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The Simple Secret To A High-Performing Team

Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than the right idea.Ed Catmull

The smartest leaders know that it’s their team that makes them successful. As a leader, you spend a lot of your time making sure that your team is working well together.

Setting ambitious goals and creating a fun company culture are great, but what if the team doesn’t work well together?

You’ll work hard to avoid any conflicts, to make sure everyone holds each other accountable, and that people are fully using their strengths.

team working well together

Despite all the time and energy you’ll spend on creating a high-performing team, sometimes it doesn’t work out. Some teams just seem to run better than others.

Why is that?

It’s because they’re closer with each other, they trust each other more.

the secret to a high-performing team is if everyone trusts each other

Like any relationship, when there is a strong level of trust, collaboration will be strong too. The foundation of a good team (like any relationship) is that everyone is comfortable enough with each other to do good work.

They can challenge each other without fear of retribution, they can share ideas without the fear of being called stupid, and they can help each other get better without embarrassment.

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Characteristics Of A High-Performing Team

We all want to be on a high-performing team, but what does that team look like? Luckily, Google has done research on what makes up a great team.

Google’s project Aristotle was a project started by their People Operations team, where they studied hundreds of teams across Google to see what made them work so well together.

Their first theory, was that if they could find the best mix of skills they’d be able to form the perfect team. The thinking was that the best marketing person, the best developer, and best graphic designer should make the best team, right?


In fact, who you put on a team has very little to do with how successful the team will be. It’s all about how they interact with each other and more importantly, how they view their contributions.

Google learned that there are five key things that make for a successful team:

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The most interesting part of their research was that the first item, psychological safety, was by far the most important on the list.

Without it, the other four don’t matter.

Think about this question and answer honestly: Have you ever held back from sharing anything at work (something you were working on, an idea you had, a complaint, etc.) because you were worried about how people might react to it?

If you answered no, you’re either incredibly confident or you’re lying.

It’s normal to be nervous about looking unprepared or uninterested. There is a lot of fear at work about how much we should know. In most situations, it’s easier to stay quiet and hope no one notices than to admit you don’t know.

We all try to avoid any situation that will affect how our coworkers and managers perceive us.

In their research, Google found that the safer team members felt with each other, the better they did in almost every area of work. They were:

  • More likely to own up to their mistakes
  • Better partners to their colleagues
  • Less likely to leave their company
  • More likely to be open to diverse ideas

So then the question becomes, how do we actually go about building a high-performing team?

How To Build A High-Performing Team

A high-performing team has people on it that truly respect each other. They want to help each other, they’re not working against each other, they’re working with each other.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to trust, safety, and respect.

Here are a few things you can do as a leader to build this on your team.

  1. Build Trust On Your Team

    Trust is earned and built over time, and you’ll only get trust from others if you give it first.

    There are three steps to building trust with your team.

    1. Build a relationship with employees. Take a genuine interest in them and get to know them on a personal level through your one-on-ones and informal interactions.
    2. Know what you’re talking about. We won’t trust anyone that doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
    3. Keep your word. It’s hard to trust someone that goes back on their word or says one thing but does another.
  2. Build Psychological Safety On Your Team

    Like Google found in their research, people need to feel safe on their team. It’s your job to remove that fear and make sure no one gets ridiculed, no one gets in trouble for trying, or no one gets blamed for mistakes.

    people need to feel safe on their team

    Failure should be encouraged at work.

    As a leader, open yourself up and allow yourself to be vulnerable.

    In Google’s research, teams tried to increase psychological safety by starting their weekly meetings with each team member sharing a risk that they took the previous week.

    Of those teams that practiced sharing a risk, they improved their psychological safety scores by 6%.

  3. Set Ambitious Goals

    A high-performing team will get excited by the possibilities of reaching an extraordinary goal. Work with your team to set an ambitious goal and motivate each other to hit those numbers.

    Everyone should be clear about what role they play in achieving that goal, and no one should be punished if by some chance you don’t hit the goal. Everyone needs to be motivated, but no one should be scared or experience unnecessary stress. It’s all about finding that balance.

  4. Work On Communication Skills

    Open and honest communication is an essential part of building trust. Everyone on the team needs to be able to communicate with each other in a polite, constructive way.

    There are so many subtleties to communication that it can go wrong so easily. You need to work hard to train all employees on your team about good communication habits, words not to use, etc. But the key more than anything, is to be polite and communicate with respect.

  5. Help Employees Build Confidence

    One important thing to keep in mind is about how personal responsibility plays a role in all of this.

    As much as it’s a leader’s responsibility to help employees feel comfortable, all employees have a personal responsibility to get over any of their own fears.

    Help employees get comfortable with failure and the concept of being wrong.

    • Look at feedback as a positive thing
    • Turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts
    • Understand that everyone makes mistakes
  6. Listen To Your Employees

    Employees need to feel listened to, and like their ideas and suggestions count.

    There’s no way that you can have a high-performing team if employees don’t have a voice and feel like they’re an equal part of the team.

    At Officevibe, our employee survey solution offers a way to give everyone a confidential voice to make sure everyone feels listened to

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Are You On A High-Performing Team?

We’d love to hear your stories of how you motivate your team and build that trust. Share it with us in the comments below!

Free Bonus: Download the complete guide to being a better leader for your team.

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