Outstanding business teams possess high-performing team characteristics that enable them to perform at a high level—and sustain that level of performance over years. To inspire the same level of performance in a team you lead, you must start with knowing the characteristics of high-performing teams that set them apart from others. By understanding these traits, you can identify ways to help your team develop the right skills and attributes while highlighting the ones they already have and should nurture.

To identify development opportunities for you and your team, consider this list of the top 10 attributes of high-performing teams. You’ll learn why each trait exists on high-performing teams, what it looks like in action, and how to build up the attribute in your own team.

1. Decisiveness

Why Is Decisiveness Found in High-Performing Teams?

When a team makes effective decisions quickly, members can spend more time taking action on those decisions and exercising their creativity and expertise. Decisive decisions are based on facts and intuition.

What Does Decisiveness Look Like?

A decisive team understands how to:

  • Make quick and effective decisions
  • Identify and gather the right information to make their decision
  • Quickly assess and recognize how to prioritize decisions (if they are facing tight deadlines)
  • Confidently move forward to the next steps

Even so, the team members understand that sometimes not everyone will be in agreement on a particular decision.

How Can You Encourage This Trait?

Drive decisiveness through the following methods:

  • Encourage team members to take a balanced approach. It’s easy to think about what could go wrong. Instead of focusing on these anxieties, have your team take a balanced approach and also encourage them to think about the benefits that could arise from their decisions.
  • Teach them to embrace uncertainty. Indecision often occurs when someone is not feeling confident about the outcome. The reality is, you and your team will not know the outcome unless action is taken. Stay centered on the information you have on hand; let that guide you and lead you to actions that get quick results.
  • Inspire them to be bold. Encourage them to listen to their gut and confidently share ideas and concerns. As the team leader, it’s important for you to provide them with the platform and opportunity to do so.

2. Alignment of Values

Why Is Value Alignment Critical to Achieve High-Performing Team Characteristics?

Individuals who are part of a high-performing team are on the same page regarding vision, values, and goals. They understand that to collaborate effectively, they must be driven by a shared purpose—and with this comes accountability: each person is motivated to do their best work and help their team achieve its goals.

What Does Value Alignment Look Like?

People who are in value-aligned teams exhibit characteristics like the following:

  • Enjoy collaborating
  • Feel connected to each other
  • Seek out the strengths/expertise of their colleagues
  • Believe the power of the collective is greater than the sum of its parts
  • Are constantly learning and growing
  • Hold each other accountable
  • Are emotionally invested in the mission of the team

How Can You Encourage This Trait?

Encourage your team members to share their aspirations and values. To get started, pose these questions to yourself, in one-on-one discussions with team contributors, or in team meetings:

  • What are some things you have valued in your role and throughout your career?
  • What kind of environment and culture do you thrive on?
  • What are some better ways we can work collaboratively as a team?
  • What do you want to gain from this project? What kind of skills and expertise are you hoping to expand on?

Note any commonalities during these discussions and find ways to incorporate them into your team culture.

3. Trust

Why Is Trust a Characteristic of High-Performing Teams?

When values are aligned, there is trust. For example, if all team members value collaboration, problem-solving, and dependability, they are more likely to work together better. There is a sense of safety that encourages openness and honesty. Team members are not afraid to reach out for help and devote energy to producing high-quality work—for both the good of the team and the organization.

What Does Trust Look Like?

A team with high trust consists of individuals who

  • Have positive relationships with one another. Team members work together with honesty, respect, and compassion. They do not blame or accuse their colleagues. If they run into issues, team members have the willingness and maturity to sort them out.
  • Seek to build high-value relationships with each other AND other teams. High-performing teams spread their drive, positivity, and trust to other departments and clients. They care about results, but not at the expense of people.
  • Enjoy collaborating. Team members enjoy working together and learning from each other. Everyone understands the unique skill sets each person brings to the table, and they leverage those strengths to drive positive results.
  • Provide each other with honest yet helpful feedback. Teams fortified by trust look out for each other. If someone sees their teammate making a mistake, they kindly let them know and guide them in the right direction.

How Can You Encourage This Trait?

Start by addressing fears. Fear often barricades rationality, vulnerability, and authenticity—three factors critical in building trust.

Are there any issues your employees struggle with but haven’t spoken up about for fear of repercussions? These fears may be holding your team back from creating an open and safe environment. Worse, you may not even be aware that your team has these fears.

Encourage your people to provide honest feedback. As the team leader, you may want to start by sharing something you’re grappling with at work and then lean on your team to help you tackle it.

Not only will this illustrate the trust you have in your team, it will also fuel a more open and authentic atmosphere, which should inspire your team members to raise their hands and speak up. The more people voice their opinions and concerns, the better you can enhance the employee experience and team values.

4. Drive

Why Is Drive Found in High-Performing Teams?

When team members crave success, they are driven to work. Great team players have ambition, both for their own growth and for the success of their team.

