How to Develop a High-Performance Team for Your Small Business

Article by Madison Crader

A high-performance team is essential for businesses to operate effectively and create a competitive advantage.

But what makes a team high-performance? And how can you develop your own high-performance teams? The foundation of a high-performance team staffed with committed, engaged, and happy employees begins with good leadership.

If you’re a small business owner or a manager, there are steps you can take to inspire confidence, trust, and commitment from your team.

Use the following tips to build and sustain a strong, high-performing team you can rely on.

What Is a High-Performance Team?

A high-performance team is more than just a productive team. A high-performance team is designed to outperform other groups and deliver superior business results.

They do this by leveraging the combined talent of each individual contributor to strategically work toward a common goal—a classic example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Typically small in size (usually between four and nine people), high-performance teams consist of people with specific roles and complementary skills and experience. The group tends to be tight-knit and focused, excelling at working together toward a shared goal.

Characteristics of a High-Performing Team

Every team will look and work a little differently. But there are several traits that high-performing teams share:

● A strong purpose or sense of direction

● A defined set of priorities

● Clear milestones to measure progress

● Flexibility to meet the needs and demands of the team, project, or organisation

● A strong sense of camaraderie

● Clear and frequent communication

● Cross-functional cooperation

● Reliability when making and keeping commitments

These traits result in a group of highly skilled and motivated people working together through mutual trust and shared responsibility.

The question then is “How do you build those characteristics within your teams?”

7 Steps to Build a High-Performance Team

Follow these steps to evaluate your own business and team strategies and build a successful high-performance team.

1. Communicate the big picture

The first step to building an effective team is creating and sharing your plan for success. You must answer the questions “What are our goals?” and “How will we achieve and measure them?”

Certainly, answering those questions is no small task. But clarifying your overall mission and vision for the company and for the team itself lays the foundation for everything they will do after. Without shared goals and a roadmap to get there, your team is essentially rudderless—and ultimately under utilised—leading to inefficiency and wasted resources.

Engage your employees by communicating the big picture and rally them around that shared purpose. This setup not only motivates them but also gives them the direction they need to make better strategic decisions.

2. Be genuine and transparent

Trust is one of the most important factors affecting team performance. Without trust in their leader and in each other, the team will fail to build the kind of synergy and collaboration necessary for high performance.

Trust is also one of the most difficult things to build. It takes time and effort, and when broken, trust can be hard (if not impossible) to restore.

At the end of the day, building trust is about building relationships. Start your team relationships on the right foot by being genuine and transparent. Keeping the lines of communication open and honest can be scary because it means you have to be a little vulnerable. But that’s exactly why it works.

By communicating honestly with your employees, you are showing trust in them first—which is key to giving them space to trust you back.

3. Keep commitments

In a similar vein, make sure you follow through on your word and hold your team to their commitments.

This two-way expectation is important for maintaining mutual trust and demonstrating that you respect each other and everyone’s time. Prioritising commitments also helps keep your team on track and ensures they understand which goals are most important.

4. Invest in training

You’ve likely built a team of strong players for your high-performance group. However, ongoing training and professional development opportunities help each member of the team to improve and evolve.

Investing in employees’ professional development has benefits for both you and your workers. Providing employee training can help retention rates, employee engagement, and overall profits and productivity.

In fact, in a study from the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), companies that invested more in comprehensive training programs saw 218% higher income per employee and 24% higher profit margins than firms that didn’t spend much on employee education and training.

Plus, in a world where technology is constantly evolving and industries experience rapid change, training can help bridge skill gaps in your workforce and reduce inefficiencies and hiring challenges.

5. Provide competitive benefits and compensation

Building a high-performance team means you need to attract and retain top talent. Depending on your industry, this effort can be quite a challenge as companies compete for employees from a limited talent pool. To remain competitive, you need to up your benefits and compensation package.

Great benefits often include a generous health care plan and workers’ compensation. You should also consider offering plenty of PTO, other employee leave benefits like parental leave, and travel perks for parking or public transportation.

Great benefits should go hand-in-hand with a strong compensation package. You’re building a team of top performers, so you need to pay them for the expertise they bring to the table. Research similar roles and their corresponding pay rates at other organisations in your area to get a good idea of the going rate. How does your compensation package stack up? If there’s room for improvement, try sweetening the deal.

One report by recruiting firm Ajilon surveyed over 1,000 full-time workers in the US who changed jobs in the past two years, and it found that pay was a key motivator for the switch. Of those surveyed, 61% said just a 9% raise would persuade them to leave for a new job.

A 9% raise might be a bargain when employee turnover and hiring can cost companies up to 33% of the employee’s salary. To put it in perspective, that means it costs roughly $16,500 to replace a worker who makes $50,000 a year. Don’t be afraid to invest in your employees as an investment in your business’s future—before another company invests in your employees first.

6. Resolve conflict early

Conflict can quickly stifle innovation and collaboration and derail your projects. Don’t allow conflicts to simmer and fester over time. When problems arise (big or small), work through them with your team to resolve the issues and move forward together.

While you can’t prevent all problems, there are some common sources of conflict to watch out for as you develop your teams:

● Undervalued diversity and limited respect among the team, leading to mistrust and a lack of diverse viewpoints (which results in lower-quality decisions).

● Weak team relationships or friction between people, making it difficult for team members to work effectively with one another and be productive.

● General negativity in the team, creating an environment with less openness and transparency for employees to feel safe sharing new ideas.

As you develop your team, pay attention to the team dynamics so you can foster a positive and open environment where everyone feels their opinion is valued. When conflicts do arise, address them promptly and openly (when appropriate) to keep the air clear and pave the way for the team to move forward.

7. Define roles and responsibilities

High-performance teams are designed to be agile and efficient. But in order to do their best work, each team member needs to understand their exact role and responsibilities within the team and company.

Clearly define roles to help each employee engage with their work and focus on those tasks and priorities that matter most. Without that direction, inefficiency creeps in as team members wing it. This ambiguity leads to tasks falling through the cracks, a lack of accountability, and a frustrated team.

Creating a high-performance team isn’t easy, but it’s possible. As you develop your team, keep these tips in mind so you can foster an environment where each member is empowered and motivated to succeed.