How To Create A High Performing Business Team

Building a high-performance business team boils down to three key elements: autonomy, competence and relatedness. Academic research has demonstrated that psychological fulfillment leads to happier, healthier and more productive people. Although we are clear about what goes into building a great team, organizations struggle with cultivating relatedness. Attracting the very finest talent does not equate to building a team of people who relate well to each other. From the armies of Alexander the Great to the latest startups, leaders have struggled with building relatedness. In a world of remote and hybrid work models, building a sense of relatedness seems even harder, because for millenia, people have developed bonds in-person, not remotely. Physical distance seems to lead to a distancing of relatedness. But even within the context of remote work, there are success stories. Expensify, the expense management firm, embraced remote work years before it went mainstream. The entire business is remote. Expensify was able to build a sense of relatedness within a highly profitable business. Building  high-performance business teams is something of an obsession of mine and in this article, I will tell you the lessons I have learned in how you can build one too. 

High-Performing Business Teams Are Prepared to Make Calls

Typically, businesses have seen a decline in the use of telephones. High-performing business teams are an outlier, and are not afraid to use telephones. Communication is, in general, much higher among high-performing business teams compared to other teams, and they are more likely to use the telephone to speak to colleagues than lower-performing teams. The data indicate that they make 10.1 calls a day versus 6.1 calls for lower-performing teams.

People tend to think that telephone calls are awkward, uncomfortable things, but the reality is that they build bonds, smooth out misunderstandings and result in more productive interactions within the team. Communicating through text is rife with misunderstanding. Sometimes you need the human voice to bridge divides and to make things clearer.

Be Strategic with Your Meetings

High-performing business teams tend to structure their meetings more strategically than their less-performing peers. Most people do not know how to run a meeting well. This can lead to people feeling overwhelmed, drained, and dissatisfied, and can cost a business billions of dollars.

In high-performing business teams, meetings are run well because they are structured for productivity. Prior to the meeting, preparation is demanded of the participants. In fact, high-performance business teams are 39% more likely to demand preparation. High-performance business teams are 29% more likely to have an agenda for the meetings. Finally, they are 55% more likely to kick-off meetings with a check-in so everyone is aware of each team member’s progress.

The result is that time is used in a collaborative and efficient way, and that a platform for more productive work is laid, which contributes to a spirit of relatedness.

Investing in Bonding Over Non-Work Related Topics

Many managers dislike having their team members discuss non-work topics in the office. The excuse is that this distracts from work and that more focus is needed in order to achieve targets. Team members are encouraged to be all work and no play, because this leads to a very productive company. 

On the face of it, this makes sense. What good does stopping to chat about the weekend NFL results do for a business? Yet research suggests that our intuition lets us down. There are numerous advantages to having these kinds of non-work related discussions. When we build networks, we do so through shared interests. These shared interests are what brings people together. Even for the most passionate workers, talking about non-work related stuff opens up new avenues to build connections with that person. And because these non-work related discussions are not professional, they tend to lead to stronger personal bonds. In other words, people start to like each other as more than just co-workers. They become friends. 

Research shows that discussing non-work related topics does bring team members closer together, fostering an authentic sense of relatedness and liking. High-performance business team are 25% more likely to engage in non-work related topics than their less-performing peers. These topics run the gamut of possibilities, touching on sports, family, books and other things. High-performance business teams are also more likely to invest in spending non-work related time together, meeting for drinks, coffee or team at least once in the last six months. 

Put simply, high-performing business teams are not more effective because they work all the time. They are more effective because they spend more time together. Investing in non-work related time and topics is vital for a high-performing team.

Foster a Spirit of Appreciation

Feeling valued, appreciated and accepted is one of the fundamental drives of a human being. We all long for these feelings, whether at work or at home or in our romantic lives. It’s for this reason that the drive for recognition is much more powerful than the drive for money.

We tend to think that high-performance business teams are filled with big, demanding egos, giving praise grudgingly, if at all, and more prepared to dish out insults as part of some strategy to provoke the other team members. Yet, this caricature of high-performance business teams is wrong. Team members in high-performance business teams are 72% more likely to have received appreciation from colleagues and 79% more likely to have received appreciation from their managers. They treport being 44% more likely to have given appreciation. Appreciation is the lifeblood of high-performance business teams. 

Build Authenticity Into the DNA of the Business

Authenticity is a word that gets thrown around a lot. In truth, there are few truly authentic places to work. High-performance business teams are more likely to show positive feelings among their colleagues. They are more likely to tease, joke with or compliment their teammates. In emails, they are more likely to use emojis, GIFs, and exclamation points.

But they are also more likely to express negative emotions if they are unhappy at work. They are more likely to be sarcastic, curse or complain with their colleagues. This, and not the more toxic notion of high-performance business teams, is what sets them apart. They are authentic in expressing the emotions they feel, whether those emotions are good or bad. 

The reason why it is so important to be able to express negative emotions at work is because a workplace where this is forbidden is a workplace where workers have to suppress their emotions. This is emotionally and mentally draining and makes teams less productive, rather than more productive. 

Learn more business insights and build your high-performance business team. 

Brett Sartorial

Brett is a business journalist with a focus on corporate strategy and leadership. With over 15 years of experience covering the corporate world, Brett has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, analytical and insightful journalist. He has a deep understanding of the business strategies and leadership principles that drive the world's most successful companies, and is able to explain them in a clear and compelling way. Throughout his career, Brett has interviewed some of the most influential business leaders and has covered major business events such as the World Economic Forum and the Davos. He is also a regular contributor to leading business publications and has won several awards for his work.