What Does Drive Look Like?

Driven teams:

  • Establish deadlines. Team members regularly set goals that are specific, measurable, aligned, realistic, and time-bound (SMART).
  • Take initiative. All team members have a hunger to learn and make contributions to the team’s success. When someone is ill or unable to fulfill their duties, someone is always willing to step forward and do what needs to be done.
  • Focus on quality. Team members want to put their best foot forward; they believe in quality over quantity. Moreover, they thrive on producing work that drives performance and results.
  • Feel engaged in their work. Driven teams collaborate more. Each person feels personally connected to their roles and colleagues and looks forward to developing these relationships even more.

How Can You Encourage This Trait?

There are a few ways you can foster drive:

  • Find out what team members want to learn and how they want to grow. Help team members feel more connected to their roles by giving them the opportunity to do what they want. Are there specific projects they haven’t had the chance to work on? Are there certain skills they are looking to hone?
  • Encourage feedback. Giving and receiving feedback is a great way to motivate your team members to improve and grow. Not only are you helping them identify areas they need to work on, but you are also giving them the chance to voice their concerns. Use this feedback to drive team success.
  • Celebrate wins. 79 percent of people leave their jobs as a result of feeling under-appreciated. Take the time to recognize employees for their contributions and achievements.
  • Encourage people to take time off. People who are part of a company culture that values time off feel more motivated (71 percent) after returning from vacation than those whose culture does not encourage taking vacation time (45 percent). Employees need to recharge to put their best foot forward.

5. Confidence

Why Is Confidence an Essential Quality of High-Performing Teams?

When you have a group of confident people, you have a team that is motivated, ambitious, and happy. They are confident in their ability to tackle challenges and curveballs. Not to mention, they are unafraid of taking risks.

What Does Confidence Look Like?

A confident team consists of people with the following traits:

  • Risk takers. They are not afraid of uncertainty. They are not afraid to fail and learn from their mistakes. High-performing teams believe failure is necessary to achieve success.
  • Innovators. Because they are willing to take risks, team members are often more innovative and agile than others. They ask questions like, Why? and What if? Team members can adapt to change and brainstorm solutions amid those transitions.
  • Independence. Team members generally rely less on their leader, as they feel confident enough to handle issues on their own. They thrive on working independently but have no problem reaching out for assistance when they need it.
  • Trust. Each person is reliable. Moreover, they are confident that their teammates will support them no matter what roadblocks come their way.

How Can You Encourage This Trait?

Encourage confidence by:

  • Being the example. It all starts with you. As the leader, it’s essential you set a good example of what you want your team to emulate. When you evoke confidence and trust, your team members will be more willing to invest time and energy into their work—work they will feel confident about.
  • Developing your people. Tap into each team member’s strengths and weaknesses. How can you help them tackle their weaknesses? Moreover, how can you help navigate their roles in a way that’s aligned with their career aspirations?

6. Learning Is Front & Center

Why Is Learning Vital in High-Performing Teams?

Ninety-four percent of employees would stay at their company longer if it invested in their career development.

The best teams thrive on a culture of learning. The more you learn, the more confident you will feel taking on challenging tasks. Better yet, learning can propel promotions, which can help team members make more impactful contributions to the organization.

What Does Putting Learning Front & Center Look Like?

A team that values learning has:

  • Regular team trainings. These trainings aim to improve team skills and offer new tips and tricks to implement into their projects.
  • Development courses. The team has access to online courses that help expand their knowledge and skills. For example, a team of content writers may take courses that not only focus on copywriting, but also SEO and content-strategy tactics.
  • Frequent discussions on career pathways. Good organizations understand the value of investing in their employees’ future. This entails regular conversations on career growth and opportunities. Where do people see themselves in five years? What do they want to achieve? Work to better align these aspirations with their roles.

How Can You Encourage This Trait?

Give teams the budget and time to:

  • Find out what they want to learn. What would your team like to learn more about? What do they want to improve on? Are there any roadblocks in your process that are hindering their ability to produce quality work? Use these questions to put together helpful team trainings.
  • Take courses & read books/articles. Give them the time and space to participate in courses that encourage their career development. Encourage them to share any insights they have found especially helpful with the rest of the team.
  • Create a healthy feedback loop. Feedback is crucial in improving people’s knowledge and skills. How can they do something better? Should they take a different approach next time?

7. Advocacy of Diversity & Inclusion

Why Are Diversity & Inclusion Found in High-Performing Teams?

According to Gartner, teams that advocate diversity and inclusion are more likely to drive innovation and success than those that do not:


High-performing teams understand that people come from different backgrounds and experiences. Rather than shying away from these differences, they view them as strengths, seeing them as opportunities to produce fresh ideas and solutions.

What Does Advocating for Diversity & Inclusion Look Like?

