Building a High Performing Team

Drake Editorial

According to a Bart de Jong study, when team members trust each other, they are more likely to openly share perspectives and work through differences, increasing the quality of their work. 

By contrast, when there is a lack of trust on the team, people tend to focus their effort and energy on defending their personal interests, rather than supporting the collective goals of the team.

If you’re a leader in an executive role, creating a high performance team is probably somewhere on your priority list, but never gets done.  For many of you, it’s hard to know where to start.  Let’s take a look at six steps to create a high functioning team grounded in trust.


  1. Is it a group or a team?

When assessing the level of trust within a team or group, you first need to understand how much trust is required in the first place.  There is no point in spending the time diagnosing trust levels and building trust if it is not needed.

Research by Bart de Jong and colleagues found that the more team members are dependent upon on each other the more trust is required for strong performance.

So when is trust important to a group of people?  When you have any of the following factors:

  • the life span of the group is long term,
  • direction or decision-making is centralised,
  • the work is critical to the organisation’s future,
  • most of the tasks involve interdependence,
  • the group meets regularly, or
  • the team is virtual.  

In these instances, the time spent building trust between team members is worth the effort.


  1. Helping Team Members Understand Each Other

Team members often come from diverse backgrounds and experiences.  Throwing people together doesn’t translate into a team that will naturally gel and work together seamlessly.  Savvy team leaders realise that it takes effort and planning to help their team reach their full potential.  

One of the mistakes leaders commonly make is that they assume that to build trust you have to treat everyone the same.  But it’s not true.  You have to build trust with each person differently.  

This is why it’s so important to build trust one on one with people by openly discussing each person’s working style, expectations and communication preferences.  Using structured tools such as Drake’s P3 assessment  (https://www.predictiveperformanceintl.com/)  provides important self-awareness, but also guides employees to share that information to their team.

Not only that, getting to know people at a personal level – their interests, career goals, family situation – is important for building trust as well.  When we see people for who they are, a human being, rather than a tool for productivity, we are more likely to customise our interactions with them in a positive manner.

Never underestimate the importance of socialising outside of work hours (or inside).  But just make sure that it is not all shallow fun and games.  At most work mixers, most people hang out with those they know.  Encouraging each person to connect with everyone and share past experiences or challenges creates deeper bonds.


  1. Have a Clear Purpose  

Just like sports teams, great teams have a clear sense of purpose.

A clear sense of purpose, team behaviours and strategy connect everyone together through being able to collectively see the meaning of their work.  It’s how you get a diverse group of people aligned.

The central pillar for building trust is a corporate purpose that’s defined by a genuine commitment to the social good.  It’s about focusing on the customer and delivering on their needs and desires.   

High-performance teams have their own clear sense of purpose or are closely aligned to the company’s purpose.  This ensures that each individual is focused on the group’s goals, rather than automatically focusing on their own self-interest.  If you think back to your experiences with working on a great team, there was always group excitement about creating an outcome that was bigger than what any individual could achieve alone.


  1. Focus on the Achievement of Collective Results

In low trust environments, leaders pit employees against each other under the false belief that competitive pressures will lift performance. Unfortunately, all it does is create an environment where people are out for themselves; hoarding information and not supporting others.

In contrast, trusted leaders share and manage risk throughout a team.  They focus on long-term impact, rather than short-term business performance.  Instead of individual sales quotas, teams work together as a group to seize market opportunities.  This fosters collaboration, innovation, sharing information and co-operating to bring in new business together.  Rather than individuals being distracted by the need to protect themselves and their own self-promoting agenda.

In other words, high-performance teams share a joint commitment to achieving the highest standards and the best results.  Everyone is aligned to achieving the group goal.  A common yardstick of success is that teams win together, not individuals.

A leader’s ability to make the team accountable for success or failure, rather than individual success, increases trust and a sense of unity.  However, this doesn’t mean employees don’t have individual goals.  Instead, individual members establish a clear line of sight between their day-to-day responsibilities and the overarching, broader objectives of the organisation, as well as the team goal.


  1. Have Regular, Open Communication

Communication is an enabler of trust.  If there is one thing that employees often complain about – it is poor communication. That’s why sports teams always have a huddle before a match to align everyone to the strategy and the tactics required based on individual team member strengths. In the workplace, having regular, short huddles before work gets done centres everyone on the group goal and allows each member to open up about what they’re stuck on. In addition, weekly meetings can even be used to build trust through sharing recent success stories or examples of the right staff behaviours to help bring the team together.


  1. The Leader Champions High Trust Behaviours

According to research undertaken by Google, how a team leader facilitates meetings and models behaviours is critical to trust in a team. In meetings, the team leader must acknowledge and listen to others in meetings.  Little things really do count.  Such as having eye contact with those speaking to show that you’re listening and seeking the opinion of a team member who has remained quiet.  In other words, creating a safe environment where people can be themselves, speak their truth and be vulnerable.  It also means calling people out on behaviours that are destroying trust and rewarding those doing the right thing. This involves leaders who have a concept of what it means to act with trust and review their efforts regularly.  Through expecting collaborative behaviours from others, ensures that trust cascades throughout the team.  


Improving Team Performance

The world is changing at a rapid rate.  Organisations are confronted with complex problems that can only be solved through teams with a diverse range of skills and capabilities.  To achieve superior performance, team leaders and members need to understand trust – how to judge it, build it and rely on it, to work effectively with people from backgrounds and abilities.  It means that you get better at driving people to achieve business outcomes such as better organisational well-being, productivity and reputation.


Marie-Claire Ross is the chief corporate catalyst at Trustologie.  She is a workplace sociologist, author and consultant focused on helping team leaders build trust to produce high performing teams .  Get more resources on creating high performance teams:  www.trustologie.com.au/high_performing_teams


On November 21, Marie-Claire Ross the CEO and Founder of Trustologie will be running a workshop on 6 Critical Steps to Build High Performing Teams at Drake International's head office in Melbourne. Register your interest by emailing Duann Nguyen on [email protected].



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