5 habits of high-performing teams
Here are five key habits that high-performing teams often have. Instill these habits in each team member in order to optimize overall team performance and company success.
1. They set and review goals regularly.
How can a team perform well and produce results if they don’t know what goals they’re trying to achieve? A team without goals is ineffective; there is no direction, no drive, no impact. They may be doing good work in terms of quality, quantity or both, but is the work adding to the overall vision of the organization?
Goal-setting allows the team to know and understand how their work contributes to larger organizational aims, and it gives them something to shoot for. Setting goals can be more of an art than a science: The goal has to be large but not unattainable, it has to be meaningful in terms of impact and it has to be measurable. The SMART framework has proven to be effective in guiding people to set motivating and appropriate goals.
What some leaders miss in the goal-setting process is the continual review of those goals. It’s not enough merely to set good goals for your teams; it’s even more important to evaluate them on a regular basis and use those assessments to chart your next course. The continuous reflection helps keep employees motivated and productive.
Tip: Need help developing and measuring goals? Read our related article on the 11 best tools for setting and tracking goals.
2. They use effective communication.
The best teams are the ones that communicate often, clearly and constructively. A high frequency of communication ensures each member is aware of new company developments and changes, as well as progress on projects. It’s not enough just to check in at the start and completion of a project. In a high-performing team, there’s a constant flow of information and discussion that connects everyone on the project.
Clear communication ensures there is a lower chance of misunderstandings and that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the next actions to move a project forward. Constructive communication also allows team members to learn from mistakes or mishaps and improve the quality of their output. [Review the most effective apps for internal communication.]
As a leader, set the tone for frequent, clear and constructive communication by doing it yourself – your team will follow your example. Remember that communication is a two-way street, so encourage your team to regularly give feedback on issues that affect their work.
3. They have a problem-solving mindset.
A key quality of a high-performing team is their ability to overcome obstacles. No matter the workplace, nothing is ever smooth sailing. Problems come in many forms; it could be a delay from a supplier, a technical breakdown or an idea that didn’t translate in the real world. Regardless of the nature of a problem, a team with a problem-solving mindset is one that is best equipped to deal with challenges.
What does having a problem-solving mindset entail? It means having an optimistic outlook when something bad happens and the capability to quickly come up with possible solutions to resolve the issue. It involves being resilient when failure occurs and having the fortitude to continue testing different methods to attain the desired outcome.
A team with a problem-solving mindset does not allow obstacles to set them back permanently; instead, they focus on solutions, improvements and coming up with new ways to attack the problem so that negative impacts on productivity are minimal.
4. They share resources and information with other team members and departments.
As the saying goes, there’s no “I” in “team.” The best work is not achieved in isolation. In businesses large and small, collaboration and synergy are crucial to optimize your team’s performance.
Sharing resources and information may seem like an easy thing to do, but the truth is, sometimes we get too caught up in what we know and do individually that it doesn’t occur to us to share that with the rest of our team.
As a leader, you likely have a better grasp of the big picture as key team members report back to you. As such, you can play a more proactive role in encouraging the exchange of information and resources among all levels of the organization.
You can make team meetings more productive by using them as a forum to keep everyone updated on new developments, information or changes that will affect the team’s output. Encourage contributors to share their progress as well as any challenges they’re facing, and give room for others to offer help, resources or expertise to resolve those issues to ensure productivity is boosted instead of hampered.
5. They trust their team members.
Too often, we think of our colleagues only in the context of the office – how they present themselves in the workplace, the work they do, whether or not they’re caffeine addicts who need five cups of coffee to get through the day. But if you look at each employee holistically, you’ll recognize every person has their own values, history and story, and they bring those qualities (and more!) to their work.
One way to develop trust between teammates is to foster a genuine relationship with each person that goes beyond workplace matters. Find opportunities to connect with each other as individuals and not just as colleagues.
Scheduling short icebreakers before every meeting is a simple method of getting to know your team. Through these games, you can discover commonalities such as hobbies, travel experiences or similar family backgrounds. This information can provide a starting point for further conversation and connection. Then, as trust and comfort are built, collaborations will work much more seamlessly, ensuring team performance remains high.
The impact of employee habits
Employees are often the lifeblood of an organization; as a result, they may ultimately determine the success or failure of your business. Each new hire has the potential to alter the overall productivity, performance and culture of your organization. It’s important to hire employees with positive working habits so they can help your company succeed.
Not only do an employee’s habits have an impact on their specific role, but they can also impact the habits of those around them. For example, an employee with great communication skills can encourage others on their team to provide honest feedback and advice. Conversely, if an employee has a habit of shirking their responsibilities, their team will be left to pick up the slack, reducing efficiency, company morale and potentially retention.
Bottom Line: Team habits, both positive and negative, have a direct impact on your organization’s success.
How to develop good team habits
Don’t panic if your team lacks any of the five habits highlighted above. The good thing about habits is they can be learned! Here are a few strategies you can use to develop good habits within your team.
1. Train managers to have good habits.
Habits in the workplace often start from the top. A successful business has successful people management in place, and it’s important your leaders demonstrate the types of habits you want to reinforce. This shows employees what is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace. For example, if you want your team to engage in open communication, your managers must actively give and ask for employee feedback. This shows your team that questions, concerns, advice and other feedback are welcome and expected.
2. Use team-building activities.
If your team is lacking in any of the five habits, participating in team-building activities can be an effective way to develop them. Simply select an activity that focuses on the mindset or skill you’d like to cultivate, and then give your team the opportunity to experience it through experiential learning.
3. Reinforce good habits.
Building strong habits in a team takes time and requires concerted effort on a daily basis. So even after your team has gone through some team-building activities to bring out the desired qualities, it’s important to reinforce them in the workplace. Little things such as putting team goals up on a wall to remind everyone of what they’re working toward or organizing regular after-work get-togethers to bond with colleagues can go a long way toward building these five habits for strong teamwork.
It takes time and effort to develop good habits throughout an entire team, but the benefits are worth the cost. Work on instilling these habits in your employees, and you will be on your way toward high performance and productivity.
Skye Schooley contributed to the writing and research in this article.