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What is a High-Performance Team?

We would all agree that a desirable high-performing team culture is one in which members are happy and produce good work that helps move the company toward its goals. These teams communicate well, meet deadlines, and exceed expectations.

However, studies showed that although 96% of teams reached their minimum goals for the year, only 30% exceeded their aspirations and were considered “high performing.”

It should come as no surprise that the values and principles of any company are ultimately reflected in the behaviors of its workers. So, if you want to create a high-performance culture, you need to make sure company leadership is actively and consistently displaying the behaviors desired from its members.

Benefits of High-Performance Team Culture

If such a high percentage of teams are achieving their goals, why bother to change major aspects of your company to exceed expectations? The benefits of having a high-performing culture are many and can be clearly seen.

  • Mercer writes that high-performing HR teams are able to align their work with the business goals more often (66% of the time) than low-performing teams (only 16% of the time).
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of Lucidchart found that things can go south quickly when there is poor communication or miscommunications between teams. Their study shows that communication breakdowns result in increased stress, delays or incomplete projects, low morale, not hitting goals, and—especially important—many lost sales totaling millions of dollars.
  • According to Gallup, engaging team members in their work results in 41% lower absenteeism, 17% higher productivity, and 21% higher profitability. Clearly, having engaged employees who work well on teams can be a true benefit in more ways than just meeting performance goals.

Characteristics of a High-Performance Team

As part of the recent Dale Carnegie study on teamwork, seven key areas were identified that reflect the need to know what a high-performing team culture looks like before we can build one ourselves. High-performing teams…

  • Have a clear vision and goals.
  • Require leaders who align with employee perceptions.
  • Reflect higher levels of team satisfaction among its members.
  • Communicate well with each other.
  • Adapt to changing situations.
  • Cross-train and collaborate with a deeper understanding of everyone’s role.
  • Utilize technology in a supporting role.

In addition, a common thread between these areas and a significant difference between high-performing teams and others were that high-performing teams had extensive opportunities for learning and development.

As you can see, these aspects are top-down issues to be addressed.

How to Create a High-Performance Culture at Work

Thus, creating a high-performance culture from a lower-performing one means change is afoot and, as with all change efforts, it doesn’t happen overnight. Leadership’s influence and effectiveness, as well as desired employee behaviors and attitudes, won’t change with the snap of your fingers. To support better performance, executives, managers, and leaders of all kinds need to set an example and model the teamwork, communication, and creativity they want to see in their teams and, over time, teams will respond.

Recognizing the uniqueness of our organizations, the way a high-performance culture manifests in each company can be radically different as varying cultural elements may be suited for one situation over another. Wherever your starting point, here are some key steps to consider as you take aim toward creating a high-performance team culture.

  • Reach a Goal: High-performing teams (i.e. those that exceeded goals) had a clearly set goal in mind. Ensure your teams have a clear direction and collectively understand what they are working toward, allowing each to identify how their knowledge and skillsets best contribute to crossing the finish line.
  • Achieve Alignment: As leaders often have a different view of key team aspects than those reflected by the members, it is important to make sure everyone ends up on the same page. In the end, a high-performance team needs leaders and team members who have a collective understanding surrounding various aspects that impact team satisfaction and team culture. This doesn’t mean agreeing all the time, but it does mean that leaders need to be open to understanding member experiences and viewpoints in an effort to create common ground from which the team can build – avoiding an “us versus them” mentality.
  • Empowered Employees: For employees to be truly creative, they need to be free to utilize the knowledge and talents they were hired for. Empowering employees can release them from the fetters that can inhibit them from making any autonomous decisions or moves. To create a pathway toward a high-performing team, set your sights on expanding employee and team empowerment.
  • Continued Learning: Employees and teams who receive training and development perform much better than those whose access to those opportunities are limited. In the ever-changing business environment, new or enhanced skills and knowledge, such as those surrounding AI, will be key for companies to remain competitive and support employee growth opportunities – a significant influence in the development of high-performing teams.

Developing a high-performance team culture can be daunting, especially considering the prevalence of hybrid and virtual teams.


As an owner of the Dale Carnegie Mid-Atlantic franchise, McKonly & Asbury is able to offer an extension of services to our clients and friends of the firm, expanding our expertise in the areas of leadership, team building, and people development as Dale Carnegie offers programs in leadership, management development, customer engagement, service, sales, communication, and more.

About the Author

McKonly & Asbury

McKonly & Asbury is a Certified Public Accounting Firm serving companies across Pennsylvania including Camp Hill, Lancaster, Bloomsburg, and Philadelphia. We serve the needs of affordable housing, construction, family-owned businesses, healthcare, manufacturing and distribution, and nonprofit industries. We also assist service organizations with the full suite of SOC services (including SOC 2 reports), ERTC claims, internal audits, SOX compliance, and employee benefit plan audits.

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