The qualities of a high performing team

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers


The qualities of a high performing team

The qualities of a high performing team

When discussing coaching for team development on our training courses, I will often begin by asking my participants to recall a time when they can remember feeling part of a high performing team, and then to make a list of the qualities that team had. No two lists are ever the same but the following qualities appear time and time again and can thus be considered core. As an aside, it is interesting to note that during this exercise the majority of people draw on experiences outside of work. It seems that there is a long way to go before the quality of team working in organisational life matches that found in high performing sports or other teams.

Common Goals

My experience suggests that this is the single biggest point of differentiation between a truly high performing team and a team that is ‘good enough’. We have noted the power of goals throughout these posts and we know their use in providing a point of focus for the individual. Without a goal, an individual may lose their way and waste energy. Without a shared goal, members of a team work against each other as different agendas and disagreements about the way forward collide. The lack of a common goal does not merely hold the team in neutral it creates backward momentum.

Effective leadership

The first thing to say here is that effective leadership is not the preserve of the nominated leader. In a work situation, the leader of the team is not necessarily the person with the word leader in their job title. In a high performing team, leadership has a dynamic quality; there is movement and change. A good leader will generate empowerment in the team, allowing team members to play to their strengths and exercise responsibility, but they will take control when the situation demands. A good leader will recognise that at particular times it may be another member of the group that effectively takes the lead but are not threatened by this.

Good communication

If there is any area of work that cries out for a focus on quality rather than quantity it is surely communication. “We’re hopeless at communication” staff lament on survey questionnaires or Works Council meetings. The typical management response is to issue more communication; memos, emails, staff notices and now… blogs, tweets and intranet pages. We are all drowning in communication and the problem is in keeping up. In high performing teams communication is a matter of ‘less is more’. Key messages move rapidly across the team, ensuring people are clear about what they need to do and have the time and space to do it.


A high performing team will have a vibrant mix of skills, abilities and experiences. In a work context this extends to a vibrant mix of ages, backgrounds, nationalities, creeds and so on. I would encourage you to view this as a business imperative rather than a political nicety. A diverse team will be able to draw upon a much wider range of ideas and experiences when faced with the new and emerging challenges of our modern world. The diverse team will have the flexibility to move with the times that will leave the homogeneous team redundant.

Praise and recognition

As long as it’s sincere you cannot give too much praise. Certainly a high performing team will feature liberal doses of appreciation, constructive feedback and acknowledgement. Often this is done in a very public way whereas any problems or criticisms are aired ‘in-house’

With these qualities in mind, we’ll next consider how we can use coaching to develop a team towards this point.


An introduction to coaching in teams

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

An introduction to coaching in teams

An introduction to coaching in teams

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this post, you’re part of one or more teams in your place of work. You might be in something called a Sales Team or an Admin Team. You might even be in a Senior Management Team. Your team might be temporary or permanent; based in one place or scattered across many sites. You might be the leader of one and a member of others. Work is complex and few tasks can be completed by one person working in isolation. The nature of work compels us to operate as teams to get things done.

Why then, when teams are the prevalent model for bringing people together to achieve a common goal, does it seem to be so difficult.? Why do so many teams seem to fall short of what they could really achieve if they could properly harness the talents of its members? Most would argue that there has never been a greater need to deploy teams to meet business challenges, but I would contend that it seems as difficult as ever to develop a team towards high performance.

There are many reasons for this. The world of work is more complicated these days, with more complex problems requiring more complex solutions. The increasing utilisation of ephemeral project teams has seen the timescales in which teams are expected to form and perform shrink drastically. Teams these days are not always housed in the same country, let alone the same building. Furthermore ‘working from home’ and other flexible working patterns make it difficult for many teams to come together physically. Rigid hierarchies have collapsed and been replaced with fluid, matrix style workgroups.

My aim in the next few posts is to show that coaching provides an antidote to these issues and more besides. Not because it provides some magic bullet that makes team issues disappear but because coaching, as we know, is concerned with enabling people to perform at their best and teams, in the end, are nothing more than collections of people.

Furthermore, a coaching style of team leadership (or indeed team membership; the team leader need not be the only coach) is a style that is appropriate at all stages of team development, whereas other styles may prove to be ineffective as the nature of a team changes over time.

Team Development

There are many frameworks of team development in popular use, with perhaps the best known being Tuckman’s four stage model (Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing). Personally, I prefer John Whitmore’s three stage version (Inclusion, Assertion, Cooperation)

This classic ‘act in three parts’ viewpoint appears throughout nature: the sun rises, hovers above us at noon then sets. As people we are born, we grow and then we die. A three stage model then will resonate in a way which makes it very easy to relate what happens in teams with other experiences which you and your team may have worked through.

Before we consider how teams develop though, we’ll firstly focus next time on the level of high performance we’re aiming to move the team towards.

Happy New Year!

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Uncategorized

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Many of you will be reading this on your first day back at work after a break for Christmas and the New Year.

It’s a time for New Year’s resolutions and other plans and I would like to suggest that you add “coaching people” to your list if it’s not already part and parcel of what you do.

We can see coaching as a task or an event; something that needs to be planned and scheduled. There is nothing inherently wrong with this and much good coaching takes place in just this sort of context but to limit coaching to just these formal exchanges is to minimise its usefulness.

There are dozens or work place conversations that naturally lend themselves to the coaching approach and which require no more time than we’d spend having them anyway. Getting ready for an important meeting by chatting in the lift, trying to learn a few important lessons from that last sales pitch as we walk back to the car or any number of other situations can all be enhanced ay adding a few choice coaching questions and thinking hard on the answers.

I hope you can find ways to make coaching part of your work this year and wish you every success in the coming months.