The Magic of a High-Performing Team… and Three Ways to Create One.

About a year ago, I was hired to facilitate an executive leadership team through a strategic planning process. While there was a ton of individual talent, the team was anything but cohesive. Trust was low; conflict happened under the radar; there was little (if any) accountability; and the results were spotty.

I was met with resistance, disengagement, anger, and–on several occasions–tears.

Still, I was not discouraged. I understood that before this team could create, cascade, and execute a creative strategy, it had to be a cohesive team. So, with the team leader’s full support, we retrenched and focused on building a cohesive, high-performing team.

Today, this team is extremely pleased to be in the high-performing zone — if you saw them working together, you couldn’t help but notice the magic: high trust; productive conflict; commitment to the team and the process; accountability; and impressive results. (See Patrick Lencioni, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team).

But it didn’t happen overnight.

HOW THEY DID IT – and how you can, too.

There is nothing like the magic of a high-performing team — if you’ve ever been a part of one, you’ll know what I mean. In the world of rowing, it’s known as “Swing“…”the hard-to-define feeling when near-perfect synchronization of motion occurs in the shell, enhancing the performance and speed.”

Because I have had the opportunity to work with a number of teams that have done the work to transform from “mediocre” to high-performing, I thought I’d share an overview of how they did it — and how you can, too.

1. Assess Your Team: Are They Storming or Performing? 
Use Tuckman’s model of high-performing teams to determine which developmental stage your team is in: Forming, Storming, Norming or Performing.

Leadership Tip: While you may think you know where your team falls along this performance continuum, these assessment results are always an eye-opener.

Action Plan:

  • Ask each team member to take the assessment (10-15 minutes). Debrief the results with your team (we can help) and, together, formulate a plan that will move your team into “Performing”.
  • This website provides a simple overview of the model and the characteristics of each stage…as well as how to move from one stage to the next.

2. Make Becoming a High-Performing Team Your #1 Goal.

Leadership Tip: Every high-performing team with whom I’ve worked has this goal as their #1 goal. 

Action Plan: 

  • This is work. Becoming a cohesive, high-performing team requires relentless focus and discipline. It is not a magical process.
  • There are very specific steps the team – and you as a leader – can and must take to move toward high-performing.

3. Leadership Matters 

Leadership Tip: “There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.” These are harsh words but I believe them.

Action Plan: 

  • Thankfully, Tuckman provides concrete tips and guidance for leaders who are determined to move their team through Forming and Storming and into Norming and Performing:
  • Make no mistake about it, your team’s level of performance and commitment will reflect your own. Feel free to refer to our earlier post on “Three Sure-Fire Tips to Becoming a Better Leader”.

While there is nothing like the magic of a high-performing team, the process to get there is anything but magical. It requires dedication, discipline, and determination. The payoff is priceless.


If you would like assistance (a lot or a little) building a cohesive, high-performing team, mapping your leadership journey, or crafting a successful strategy, we can help. We offer expert facilitation for team-building workshops and Retreats, and as an authorized partner for Everything DiSC™have access to a suite of outstanding team-building assessments.

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