5 Principles That Govern High-Functioning Teams

High-functioning teams consist of individuals who achieve positive outcomes for their team and organization. These groups outperform other teams, going above and beyond to reach high-quality results. Team members demonstrate leadership and earn the trust of their colleagues.

Group of young designer discussing ideas for new strategy of development in creative office.

Low-functioning teams, on the other hand, are unstable, disorganized, and do the bare minimum. These teams are often managed by leaders who fail to inspire their employees to devote more of themselves to the team.

Building high-functioning teams takes time and requires the right leadership skills and strategies. CMOE is here to help guide you through the process of helping your team achieve better results. Here are the five essential principles that govern high-functioning teams.

1. Team Members Fit into Defined Roles

Good leaders understand what they need from their team members and have a keen sense of each role’s nuances and expectations. This helps them select the right people for open positions.

How to Apply This Principle

To assemble a team of individuals who fit well-defined roles, leaders must be thoughtful during the hiring process and afterwards:

• Hire for skills. It’s easy to focus all your attention on personality during an interview, but it’s essential to find someone who will meet the jobs demands as well as fit the organizational culture. Look carefully at a candidate’s experience. Do they have the knowledge and skills required to fulfill the responsibilities of the job? Are they a team player who can effectively collaborate with colleagues and clients?

• Leverage team members’ strengths. Team members are 30 times more likely to be actively engaged at work when their leaders focus on their strengths. Discovering someone’s strengths can take some effort, and it can also take some time for new hires to get adjusted into their roles, so be cautious not to jump to conclusions too soon. Once you gain good insight into their strengths, have a one-on-one meeting to discuss ways those strengths can help drive the team and company forward.

2. Team Members Regularly Collaborate and Share Their Expertise

43 percent of professionals view team-building and collaboration as essential attributes of great workplaces.

Having designated roles should not mean establishing siloes. Build an environment where team members are encouraged to collaborate and share their expertise.

Giving people the opportunity to learn from their colleagues and better understand everyone’s roles can help your team members create broad strategies that benefit the whole team.

How to Apply This Principle

Create an atmosphere of collaboration, which might involve engaging in some or all of the following activities:

Design an open-office plan. About 80 percent of businesses have an open-office plan. An open-office space can encourage communication and more face time, but leaders should be cautious in the way they build these spaces; while an open-office environment fuels collaboration, it can also create more distractions and harm productivity if it isn’t managed well. Therefore, team leaders should provide resources such as noise-canceling headphones or quiet time in conference rooms to help strike the right balance.

Hold regular team meetings. Having weekly team meetings gives team members a chance to check in and raise any issues or concerns they may be facing that week. As team leader, you should make the effort to plan out meeting agendas and share them with your team in advance. Sharing the agenda can help team members come prepared, helping the meeting to be more productive for everyone.

Cross-train employees. Cross-train your team members on various skills their colleagues possess and execute in their day-to-day work. Have them teach one another about what they do each day and how they do it. This may help them identify ways to work together more effectively, manage pain points, and drive better results. In addition to discussing skills, encourage team members to share their experiences and failures. These anecdotes can offer powerful insights that can help them roll with the punches and achieve high-quality work.

3. Team Members Feel Supported

High-functioning teams feel supported by their colleagues and managers. There is no hostility or distrust. People genuinely care about one another want to set each other up for success.

How to Apply This Principle

The term support can be quite broad. Here are a few practical methods leaders can use with their teams to help bolster a sense of support:

Identify where things are going wrong. Poor communication, vague goals, and a lack of accountability can stifle teamwork and morale and lead to unintended consequences for the team and organization. The key is to locate pain points so you can work with your team to improve on them. Initiating these discussions can help illustrate your passion and desire to look out for your team. Leading by example will help your team members learn how to adequately help and support one another.

Master conflict resolution. Interpersonal conflict can harm the team’s potential to work together most effectively and should never go unresolved. Team members must understand how to communicate through conflict and use constructive tension to their benefit. There are five key stages to conflict management; you can learn more about them here.

Hone your emotional intelligence. Those with highly developed emotional intelligence exhibit “higher teamwork effectiveness” and job performance. Observe how you react to team members. How do you respond to stressful situations? How do you take responsibility for your actions? Reflect on this and encourage your team to do the same. You can also learn to improve your emotional intelligence if it is not a personal strength for you.

4. Team Members Feel a Sense of Synergy When Working Together

Synergy is the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. On high-performing teams, there is a sense of synergy among team members that drives people to put their best foot forward. Simply put, high-functioning teams understand that together, everyone achieves more.

How to Apply This Principle

Fostering synergy involves using tactics such as the following:

Offering team-building events/activities. These can include inter-office games, full-fledged indoor or outdoor team retreats, lunches, and other social events. The objective of team-building activities of any kind is to allow the team to get to know one another better and spend some quality time together outside of the workplace or daily routine.

Creating an inclusive environment. Leaders must establish a team culture where all types of people and personalities can succeed. This may require giving people the resources and space they need to be most successful and allowing for different modes of communication. Some of these needs may be dependent on whether team members are more introverted or extroverted by nature. To establish an inclusive workplace, team leaders should provide employees a platform to voice their needs and concerns and build an environment where they are comfortable doing so.

5. Team Members Are Motivated to Innovate

Team members understand team goals and feel inspired to reach them with their colleagues. They embrace continuous improvement and constantly strive to find better ways to do things; tradition is never treated as sacred or untouchable.

How to Apply This Principle

Here are some useful methods that can fuel innovation:

Kill apathy by inviting input. Team members need to really care about the matters pertaining to the team and company. Otherwise, there is little to no incentive for them to innovate. To encourage personal ownership, keep your team updated on strategies and challenges the company is facing—and more importantly, invite them to share their input. When employees are part of a healthy feedback culture, they are 3.5 times more likely to unlock their “full innovative potential.”

Confront conflict with an eye on team-based solutions—not personal agendas. It’s simple to think about the changes we need to make with our own roles. When reflecting on this from a team perspective, team members can move out of their comfort zones and toward new ideas that they might never have considered on their own.

Amplify Your Team-Building Skills With CMOE

Creating a high-functioning team requires the right resources. To effectively tackle team issues head-on and for additional guidance, learn more about CMOE’s team-building workshop.

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About the Author

CMOE Team

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.