong, and what changes can be made to increase performance next time.

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3. Focus on communication

Your team over-communicates. You don’t risk someone misunderstanding the goals or how performance will be measured. Communication is always done through different mediums to ensure it reaches everyone. Anything important is captured in writing so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of meetings.

4. Obsession with results

Your team is maniacal about one metric above all else: results. Whether it is measured in product features built or deals sold, you don’t take excuses and look simply for the results. You care much more about the “what” rather than the “how.” This leads to minimal micro-management and a high level of autonomy.

5. Thirst for learning

Your team is humble. You understand that there is still so much to learn and everyone can always improve. Top performing teams dedicate real time to learning and experimentation. This might mean having “hack days” where team members can forgo their main objectives to focus on building something new and interesting. Learning may also involve allocating budget for books, educational conferences or even inviting informative speakers to your office.

6. Drive for data

Going by your gut isn’t good enough. Top performing teams make decision based on data. You ensure that there are processes in place to track metrics, whether it is sales targets, website clicks or customer churn. Decisions on how to allocate resources, who to hire and what to focus on are determined in a data-driven way.

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