Teams that champion diversity and inclusion are:

  • Collaborative decision-makers. The team values diversity in decision-making processes. They ask for ideas from all team members—not just from management—as they understand this will lead to more impactful decisions.
  • Inclusive of differing ideas and experiences. Instead of seeking homogenous ways of thinking, they want to bring different perspectives to the table. They do not mind challenging the status quo if it means offering something impactful to the organization and client.
  • Respectful of race, ethnicity, and gender. Team members hold high regard for each other’s cultural and gender identities. There is no discrimination—every person enjoys equal opportunities during all stages of the employment cycle.

How Can You Encourage This Trait?

Help your team cultivate diversity and inclusivity by:

  • Including diversity and inclusion into your team values. Discuss diversity and inclusion with your team members (what do they mean to you?) and how you can better promote them.
  • Providing opportunities to debate ideas and views. Many people often avoid challenging ideas because they do not want to cause conflict. As the leader, encourage people to voice their ideas to tear down biases and initiate rich discussions.
  • Developing training courses on diversity and inclusion. This can help better solidify diversity and inclusion among your team. Consider taking CMOE’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Essentials course.

8. Achievements Are Celebrated

Why Are Achievements Celebrated in High-Performing Teams?

As we mentioned earlier, 79 percent of people leave their jobs as a result of feeling under-appreciated. Recognition and appreciation matters, and high-performing teams understand this.

High-performing team members build each other up. They care about the growth and development of their team. When someone achieves a goal (whether small or large), the team highlights their success.

What Does Celebration of Achievement Look Like?

Successes can be celebrated during company or team meetings or in company newsletters. They may also be quietly celebrated via personal note or gift.

Here are a few examples of the types of successes companies should celebrate:

  • Winning a client
  • Receiving positive feedback from a client
  • Completion of a project or goal
  • Promotions

How Can You Encourage This Trait?

As the leader, set the example. Keep your ear to the ground and make an effort to highlight team members who have embodied your core values. Encourage your team members to come to you if they see one of their peers doing something that deserves recognition.

Keep in mind, reward and recognition are personal. Therefore, it’s important to customize the ways in which you celebrate your team members. One person may prefer to be recognized in a company-wide meeting while others may want to be recognized in a more intimate setting.

9. Team Mentality over Hierarchy

Why Is Hierarchy Minimized in High-Performing Teams?

Research illustrates that flat-structured teams outperform traditional hierarchical teams. While a top-down approach can lead to poor cooperation, a team approach leads to better group performance and results.

What Does This Look Like?

In everyday work life, a team-first mentality looks like this:

  • All team members have opportunities to lead. During certain projects or situations, the strengths of one member might be best suited for leadership; in other projects, others will be better equipped. Level of experience or title does not matter—everyone should have equal opportunities to lead.
  • People are focused on the group rather than personal success. Members are only concerned with the success of the team. They leave their ego at the door and allow others to do what they need to do to get the job done (whether that’s leading or taking over tasks). As a result, they have frequent conversations on how they can better collaborate.
  • There are clear behavioral norms. When a member is leading, they do so confidently and respectfully, treating other members as valued colleagues, not as subordinates.

How Can You Encourage This Trait?

Encourage a team mentality by:

  • Providing more leadership opportunities. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. Are there any projects or meetings they can lead where they can leverage their strengths and/or improve their weaknesses?
  • Including team members in decision making. Instead of making decisions yourself, include your team in them. Use their experiences and suggestions to make the final decision. They will feel good knowing they are contributing to important discussions that will impact them and their team.

10. Conflict Is Managed—Not Avoided

Why Is Conflict Carefully Managed in High-Performing Teams?

Eighty-five percent of all employees experience conflict in the workplace. High-performing teams understand that conflict is inevitable. They are not afraid of conflict because they know how to manage it and believe it can improve their professional development.

What Does Effective Conflict Management Look Like?

Teams with good conflict management skills are:

  • Confrontational but caring. Instead of being passive-aggressive, they talk to people directly about their issues and find ways to solve them. They are honest but caring in the way they communicate. Team members approach confrontation with the intent to alleviate the situation and improve relationships.
  • Able to keep their emotions in check. Team members who understand conflict management have the emotional intelligence to keep their feelings in check. If emotions do run hot, they may pull in a moderator to ensure the conversation moves forward in a positive way.
  • Good problem solvers. They are respectful listeners and good negotiators focused on ensuring relationships and projects keep moving in the right direction.

How Can You Encourage This Trait?

It all begins by understanding the five stages of conflict resolution. These stages can help your team achieve healthy outcomes that bolster, rather than hinder, their professional development.

Begin by taking a conflict and collaboration course to learn how to effectively coach your team to resolve conflict effectively.

Develop Your Own Outstanding Team

With these 10 traits of high-performing teams, create a plan to develop your own skills and those of your team members. Be sure to also accelerate your learning with our High-Performance Teamwork workshop.

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About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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