What High-performance Teams Have in Common

By Tyler Tompson – 


One of my favorite things to do is read about or watch documentaries or films of successful sports teams in history and try to learn what worked for them and what “clicked”. You can learn so much from coaches like John Wooden, Vince Lombardi, Bill Belichick, and Nick Saban when you go back and do research. You can also learn just as much from players like Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Derek Jeter, and so on. They all did things their own way, but all ended up being a part of high performing championship teams.


I came across a list of five traits of high-performance teams and can find several similarities with the names above and the traits I listed below. While reading through the list, think about two separate teams you’ve played for or have been a part of—one that you really enjoyed being around and was successful, and one you did not enjoy and was unsuccessful.


  1. Themes and Identity: Teams inevitably rally around a favorite set of themes that convey meaning about their basic purpose and identity.


  1. Enthusiasm and Energy Level: Teams work hard and enthusiastically. They also play hard and enthusiastically. No one has to ask them to put in extra time, they just DO IT.


  1. Event-driven Histories: As teams evolve, their stories often progress through a series of galvanizing events, often unplanned and sometimes “failures”, that propel team performance.


  1. Personal Commitment: When this commitment exists, it always enriches the team’s sense of purpose, stretches its performance aspirations, and makes its members’ approach to working with one another more powerful.


  1. Performance Results: In the final analysis, performance is both the cause and effect of teams. Real teams almost always outperform similarly situated and challenged individuals who are acting as individuals. High-performance teams, in addition, outperform all reasonable expectations for the group, including those of the team members themselves.


While this is not all of the traits associated with high-performance teams, I believe these set a solid foundation on what you can see when observing the best teams and its individuals. If you are a part of a team that is not performing at its potential, really try to do an audit of your team. Look at the strengths—what do you and your teammates do exceptionally well? Look at your weaknesses—what do you and your teammates continue to struggle with?


High-performance teams are not made up of the best players… they are made up of the right players, with the right attitude, strong mindset, and solid work ethic. They are slowly developed and created carefully over time. If you’re part of a team that continues to struggle, what would you change? If you’re part of a team that comes together and performs at a high level, what could be done just 0.1% better?


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